Around 15 years ago, Dead Space 08’ created a terrifying new look into the sci-if survival horror genre. Visceral Games created grotesque monsters in a lonely space setting with hopes of truly frightening their current generation of gamers and beyond. Many might say that Dead Space 08’ didn’t need a remake and that the original has aged amazingly well, but dare I say it, I think I might enjoy the 2023 release a little bit more.
Make Us Whole
Stepping back into the power armor of Isaac Clarke, our protagonist is yet again thrown into hell aboard the Ishimura, a planet-cracker floating above the desolate Aegis VII. Players are reintroduced to several characters, including Daniels, Hammond, and Mercer, the latter designed to be more sinister than ever before. Dead Space 23’ fleshes out the character lore and gives every individual a bit more personality. Daniels is shown to be more caring and sympathetic towards Isaac’s goal to find Nicole, and Hammond’s hardened military personality becomes softer later in the game after losing one of his most valued soldiers. Isaac himself now has a voice and is no longer the mute, emotionless man we knew in the 2008 version. Gunner Wright reprises his role and absolutely kills it, helping to build upon Isaac much more. Certain story elements have changed, sometimes in ways that make sense, like the Wheezer injecting missions provided by Elizabeth Cross where you use Wheezers to build an enzyme to kill the Leviathan latching onto Food Storage.
All Too Familiar
Dead Space 23’ perfectly recreates the Ishimura and makes it feel like a gigantic ship in the new ways that Motive has designed its tram system and spacewalking sequences. No longer will you see loading screens during traversal opportunities of the ship as every part of travel is seamless and properly connected. Trams have now become fast-travel opportunities rather than a chapter progression system. The planet cracker also makes for a more frightening environment, taunting the player into making each step a cautious one as anything could be around the next corner. Dead Space 23’ uses an Intensity Director that controls the environment surrounding the player. Backtracking to previous rooms might be more dangerous with new necromorphs bursting out of vents, lights flickering and voices whispering to keep the player guessing what will happen next. Simply sprinting back to a cleared-out area deemed safe might be suddenly overrun once again should you be less wary of what might approach.
Cut Off Their Limbs
Speaking of necromorphs, developers Motive have improved upon the design of each monster, making for some horrifying portrayals. The Frostbite engine has completely overhauled the appearances of all enemies, particularly the common slasher, rendering them violent, snarling, and aggressively mindless beasts. Large varieties of slashers can be encountered wearing various uniforms provided by the Ishimura, clearly depicting them as previous victims of the Marker’s presence. Damaging these creatures turns them into dangling bits of flesh and bone, a new visual gameplay element that greatly enhances the feel of combat. Isaac can even mutilate the limbs of necromorphs to the point that they can be pulled straight off using Kinesis. Motive has done a fantastic job in harnessing the true terror that these iconic monsters have instilled into the hearts of players, bringing back a nostalgic air of horror we all felt playing the 2008 original title for the first time.
A Good Day to Be an Engineer
Dead Space is a franchise known for its unique weaponry that was once used as tools for engineers and mining personnel within the universe. The iconic plasma cutter makes a return, used for slicing off the limbs of necromorphs with pinpoint accuracy. The design of the weapon is a near 1:1 creation of the original, with some additional enhancements that can be invested into it from the BENCH, Dead Space’s main upgrade station. For instance, one upgrade path leads to prolonged fire damage caused by each shot, whereas another path greatly increases the capacity of the weapon. Not only does the plasma cutter return, but every single weapon from the original game is back, albeit with only minor alterations to certain weapons’ firing modes. For instance, the pulse rifle now launches a proximity mine instead of the extremely FUBAR A-O-E attack from the original. Once a simple hard burst of fire, the flamethrower’s secondary mode now projects a wall of flames to interrupt the path of oncoming necros. The saying goes that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it, and that’s exactly what Motive has adhered to in this remake.
Just As I Remembered You
Within the Ishimura, the main story remains relatively unchanged, par a few gameplay encounters that help to modernize the experience. For instance, Dead Space 08’ included an extremely frustrating turret section that involved shooting down asteroids for a set amount of time until the system’s tracking became automatic. This was completely clunky and slow, and it killed the pacing. Motive redesigned these sections, allowing Isaac to spacewalk outside of the Ishimura and link his weapons to the turrets. This allowed him to simply aim and tag an asteroid that would help the turret identify what it needed to shoot. Three turrets were required to complete the sequence but only needed 5 or 6 asteroids per turret to initiate auto-targeting, making for a much easier experience compared to the dated methods of the OG. Side-missions are now a thing in the remake, adding so much more to the story than ever before. Isaac can explore the bowels of the ship more than before, uncovering hidden bits of lore that were previously untold. Isaac can follow holograms of his girlfriend Nicole’s journey during the outbreak in one mission and discover the true origins of the hunter, Mercer’s finest experiment in another.
Dead Space has truly had one of the most faithful remake treatments I’ve ever seen, on par with the likes of Demon’s Souls and Resident Evil 2. Setting a diamond standard for future projects, Motive has crafted a masterpiece with regards to retelling a 15-year-old story by making it seem fresh and new, opening up new areas for possible future developments. Aside from its technical issues, like slight frame-rate drops and the occasional crash, Dead Space is truly outstanding.
Developer: Motive Studio
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows PC
Release Date: 27th January 2023