I don’t do scary Movies, scary TV or scary Video Games. I just don’t enjoy them, never have…and never will? Yes indeed, confusion abounds because I love the Dead Space franchise. The sci-fi setting, the stunning graphics and immersive in-game UI all sold me on this niche genre in 2008. Making Dead Space an all-time fav of my Xbox 360 generation.
Its 2023 and in keeping with the current market trend, EA have seen fit to have Motive Studios “remake” Dead Space… and wow. It is very, very good. So it should be though, as the bones the remake is built on are just as solid now, as they were 15 years ago.
Don’t go into the dark and creepy space mining ship.
For those new to the franchise, Dead Space does rely on the very well-trodden sci-fi ‘setup’- a remote site/base or in this case ship has gone dark, so let’s go see what’s what, ala Event Horizon, Aliens etc… In Dead Space, a massive planet cracking mining ship, The Ishimura, has gone silent and a small team including protagonist and expert engineer, Isaac Clarke, have been sent in to get communications back up. For the more astute readers, you may have picked up that he is named after eminent science fiction writers Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. A nice tip of the hat for true fans of sci-fi. Without spoiling anything, it all goes a bit pair shaped, people die horrifically, become spiky, bitey monsters. Of course Isaac endures…but only just, and with a sizable dose of PTSD for his troubles.
As I said this is a remake, but Dead Space has not just been spruced up from a graphical perspective. Sure, it now looks next-gen and really stunning in 4K/HDR at 60fps. But the title has had a very tasteful redesign to a lot of systems and environments. Not to mention Isaac, who once was the voicless protagonist, has been fully voiced by orginal Dead Space 2 and 3 actor Gunner Wright. Basically, EA have done a great job and bought this old franchise into 2023 with more than just a lick of paint.
You need the right tools for the job.
There are too many subtle improvements to list, but here are some of the highlights. Finally there is a clever implementation of fast travel around the Ishimura. Once clunky minigames have been improved or even just removed. The original level design has been made to feel more realistic and truer to the actual spaces that would be found aboard the Ishimura. Dead Space now has some optional side-missions, self-contained narrative chunks that are like wee detective mysteries that have actual rewards for the player.
These rewards can be resources or valuable weapon mods, which in themselves are another major change to the game. The Dead Space arsenal is primarily built around “strategic dismemberment”…ie: cutting off limbs. Head shots aren’t the flavour of the day here! Most weapons are based around futuristic engineering tools that Isaac has become an expert at using to kill space zombies. Line guns, buzz saws, flame throwers, gravity guns. They all have cool mods which are a mix of re-tuned alt-fires from 2008 and some totally new ideas. The Force-gun vortex singularity was a particular favourite of mine. Chaos…so much chaos!
The audio design has also had the remake-treatment and once again…WOW!
Atmosphere and sound in a thriller/horror game such as this is crucial. Motive Studios have bought the magic though. I loved entering a hallway and hearing whispers. Just quiet enough to be intelligible, never sure exactly where they were coming from. (Suffice is to say headphones are a must). I found myself straining to hear, to put my finger on what was being said. Then all of a sudden a vent would burst open and all hell would break loose. With spikey limbs and blood and gunfire.
The Ishimura would groan and moan, under her own bulk. Each area of the ship had its own ambient identity. The sound-scape of the game has been crafted to perfection. The transition from pressurised areas to the vacuum of space is fantastic, relaying the vulnerability of Isaac when exposed to cold, outer-space. Guns have unique sounds and audible weight to their impacts, but they have just been ‘refined’ and will still sound and feel very familiar to any Dead Space veteran.
The narrative is good, certainly nothing to shout from the rooftops about though.
Essentially, super ‘handy-man’ Isaac spends 10-15hrs fixing a massive ship, with the odd video call. Nothing earth-shatteringly deep. But the environmental story telling and audio-logs that are spread about the ship, beautifully explain how the crew of The Ishimura came to be in this situation and how each found such horrific ends. AND…you can listen to the audio logs while moving, exploring and using menus. A small but very important feature I loved.
Dead Space Remake keeps all the best bits from 2008, and then adds countless other improvements to create package that will likely be in my GOTY 2023 list. I don’t know exactly why, I love these sci-fi thrillers but not the Resident Evils. They have never done anything for me, I think its gotta be the ‘sci-fi’ bit. Dead Space and my GOTY for 2022, Calisto Protocol, are my total jam! Weird I know.
An awesome game, beautifully remade and now I can’t wait for the Dead Space 2 remake!