Motive Studio managed to remake Dead Space for a new era and made it incredibly faithful to the original. It still delivers a stellar gameplay experience, intense and a horror-driven tone, and a memorable, thought-provoking story with well-developed and mysterious characters. The only difference is how much better it looks and how much more freedom the player has to move around.
(For this review, I never played the original version, so I’ll only be speaking on what I know, which what I’ve experienced with the remake.)
Out of all the classic games that have been remade for a new audience and generation thanks to technological advancements, it’s hard to think of one as well-made as the Dead Space remake. I’m one of the unfortunate few who never had the opportunity to play this game when it originally released back in 2008, but many of my friends played it and raved about how fantastic it was. I knew I had to play this for myself to try and experience what everyone did back then in a new, but familiar, way. Simply put, Dead Space is fantastic. It’s one of the greatest horror games I’ve ever played, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment.
I still kick myself from time to time because I waited far too long to get interested in the horror genre. I was always terrified of horror in all of its forms, but I finally gave it a shot with film and, eventually, I made my way to video games. Since I consider myself a fan, that statement didn’t always seem genuine or, in a sense, complete, since I never played Dead Space. This remake shows just how ahead of its time this game really was. I believe there are many developers, both old and new, who can learn from this game and how well it holds up 15 years later. Sure, the remake updates a variety of things and all for the better, I’m sure, but at its core, there isn’t much different. In fact, in many ways, it’s very much the same game with far better visuals and graphical improvements. Aside from that, there are some quality of life updates, such as giving the player a sense of more freedom with the seamless transitions from place to place, giving the player more to do in the linear areas to explore, and how you travel as the main character himself, Isaac Clarke, is much more varied and improved. The combat, at first felt a bit clunky, and I think it’s designed purposefully to be this way to add more tension, suspense, and instill fear into the player, but as you gradually progress through the game, you get used to the movements, the variety of weapons in your arsenal, and how the enemies will attack you.
It may not be as massive in scale with the world you travel in or in the variety of enemies you face off against, but it’s the simplicity of Dead Space that makes it shine the brightest, even in comparison with the games of today. Sure, these new games by some developers may be graphically superior, have more to do in these games, and so on. However, it’s the very aspect of having too much to do in a video game that’s almost fatiguing, at times. It’s a breath of fresh air to play something like Dead Space, where the world is still incredibly immersive and atmospheric, but also lineally focused and narrative driven.
The narrative is what impacted me the most. It’s sort of an endlessly evolving story since you aren’t really sure what’s going to happen next. Although the vessel you’re playing on, the Ishimura, is full of human crewmembers, including the character you play as, Isaac, the majority of the game, the only human character you ever really see is Isaac himself. You run into some others from time to time, but it’s rarely through physical interactions. Most of the time, you’re speaking to them on the phone, you see holograms or videos of them, or they’re just dead bodies you encounter on the floor. The environment, at times, feels very lonely and dark, and I don’t believe there’s a game that instills fear into the player quite like Dead Space does. The story is constantly developing into something entirely unexpected and twisted, and I was always engaged in what was going on. You, as Isaac, want to complete this mission and save everyone, and with each passing moment, it becomes increasingly more unlikely, or at least that’s what it seems. The biggest battle, other than dealing with the Necromorphs themselves, is fighting the feeling of imminent failure and, most notably, fighting Isaac’s demons. As mentioned, loneliness plays a huge part, and as Isaac, you’re doing most of the work yourself, so you can only imagine how stressful and anxiety-inducing it must all feel for him. Kudos to Motive Studio for being able to deliver this kind of feeling where many games fail.
If there’s one gripe I have with the game, it’s the lack of enemy variety. As the game goes on, you start fighting different ones, but for the majority of the time, you’re constantly fighting the same kind of Necromorphs. The boss designs, and the fights themselves, were also a bit underwhelming. I guess it’s more my selfish taste since other horror games are constantly throwing different kinds of enemies at you, but I felt Dead Space was a bit lacking in that department. This isn’t to say the Necromorphs aren’t fantastic monsters to fight, however. They definitely have a unique design and are, by far, the scariest I’ve gone against in any horror game I’ve played.
The Dead Space remake honors the original game in almost every way while improving on a ton of gameplay aspects for returning fans to enjoy. The best part is the new players, including me, can appreciate it for what it is and realize why it’s such a beloved game in the first place. It’s incredibly atmospheric, the graphical updates are more pleasing to the eye, and it’s one of the most intense horror games I’ve ever played. I can’t recommend it enough.