Dead Space Remake Review: Make Us Whole
When presented with a remake, I often ask myself, “Why?” Why not advance the plot of a series? Why make something new that doesn’t necessarily need one? Why not create instead of repeating? Dead Space has been in limbo since the release of Dead Space 3 in 2013. In a way, a remake is even worse than a prequel. At least a prequel adds to the story, even if it’s in the wrong section. A remake just doesn’t add anything.
After playing through the Dead Space remake, I realized how wrong I was. A remake can be so much more than the foundation it was built on. In the right hands, in this case from Motive, a remake can preserve everything loved about an original work of art and enhance it with modern mechanics, graphics and sensibilities. A remake can show you pieces you didn’t even know were missing.
The greatest terror is rooted in sadness. Isaac Clarke is a man on a mission to rescue the woman he loves after he arrives on the ship she is serving on, the USG Ishimura, for repairs. It quickly turns out that the ship is infested with monsters who have a penchant for murdering everyone they see and grossly don’t stay dead themselves.
As Isaac works his way through the ship, restoring critical systems and rushing from one emergency to the next, it becomes clear that something worse than the monsters happened here. There is something sinister that pervades the walls.
Dead Space was and is just as much psychological horror as body horror. There is something for everyone, whether fans of gore, jump scares, finely crafted dread or twisted perceptions. It takes the player and his avatar from Isaac Clark and slowly distorts what they see, turning Isaac into an unreliable narrator. It’s a slow, gradual process that works beautifully. We see a man break, but are convinced that what he sees and experiences is the truth.
Aside from the immediate narrative of what happens in the game, Dead Space builds a rich world of lore with the Markers, Unitologists, Altman and more. It worked wonders for the original trilogy and having worked through the remake I hope Motive continues with the Dead Space 2 masterpiece and then fixes the mess of Dead Space 3. This franchise is very dear to me and to see a new studio appreciate it in the same way is uplifting.
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optics and performance
Dead Space ran on the PlayStation 5 and looked like a dream. There was an option for a “Performance Mode” that adjusted the resolution and more to keep the game running at a solid 60fps, but even with it turned off I didn’t notice any frame drops or loss of resolution while running at 1440p. So, with no noticeable downfall, I decided to make Dead Space as pretty as the PlayStation 5 will allow.
The grisly details in the necromorphs, with their distorted and twisted bodies, are exactly how I envisioned them when I played through the 2008 original. Issac’s suit becomes full of wonderfully nuanced accessories, plates and more with every RIG upgrade. Unless you ordered the deluxe edition, outfitted the 2008 suit, and spent a few chapters wondering why Isaac doesn’t have textures.
Even with densely populated environments, objects floating through zero-gravity sections, and ominous corpses defile the Ishimura, everything went smoothly. There wasn’t a single stutter, crash, or mishap during our 13-hour playthrough.
Maybe it’s all the nostalgia talking, but the Dead Space remake plays exactly how I remember the original game. Everything from the way Isaac moves to how Kinesis works felt like slipping into an old, familiar pair of gloves. Or I suppose it was more like riding a bike. Whatever the analogy, if you’re used to the original trilogy, you’ll feel right at home with the remake.
A notable improvement is the zero gravity sections. It felt natural to switch to flight mode and navigate the Ishimura’s confusing spaces. This was a fight in the original and something that clearly found motives.
Otherwise the hits are all here. With his trusty plasma cutter in hand, Isaac is more than equipped to deal with the horrors that lurk in the corridors of the haunted Ishimura. Shooting off a leg or arm and then moving to stomp to finish them off quickly becomes second nature. Add in some kinesis for a bit of variety when killing necromorphs, and there’s no shortage of inventive ways in which Isaac can take down his foes.
Puzzles are at the core of Dead Space’s activities and drive the narrative. The Ishimura was severely hampered for reasons that only became clear in later parts of the game. It’s up to Isaac to restore critical systems to keep the ship in orbit and produce life-saving oxygen. Each section of the ship forms a chapter, giving the game a natural flow and reason for why Isaac is doing different things.
The puzzles themselves are not too difficult. Players won’t sit frustrated like they’re playing Portal. For the same reason, they aren’t so easy that players will just fly through them. The mechanics are engaging, make sense, and build on the systems and tools available to players.
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The Dead Space Remake stays true to the original. Multiple difficulty options are available to suit all abilities. Those who just want to experience the story and not worry about being assassinated can certainly do so. At the other end of the spectrum is Insane difficulty, which will push Isaac to the limit and knock players down to a lower difficulty once they die.
Otherwise, players can use the New Game+ option and work their way up the difficulty levels. This allows them to conquer the game step by step like a mountain. Add in a smart design that changes which Necromorphs spawn where, and no two playthroughs are the same.
Systems like these made the Resident Evil remakes so popular and will keep Dead Space in the zeitgeist longer than the Callisto Protocol. Allow players to explore at their own pace and carry over their progress from one playthrough to the next, and not only will they play it longer on that first playthrough, but they’ll also be more likely to come back to it.
Judgment – The Return of the King
I was nervous when Dead Space Remake was announced. When it was released it felt like a cult hit. Sure, it succeeded, but horror titles don’t grab the headlines like games like Call of Duty. Then the second came out, expanding on everything I loved about the original. Eventually EA got greedy and tried to make the series something it wasn’t with Dead Space 3 that may have killed the series so far.
15 years later Motive got his hands on it and completely threw it out of the park. This remake triggered all the nostalgic feelings I was hoping for. It also delivered new content, like meaningful side quests, gave Isaac a voice and explained his background without feeling forced.
Whether this is a return trip to USG Ishimura or your first visit, you are sure to have a good time. Besides being an amazing trip down memory lane, it taught me that not all remakes have to be bad. Sometimes they can deliver an experience you never knew you were missing.
For more Dead Space goodies, check out the Pro Game Guides How to Fix Dead Space Remake Stuttering on PC.
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