Remakes are always a tricky thing to pull off, especially when treading the fine line between remaining faithful to the original and adding new modern elements. I won’t lie and say I didn’t have doubts after EA’s Motive Studio announced that they were planning on remaking the award winning 2008 survival horror title Dead Space, given the company’s history. But those doubts soon turned into hope and excitement after the studio emphasized their utmost desire to respect the source material. Well the 2023 Dead Space remake is finally here, and it does not disappoint. Stepping into the USG Ishimura again for the first time after 15 years feels emotionally nostalgic yet breathtakingly refreshing.
The story for the most part remains unchanged, but instead is expanded upon. But just as a quick recap, you play as engineer Isaac Clarke, member of the repair vessel USG Kellion, as his team investigates why another ship, the USG Ishimura, has gone dark. Of course, he has his personal motivations as well, considering his partner, Dr. Nicole Brennan, currently resides on that ship. Well, as Murphy’s Law states, if something can go wrong, it will go wrong right? In a series of misfortunes, the USG Kellion crash lands onto the hangar bay of the Ishimura, only to find the entire ship overrun by deformed creatures known as necromorphs. Most of your time is spent exploring the derelict halls and rooms of the Ishimura, hoping to discover what went wrong, find a way to escape, and rescue your loved one.
Dead Space has always been one of the first games to introduce action elements into a traditional horror experience. Did you think that you would be hiding and running away from the necromorphs? Well you can, but you can also kill them. Combat is both claustrophobic and intense, forcing you to use everything in your arsenal to come out alive. You’ll often find yourself in a dark hallway facing a necromorph head on, only to be surprised by two that spawned behind you. Remember, dismemberment is key, so aim for the limbs.
Monster types are slowly introduced and sprinkled in, growing more grotesque and disfigured the further you progress. Your super-high-tech space suit comes equipped with both a stasis and kinetic ability that you can use to slow down and launch objects at enemies, respectively. You acquire a total of seven weapons along your journey throughout the infested ship, but only four of them can be mapped on the directional pad of your controller. Yes, the iconic plasma cutter returns, and there’s even a trophy achievement for beating the game with only that! Everything can be upgraded in a fleshed-out skill tree at the cost of a node, which can be found in various locations throughout the ship.
A major gameplay mechanic of any survival horror game is resource management, and you’ll be doing a lot of that here. Each weapon takes up an inventory slot, in addition to individual ammo types and other collectibles. Upgrading your suit allows for an expanded inventory, but knowing what to take with you and what to put in storage is essential, as space is still limited. Be sure to stock up whenever you see a shop because even on Medium difficulty, I found myself running out of health packs and ammo fast. Safe and calm moments are few and far between as you are constantly under pressure from necromorph encounters. Be sure to save often and at every available save station, as checkpoints are sparse. It’s a horror game after all, and not your every day walk in the park.
So what else is different between the 2008 version and the one we’re looking at here today? Aside from the obvious graphical overhaul, the Dead Space remake features a slew of new additions to gameplay, with a major one being the inclusion of side missions. These aren’t just your run of the mill fetch quests or "kill said number of monsters" missions, as each mission provides valuable insight to the overall lore of the narrative. In addition, they reward you with otherwise unobtainable gear, such as weapon modules or security clearance cards. In the original game, parts of the USG Ishimura were inaccessible after certain narrative progression had been cleared, but now the entire ship can be backtracked and explored to your heart’s content. The aforementioned clearance cards sort of act as a Metroidvania element that allow you to access previously unexplored areas.
Did you know that Isaac was a silent protagonist back in the day and didn’t have any dialogue until Dead Space 2 and 3? Well now he’s fully voiced by Gunner Wright in the remake, who reprises his role as the voice of Isaac from the later sequels. The 2023 remake also features an entirely new alternate secret ending and a full-fledged new game plus mode at launch. Without going into too much additional detail, Motive has also implemented full zero gravity movements that weren’t a thing until the sequels, in addition to tweaking frustrating gameplay segments of the original such as the infamous turret section. It’s without any hesitation that I say this is a remake done right, with nothing but improvements upon the original.
The power of the Frostbite Engine truly shines here in the remake of Dead Space, as the game looks absolutely and graphically stunning, even in performance mode. My entire journey throughout the Ishimura was a visual treat, whether it was examining the intricate gadgets on my iconic suit, observing the gory corpses of demented necromorphs, or gazing at the various sectors of the ship. The developers at Motive have even taken the extra step to include some realistic physics effects, like Isaac’s suit getting frosty out in zero gravity and then melting when entering an airlocked zone again. They truly thought of it all… It’s the attention to little details like this that truly show the labor of love put into this project.
Immersion in a horror experience is pivotal in order to maintain suspense, and what greatly helps Dead Space achieve that is its implementation of the one-shot camera approach. There’s not a single loading screen throughout the game, unless you die of course, with in-game menus not pausing the game and instead showing up as a projected screen from Isaac’s suit. Paired with the game’s outstanding audio design, this makes the dreary atmosphere of the USG Ishimura all the more terrifying. While it’s true that necromorphs will leap out at you unexpectedly, the true horror lies in screams and growls that you hear when there’s nothing physically in front of you. The tense and dynamic music that plays only elevates the feeling of dread with every step you take.
Speaking of loading screens, the game loads wicked fast if you press “Continue” on the main menu, even from a fresh launch of the game. I’m not sure what magic went into this (perhaps a suspend save functionality) but doing the traditional “Load Game” approach takes significantly longer, whereas the “Continue” approach is instantaneous. Performance on the PlayStation 5 is pretty much flawless, with a smooth 60 frames per second on performance mode and no dips throughout my entire playthrough. The game also takes full advantage of the DualSense controller’s features, including haptic feedback and the built-in speakers. Firing various weapons results in different adaptive resistances to the trigger whereas audio cues come from the controller speaker, all adding to the incredible amount of immersion the game already boasts.
It’s not to say that the original Dead Space has not aged well after all these years, but this remake blows it out of the water. There’s a reason why this experience is often deemed as a cult classic, and now fans across all modern consoles can enjoy one of the best horror games out there through a modern lens. Major props to Motive Studio.
Motive has done a bloody brilliant job with their faithful reimagining of Dead Space, ultimately setting the new standard for future remakes. Everything you remember about the original is here, but better, with visceral combat encounters, intricate puzzles, and an extended narrative. This is not to mention the beautifully terrifying visuals, immaculate atmosphere building, and excellent technical performance that act as cherries on top. It’s without a doubt that this is the definitive way to enjoy one of the best survival horror experiences of all time.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.