After almost a decade since the last addition, we can return to the Dead Space universe. Developer Motive Studios and publisher Electronic Arts completely recreated the original game and the results are outstanding. Walking down the empty hallways, listening for signs of movement in the walls, checking to see if the plasma cutter is reloaded, it all feels familiar and awesome at the same time.
If you’ve played through Dead Space before, the general story here is the same, although expanded a fair bit. Players slip into the armored shoes of Engineer Isaac Clarke, who is part of a small team sent to perform repairs on the USG Ishimura, a massive ship designed to break apart planets and gain vast amounts of resources to process.
As Isaac and his companions Hammond and Kendra Daniels come aboard, they find a horrific situation unfolding as the ship has been overrun by creatures called Necromorphs that grow from the corpses of the slaughtered crew. With the ship falling apart and monsters everywhere, Isaac must use his engineering skills to stay alive while finding his girlfriend Nicole, who is lost somewhere onboard the Ishimura.
This remake faithfully takes Visceral Games’ 2008 sci-fi horror story and rebuilds it for a modern generation of hardware. Improvements are made to gameplay, story, and presentation where necessary, while maintaining the spirit and atmosphere that made the original experience so compelling.
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Electronic Arts. The content of this review was not shown to the company prior to publication.
Dead Space Remake: Story and Characters
The main storyline unfolds very much like it did in 2008, although there are a handful of tweaks or changes exactly how events unfold, enough to keep players engaged even if they are very familiar with what’s about to happen next.
By far the biggest change concerns the main character, who is now voiced by Gunner Wright, who was also the performance actor for Isaac in Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3. Instead of being constantly spoken to and told what to do, Isaac is now commenting on various situations and issues, and it makes the story that much more compelling.
|game time||10-12 hours|
|release date||January 27, 2023|
|platforms||Xbox Series X|S, PC, PS5|
|Xbox/PC Game Pass||no|
|Rated on||Xbox Series X|
There are even a few new conversations that take advantage of Isaac now having a voice and further flesh out characters like Hammond, Kendra and others, with some characters playing a much more important role than in the original game.
Side quests (more on that below) go even further here, allowing Isaac – as well as first-time players – to learn more about exactly how things went wrong on the ship and how many on board tried their best to prevent the Things spiral out of control.
It’s a win-win structure for this remake, as there’s more detail here for all newcomers, while all returning players will appreciate the differences. I won’t spoil any of the changes, but I can’t point out a change I didn’t like. Most of the characters here feel more concrete and real, whether their intentions were malicious or benevolent.
Dead Space Remake: Gameplay and Customization
The original Dead Space is a third-person shooter, and that hasn’t changed here. The core gameplay loop is the same, as Isaac uses a variety of OSHA-compliant mining gadgets (and an actual weapon) to brutally dismember Necromorphs. As more dangerous and evolved threats emerge, you’ll need to upgrade your gear with looted Power Nodes while carefully spending all the credits you’ve earned on upgraded suits, weapon parts, health packs, and more.
There have been a few tweaks and tweaks here, with the Pulse Rifle’s frankly bizarre 360-degree attack being replaced by a proximity grenade, while the Plasma Cutter can gain the damage-over-time buff introduced in Dead Space 2’s metal spikes can can also be used to impale enemies straight into the wall, another feature borrowed from Dead Space 2.
Major changes affect the structure of the USG Ishimura itself and player navigation. Load times have been eliminated with this remake designed exclusively for high-end PCs, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PS5. Rather than boarding a tram at the end of each individual chapter, you’ll often find yourself moving between ship sections in a different way, as the entire spaceship is physically connected. The tram is still there, but is now used to quickly go anywhere you’ve already unlocked, allowing you to get from one side of the ship to the other in seconds.
The impact of this change on the flow of the game really can’t be overstated. While Dead Space is still divided into chapters, they aren’t separate levels, just a progress marker. The USG Ishimura always felt inhabited, but exploring it now resembles going through Rapture in BioShock or Talos 1 in Prey.
This comes into play even more when you go back to follow side missions, some of which offer special rewards. These missions are clearly labeled based on which areas of the ship are currently open or locked, so you don’t waste time pursuing something that isn’t possible at the moment.
This is also where the game’s Intensity Director really rises, with a special AI program that creates different Necromorph encounters even after you’ve already gone through a stage multiple times. During the 12 hours I played these never felt annoying, instead constantly keeping me in a sense of dread of what might be around the corner.
Also gone is the zero-G jump system, with the remake borrowing the flight controls introduced in Dead Space 2 instead. This is a hugely beneficial change, and many of the game’s puzzles and boss fights have been adjusted with this in mind, some more than others. I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but several vicious sections of the game have been completely reworked, not just adjusted, resulting in the biggest departures from the original experience.
Dead Space remake: picture and sound
Rebuilt in the Frostbite engine, Dead Space Remake is awesome. Art direction keeps the spirit of the original game in mind and brings the graphics up to date in 2023. Blood drips from desiccated bodies and blood covers Isaac’s gleaming armor after hand-to-hand combat. Lights flickered and bounced off the USG Ishimura’s cold metallic surfaces.
There are two modes available when playing on Xbox Series X: Quality and Performance. Quality mode runs the game at 4K with ray tracing, but limits the framerate to 30 FPS. Performance mode disables ray tracing effects and lowers the resolution significantly in exchange for a solid 60fps output. I chose Performance mode primarily due to the nature of the experience, but it was a harder choice than in many games given the differences between the two modes.
The new peeling system pushes the gore even further than anything seen in the series before. Necromorphs are not simply burned or cut up. Instead, they are torn by your weapons, gutted, and skinned alive. The contact beam’s shots remove limbs and all skin from the creature, while the pulse rifle can shatter bone and dangle limbs from a piece of flesh. It’s beautiful and cruel at the same time.
The audio design of the game is also excellent. It largely builds on the original game’s already fantastic work, but leverages 3D audio setups and headphone improvements. In particular, you’ll notice that along with the tense soundtrack, Isaac’s heart rate increases and settles down when there’s a little pause.
Dead Space Remake: Accessibility and accessibility
A number of accessibility options are implemented here, carefully considering that this is a horror game. In addition to the regular options such as subtitle size and color blind modes, there are options for warnings when extremely sensitive material is being shown, paying particular attention to what type of trauma and self-harm content is present in the game.
Players can also choose to have weapons automatically switch to the next available option when they’re empty, or make aiming a weapon a toggle instead of having to hold down a trigger or button, which should help make it easier for anyone who are struggling with physical problems to make something easier fatigue in their hands.
Should you play the Dead Space remake?
After reviewing Dead Space Remake, I’m impressed. Issues encountered during the game’s 2022 preview have been addressed, and the result is a polished experience that’s cementing itself as one of the best Xbox games for horror fans.
Ultimately, this almost doesn’t feel like a remake, more like Dead Space 2023 was first released. The main sticking point is the price. While I sympathize with everyone these days when it comes to the price of games, I think the quality on display here is worth it if you like horror. The changes here are enough to make it a great experience whether you’ve played the original game or not.
Whether you’ve played the original game a half-dozen times like me or are a newbie curious as to why this is such a big deal, this is definitely worth a trip.