In an age where remakes are often hit-and-miss and seen as mere cash grabs, there is little incentive to improve upon the original as the nostalgia factor will likely win fans over, from those who view it through rose-tinted glasses, and even those with a more discerning glare.
But with Electronic Arts and Motive Studio’s Dead Space remake, there is little need to rely on pleasant memories, as this is a modern sci-fi survival horror masterpiece that only gets better the more you compare it to the 2008 classic.
Dead Space stars Isaac Clarke, an everyman engineer on a routine mission to fix a gigantic mining starship. Sadly for him, a living nightmare awaits. The ship’s crew has been slaughtered, and Isaac’s girlfriend, Nicole, is missing.
Alone and trapped with only his engineering tools and skills at his disposal, Isaac faces a battle for survival, not just against the monsters on board, but also against his rapidly crumbling sanity.
The setup is straightforward enough to get anyone remotely interested in the genre to sit up and take notice, but it is everything else that truly makes this remake such a stellar return to the series.
While there is always the option of replaying the game that started it all, the Dead Space remake is, without a doubt, the best and recommended way to step into the boots of Clarke.
The developers have built on the already solid foundations of the original, ushering in a terrifyingly enjoyable time that is powered by enhanced audio together with elevated and stunning visuals, all designed to capture players in a vice-like grip of neverending survival horror pleasure.
That is not all, as Motive Studio has also gone under the hood when it comes to gameplay and narrative, adding in bits and pieces of lore to flesh out further the unfortunate demise of the USG Ishimura and its crew, the Marker, and everyone’s favourite fleshy monstrosities that are the Necromorphs.
Certain sections of Dead Space have gotten a facelift, while new sidequests and areas become a fresh surprise for those returning to relive the best kind of torment.
At the core of it all is the Frostbite engine, with every texture, animation, effect, and enemy behaviour all benefiting from a more modern engine. The USG Ishimura has never felt more alive, or dead in this case, where every step in the confined corridors amping up the sense of dread and pervading tension.
It is a testament to the excellent work of the developers that Dead Space is an experience that constantly had us on edge, and always relieved to find the next Save Station.
The fact that Isaac Clarke, voiced by Gunner Wright, now speaks as he does in Dead Space 2 and 3 adds to the immersion, with the questioning of his sanity now more relatable and personal to players.
Other characters Clarke meets have new interactions and dialogue too, lending additional depth and motivations for how things ultimately turn out on the ship.
All these bells and whistles are definitely welcomed, but it wouldn’t be vintage Dead Space without the threat of the Necromorphs. These enemies have never been easy to overcome, and strategic dismemberment is the only way to go, where being calm in the face of danger will help your aim and planning.
In addition, Motive Studio has reconstructed each of the Necromorphs around the new Peeling System, a godsend for those that love to bask in the blood and gore.
This means that every hit from any of Clarke’s weapons can potentially expose the creatures’ skin layers, muscles, bones, and organs.
Visually, it is arresting and amazing, and on the gameplay front, this helpfully shows how powerful or ineffective some weapons can be, how damaged the Necromorph is, and the probability of the limb being cut off.
The attention to detail is commendable, that is, if you are not already trying to run away from the flesh monsters trying to eat you up.
Thankfully, even with just his mining tools and engineering know-how, our hero continues to grow into a bonafide badass as players progress.
The powers of Stasis and Kinesis can turn the tide, with the former an ever-useful tool to slow enemies down for perfectly aimed shots, while the latter gives Clarke control of most objects, even dismembered Necromorphs, to use as makeshift weapons.
Then we have the weapons, like the iconic Plasma Cutter, and the various Resource Integration Gear (RIGs) that Clarke can don as suits.
Both benefit from a new upgrade system that requires power nodes to upgrade various statistics, such as overall health or damage, and, more importantly, removing useless blank spaces to ensure players are getting every bit out of the rare upgrade material.
You will still need to go down the right grid spaces to secure the upgrades you want, and there is always the option of resetting your upgrades for a fee.
Many weapons in Dead Space now possess new alternate firing modes as well, expanding the ways they can be used to fight back.
It is always a delight to see the Line Gun’s laser trap tearing flesh from chasing foes, while the rotating aim of the Plasma Cutter is always a dependable favourite to target Necromorphs of different shapes and sizes better.
The improvements in Dead Space also extend to sections of the USG Ishimura, where returning players will see a markedly improved journey this time around.
Zero gravity sections are now fully explorable spaces instead of being tied to the floors and walls, while environmental puzzles have gotten more involved, with new elements to change things up and pave the way for more thrills and spills.
Exploration has also gotten more rewarding, with the new security clearance mechanic making it possible to obtain new rewards when revisiting old haunts.
Just when you think that the exhilarating adventure has come to an end, the Dead Space remake throws a New Game+ option at you, which comes with the coup de grace of not just being able to enjoy the game again (preferably at a higher difficulty) with all of your resources, but also a secret ending lying in wait.
Needless to say, hunting down the new hidden resource of Marker Fragments will have players scrambling around the Ishimura once more, this time with new and more dangerous Phantom variants of enemies waiting to pounce.
It is also important to note the increased attention being paid to ensure that Dead Space is more accessible than before. Motive Studio has included options such as menu narration, colour blind modes, aim assistance, and more to allow anyone interested to enter the fold.
The inclusion of a Story Mode difficulty also means you don’t have to be particularly skilful to live out the captivating story of Isaac Clarke.
All in all, our expectation of the Dead Space remake being just a marginally updated version of the cult classic was blown out of the water just a few minutes into the journey.
Instead, what we found was an astonishing and impressive experience that will set yet another high bar for its contemporaries to follow, a true survival horror adventure chocked full of surprises both obvious and subtle, and a fabled return to pure ecstasy while trepidation coloured every step.
Dead Space has never looked or felt better, and a homage has easily surpassed its inspiration and become a flag bearer for the genre. If this is what Motive Studio can do with a remake, then we look forward to losing our minds further for even more Dead Space in the near future.