Initial release date: January 27, 2023
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Composer: Trevor Gureckis
Series: Dead Space
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Motive Studio
Dead Space has been remade, and for the most part, it is a faithful recreation of the 2008 original. Whether or not this is a positive aspect depends on one's perspective on remaking games from over a decade ago. From my standpoint, it was a delight to replay one of my favorite games in a new, polished format. For those who are unfamiliar, the game follows engineer Isaac Clarke as he is sent on a mission to repair the communication equipment on the USG Ishimura. However, he soon discovers that the ship has been overrun by a hostile alien virus, turning its crew into violent creatures. Trapped on board, Isaac must navigate through the Ishimura, fighting both mechanical issues and the infected crew in order to survive.
The combat in Dead Space is one of its unique selling points, as players must focus on attacking specific limbs to defeat enemies. The tension is high as players aim for individual joints amidst the oncoming onslaught. The remake has made the combat feel slightly more precise and responsive, but it was not a major overhaul. The most significant new addition is the "Peeling System," which allows players to shoot off limbs and strip back skin, muscle, and sinew, providing a visual indication of which appendages are about to be severed. This feature is gruesome and stomach-churning but also satisfying in a twisted way. Overall, the gameplay remains similar to the original but with some slight refinements.
The weapons in Dead Space have also undergone some changes to make them more competitive with the classic plasma cutter. New secondary fire modes offer players more options during combat, especially when facing larger groups of enemies. Additionally, the visual and audio effects have been improved to make the weapons feel more impactful. As a result, I found myself using a variety of weapons instead of just relying on the plasma cutter. The contact beam, in particular, now has a powerful alternate fire mode that can vaporize enemies. This new option is a welcome addition, as it provides a new way to quickly eliminate enemies rather than just cutting off their limbs. Overall, the weapons have been improved and offer more choices to players to suit their playstyle.
The remake of Dead Space also addresses some of the less well-received elements of the original game, such as the tedious asteroid shooting minigame and the restrictive anti-gravity jumping sections. These have been completely redesigned to be more enjoyable and less frustrating. The anti-gravity sections now allow players to fly freely like in the sequels. Additionally, the rigid level structure of the original game has been changed. Players no longer have to travel between sections of the Ishimura via tram, instead, chapters start and end naturally as players explore. The ship is now more seamlessly interconnected, making Isaac's journey feel like a cohesive and natural progression rather than a collection of separate levels.
One change that was a concern for some players is that Isaac now speaks, which potentially could have broken the atmosphere of isolation that was one of the defining features of the original game. However, the developers have handled this well, as Isaac does not speak often, and his dialogue is mostly composed of lines spoken by other characters in the first game. He mostly speaks about engineering related matters and does not provide hints for puzzle solutions or tell the player where to go next. He remains mostly a silent protagonist, where it matters most.
The visual design in Dead Space is a standout feature of the game. The lighting, in particular, is expertly done and adds to the atmosphere of the game. The Ishimura is depicted as being just as infected and decaying as its crew, creating a sense of immersion and unease. The attention to detail in the design of the environments and the suit of Isaac adds to the overall horror experience, making it a must-play for fans of the genre.
In summary, the re-release of Dead Space is a great example of how far video game technology has progressed in the last 15 years. The game's visuals, sound design, and performance are all top-notch, and the story is still engaging and thrilling. However, there are some issues with the game's performance on PC, specifically with stuttering when entering new areas or seemingly random doors. The game is an enjoyable candidate for a modern refresh and has not lost its modern feel. The new features such as expanded narrative, improved weapons and secondary fire modes, and the cohesive level design add to the overall experience, making it a worthy remaster. The addition of voice acting for Isaac and the top-notch performance of the entire cast, as well as the improved lighting and attention to detail in the visuals, have also greatly enhanced the game. The story, which is described as a blend of John Carpenter's Event Horizon and Victorian madness, is still as gripping and suspenseful as ever, making it a must-play for fans of the horror genre. The game is still a great experience and is highly recommended for fans of the original and newcomers alike.