January 25, 2023
For the entire time of my playthrough of Dead Space, I was constantly living in fear of what might be around the corner. I was never given any assurance there would be a safe space to collect my thoughts, and the atmosphere was so tense and claustrophobic I could never prepare accordingly as to what weapon I should have equipped or how to approach a new area of the Ishimura. This remake of 2008’s classic is the epitome of what survival horror should be, with all the trappings of what players deserve from the genre.
Motive has made plenty of changes to the original yet still manages to keep what made it such a standout hit. The story is still engaging, but enough has been added to flesh out characters and story beats through added cutscenes, text and audio logs, and dialogue. One big change is bringing in the voice actor for Isaac Clarke from the two sequels and having him voice the character for the remake. It’s an obvious choice, but Gunner Wright is superb as the everyman engineer.
Another change that is commendable from the developers is making these characters look normal. It may sound like an odd observation, but when not in his iconic helmet, Isaac looks like your average male, not some chiselled or bearded Adonis, but rather like Pete the office worker who enjoys a pint down the pub after a day of inputting numbers at the office. Expanding on its appearance, the visuals are ridiculously good. The design of the Necromorphs are so varied and grotesque, and when shredding their flesh with your array of weapons, it’s hard not to be impressed at the level of detail.
The USG Ishimura is a dense mining ship with plenty of areas ripe for exploration, broken up by different areas that can be travelled between via a tram system. It’s often tense thanks to the hissing of valves and clanking of pipes, with screams of the creatures lurking on board and the maniacal cries of the crew ringing out in the distance. The steam fills up the rooms and the blinking of lights all build the tension, as well as an unwelcoming darkness often blinding you from seeing exactly where you are. You are at the mercy of the environment, never knowing what is going to happen next.
These contorted and wretched creatures vary in design, and no matter how many times you see the same Necromorph, not an ounce of safety is felt. Instead, you take a deep breath, ready your weapon, and hope for the best. Thankfully, the range of weapons you’ll acquire all have specific benefits against particular Necromorphs, each with an alt-fire mechanic that can be used depending on the situation. The plasma cutter is the standard issue weapon, and I found myself using it right until the end, but another favourite was the ripper. I remembered it fondly from the original, firing a circular blade at enemies in an effort to dismember their limbs, or using it to saw through them in close proximity.
There’re a total of seven weapons to choose from, and whether you prefer the line gun over the flamer, it’s imperative that they’re all used depending on the situation. You can equip four weapons at any one time and can be switched between quickly with the press of the D-pad. It would have been better if all seven could be switched between through a weapon wheel, but it’s a survival horror after all, and there needs to be some element of item management. On the subject of managing your stock, you can upgrade your suit to carry more stuff, but it wasn’t until the final few chapters I struggled to choose what to hold onto or what to get rid of.
Ammo, health packs, weapon upgrades (providing you’ve found the schematics), and more can be purchased from the store points dotted around the ship, so you’ll rarely struggle for ammo. Nodes can also be collected to improve the stats of each weapon, along with special abilities for each one. Two other abilities are also unlocked to add layers of gameplay, and they’re also ideal when getting off the Ishimura. You can slow down enemies, spinning blades, and other environmental hazards with it, becoming an important tool at your disposal. Objects can also be moved via the power of kinesis, whether pulling an item towards you or launching something at an enemy, there’re plenty of ways for you to get creative.
Despite having all of these abilities and weapons, Necromorphs appear randomly, and even after death, an area previously ventured into might not have the same ones present. These dynamic encounters are what I greatly admired about Dead Space, making the whole playthrough an unnerving and surprising experience, making me fearful of every single space I moved through. Even save points aren’t safe. It would be a sure bet to assume saving your game would need to be uninterrupted, but there were times I went to save, only to get attacked from behind. Elevators and supply rooms also left me fighting off monsters, making my stress levels plateau.
Dead Space is littered with environmental puzzles, and while never particularly difficult to solve, they make use of all your abilities. Whether that’s rerouting power by removing power supplies with kinesis or securing mechanical claws with stasis, they add to the variety in what Isaac gets up to. Some of the best moments came from entering zero gravity areas and using boosters to fly across freely, something not in the original. There would often be something I needed to solve in these areas, and not only did it look cool, the sound changed to muffles and silence, as if trapped in the dead of space. Various puzzles aren’t always to do with the environment either, with my favourites coming from evading the Hunter.
Venturing outside the ship and struggling for oxygen, taking in the vastness of space and the impeccable design of everything that surrounded me was a constant surprise. I adored playing Dead Space, whether getting around the confines of tight corridors or exploring the wider rooms filled with secrets through logs revealing more about the ship, the Marker, and the dangerous religion of unitology. Dread is a constant, and at times I had to take a breather because of how anxious it made me, but that’s far from a complaint. Motive not only showed how a remake should be done well, but also put to shame The Callisto Protocol, a game made by the original makers of the series from last year.
Dead Space is an exceptional remake that isn’t for the faint of heart. Not only is it bloody and terrifying, it makes use of the atmosphere, both showing why the original was so good and giving players a new and thrilling version. The combat scenarios are varied and unpredictable, the puzzles are smart and engaging, and the story is interesting, with solid performances by most of the cast. It might be a bit too much to handle for the more sensitive gamers, but I am more than happy I got to play what will surely be in the discussions of best remake of 2023 come December.
Dynamic enemy encounters are superb
Level design is exceptional
Vast arsenal and abilities
Too intense for some
Weapon switching for all weapons would be nice
Dead Space is a fantastic remake, taking what was great about the original and adding plenty of smart and impressive features.