It’s so weird seeing remakes of games that absolutely don’t need remakes. The original Dead Space still looks pretty good and is still an excellent game, even though it came out in 2008. A remaster with new textures and upgraded lighting would have been fine. Plus, there’s always a good chance that the people remaking the game won’t do it as well the next time around. And while the Dead Space remake may not have been needed, Motive has done such a great job updating the game’s visuals and various design aspects that it’s clear that this terrifying return to the Ishimura is an exception to the rule.
If you’ve played Dead Space before, there’s not much here that’ll surprise you. Don’t get me wrong, everything in the game has been recreated from scratch, down to the script, voice acting, and geometry. The Ishimura’s layouts aren’t identical either. And there are new side quests that give you some extra bits of story that are appreciated, even if the occasional backtrack just to get this isn’t always the smoothest thing in the world. The story is still an effectively eerie tale of a ship gone to absolute hell after picking up a marker tied to a slimy religion, and the atmosphere has only been improved.
The protagonist, Isaac Clarke, is also in better form, as he’s much more present in the story than he used to be. He’s even voiced by the actor from the second and third games. One thing I thought was rather curious is that Isaac’s suit is very different here. In the original game, it looked more like a utility-based suit. In the remake, it’s been given a badass update that’s a lot more interesting to look at. The change is either a pro or a con based on how you feel about the idea of engineers in the future looking like they’re about to ruin your shit.
Who turned out the lights?
Dead Space was always a fairly dark game, where you dealt with creepy crawlies hiding around every corner. But the remake takes this to a further extreme. Where the lighting was simply low before, now there are many times when you’ll be in near-total darkness, which only amplifies the horror. Of course, it also makes it so much easier for Necromorphs to sneak up on you. I slowly walked with my weapon drawn to illuminate the surroundings more than ever before.
This is wonderful from a horror perspective, but I didn’t always appreciate it from a gameplay one. It’s not that enemies didn’t sneak up behind you in the original game, mind you. It’s just easier for it to happen in the remake. A change I’m far more fond of is that you no longer have to buy weapons from the store. Instead, you’ll find them all in the environment, which I really liked, as I’m the cheapest bastard alive and used to deliberate about if I really needed to buy that weapon or not. The ability to throw kinesis-held items from Dead Space 2 is also a welcome inclusion, although I was never really that big on it.
The weapons remain a varied, potent arsenal. Well, mostly. The flamethrower is still only situationally useful much of the time. But its alternate fire still takes Guardians down in a single hit and has a fantastic ammo-to-use ratio that makes it more useful. The ripper still does a killer job of making enemies back the hell up when they get all up in your personal business. And, of course, there’s still the plasma cutter, which remains Isaac’s most iconic weapon. Its ability to rotate between horizontal and vertical fire modes makes it a joy to blast off limbs and tentacles.
Why am I dead?
Dead Space runs quite well for me on an RTX 3090 and 2600x, just not at 4K. At 1440p, I’m usually hovering comfortably in the 65-80 fps zone. I’ve had a few technical issues, but they’re fairly infrequent. I’ve noticed that, if the game is saved when there’s an enemy near, Isaac apparently starts standing around before the picture loads in. So I found him getting chewed to pieces the second I regained control. There’s some variance with this bug. At one point the game autosaved when one of those tiny things that die immediately to the flamethrower was around.
When I finished saving, I realized it was on me and I’d lost roughly a single health chunk. I reloaded the save to see if this fate could be avoided only to find Isaac’s health was almost empty. Another time I reloaded a save only to be greeted by Isaac’s mutilated corpse. And that’s not the only glitchy death I’ve experienced. Once, Isaac got hit so hard by a closing door he was knocked out of the map into a black void. He keeled over and died shortly after.
Rare bugs aside, EA and Motive’s remake is the best way to play Dead Space — as a fan or someone new to the series. Plus, the original (and its sequel) have a fair amount of problems on PC. Dead Space (2008) was infamous for having some serious issues with mouse control. As the gameplay pairs wonderfully with mouse aiming, this alone makes the remake a far more enjoyable experience.
However, I’m not too crazy about having to use the direction keys to move the map and other interactive objects. This is a pretty fantastic remake of one of the best survival-horror games around, and the improvements and changes are mostly for the better. I hope the game convinces EA to consider a remake for the sequel. But not the third one. Nobody likes you, Dead Space 3! Go away!
Related: Infinite Themes: Dead Space Series on Twinfinite