Dead Space's audio is brilliant. The USG Ishimura is a noisy, industrial place, with machinery that shrieks and screams into life, just like the monsters that infest it. The score is wonderfully tense, too. Dead Space is a game that is at it's best when played with headphones.
This is a sumptuous remake of a game that already looked pretty damn good, even fifteen years on. The only complaint we have is that it can sometimes look a little too clean and crisp.
Dead Space is a joy to play. The gunplay, combined with the dismemberment mechanics, make every combat encounter an exercise in precision, asking you to hold your nerve. Exploration is even better in the remake, and improved accessibility options are always welcome.
A 10-15 hour campaign is bolstered by an excellent New Game+ mode, which even comes with its own exclusive collectibles and alternate ending.
This would be a really enjoyable list, if it wasn't for the need to complete the game on Impossible Difficulty. This single trophy, which requires no deaths for the entire game on the hardest difficulty, makes getting the platinum an exercise in frustration.
January 31, 2023
When setting out to remake Dead Space, the development team at Motive Studio considered adding in a quick turn. This speedy 180-degree spin was an essential part of Resident Evil 4, the game that so inspired the original Dead Space. If it had been included in the Dead Space remake, it would have made combat encounters feel faster, and made protagonist Isaac Clarke more nimble. In the first couple of hours, I would have killed for a quick-turn, to make those necromorph fights just a little bit less scary. But the developer had a different motive. No quick turn was added. And Dead Space is significantly more tense, more scary, and more stressful for it. It was the right decision.
It’s this approach that makes Motive’s remake as good as it is. If you played the original game, then everything that you loved about Dead Space is here; it plays true to your memory of the game. The bigger changes that have been made mostly alter things for the better. Awkward zero-gravity jumping is thankfully gone, replaced by the superior Iron Man-style flight from Dead Space 2. And the game’s boss battles, easily one of the weakest areas of the 2008 game, have been massively reworked. They’re still not the strongest sections of the new Dead Space, but they are a big improvement.
It makes sense that Motive and EA didn’t feel the need to completely rework the game from the ground up. Dead Space has always had a slight obsession with the human spine, from the placement of Isaac Clarke’s health-tracking RIG on his back to the design of the USG Ishimura itself, all metallic bone and vertebrae. It’s fitting, then, that the spine of the original Dead Space game is still so solid, not in need of change. The coolest stuff that has been added - some revelatory side quests, Metroidvania-style backtracking, and a new alternative ending - is all completely optional. It can enhance the experience for those who want to explore further, but is just as easily ignored. It doesn’t intrude, just expands.
For those who never played the original, the premise is just as enticing now as it was fifteen years ago. You arrive on the USG Ishimura, a hulking planet cracker in distress in the far recesses of space, only to discover that an alien infection has taken hold within. The crew may be dead, but they are more dangerous than ever, revived as nightmarish alien zombies, all pointed blades, teeth, and tentacles. The necromorph scourge has spread like a cancer through the Ishimura, and you, playing as engineer Isaac Clarke, are the scalpel, slicing and severing your foes from their limbs with surgical precision. You’re cutting out the rot, with the simple aim of surviving, and escaping.
Dead Space so clearly pulls from the likes of Alien, Event Horizon, and Resident Evil 4, but it's the game’s limb-lopping combat that still proves so unique to this day. Headshots, still a staple of zombie-killing, are all but useless here. Instead, you’ll need to cut through flesh and bone to remove a necromorph’s appendages, and take them down. This becomes even more literal in the Dead Space remake, which utilises a physics-based skin-peeling system for the necromorphs. As a result, you need to be even more precise with your shots than before, cutting through the same bit again and again until the arm, leg, or tail drops off. Luckily, Isaac’s armoury of engineering tools make this a deliciously gory joy.
The iconic Plasma Cutter makes a return as your debut weapon, and is just as satisfying to use as always. But it's Dead Space’s extended arsenal that shines brighter in this remake. Many of the more underwhelming tools have been reworked, making switching between all seven weapons a more viable option than it once was. The Flamethrower, for example, now deals a lot of damage without burning through ammunition, while the Force Gun strips the flesh from a necromorph’s bones, making it far easier to dismember them, and also offering a beautifully bloody treat for the eyes.
The Dead Space remake really is gorgeous, too. Thanks to its utilitarian, industrial art design, the original game still looks pretty good to this day, but the remake is another cut above. The smoke and steam of the Ishimura’s machinery lends a thick, heavy atmosphere to each location, while the dim lights struggle to pierce through. Medical instruments can be mistaken for the sharp blades of a necromorph through the fog, and you’ll frequently find yourself fighting enemies you can’t see. The new 4K sheen can pull away from the horror and the tension a little, however. In the bright light of day (or of your torch) everything can be a little too clear, undermining the horror. I never thought I’d miss the muddy textures of the PS3, but the grime of the Dead Space remake can look a little too clean, at times.
Thankfully, the game’s outstanding audio design is inescapable. Machine or monster, everything aboard the USG Ishimura is screaming at you. You can hear the thumping and scraping of a malfunctioning door from a few rooms away. Steam escapes from the ship’s machinery with a high-pitched hiss, which could be covering up the sound of a monster creeping up behind you. You can never quite be sure of what you heard, and the music cranks that tension up to eleven, with sharp strings and cymbals that will send your heart racing. It’s a real masterclass of a survival horror soundtrack.
Dead Space is an exemplary game. The original still holds up extremely well, but the remake is excellent in its own regard, fleshing out the story, making smart changes, and hopefully setting the scene for future remakes. Maybe we’ll even get a brand new game? We bloody hope so, because, with excellent combat, wonderful visual design, and one of gaming’s most iconic settings, Dead Space proves to be a must-play survival horror experience. Again.