Dead Space Remake review: one of the best horror games just got a whole lot scarier

During the PS1 and PS2 eras, games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill dominated the horror genre. While Resident Evil 4 was considered one of the best horror games of its time, the franchise started a downward trend with its subsequent two sequels (RE5 and RE6). To fill the void in the horror genre, developer Visceral Games and publisher EA released Dead Space in 2008. While RE4 was a source of inspiration for the game, it made one crucial change – letting the protagonist walk and shoot simultaneously. It may seem trivial today, but back then it was groundbreaking in the world of horror games. Fast forward 15 years and Motive Studio studios have helmed the Dead Space Remake. I am happy to say, while the original has aged like fine wine, the remake adds its own new flavour, one which will appeal to new players and fans of the franchise alike.

Story

The story of Dead Space Remake remains unchanged. You once again don the role of engineer Isaac Clarke on his way to the USG Ishimura. The ship’s crew have transformed into Necromorphs and it is up to you to save the day. The story of the game will appeal to those that love a good sci-fi horror story and have enjoyed TV shows like The Expanse. The flow of the story is a lot better this time around as concepts like the Church of Unitology and information about the “Marker” are introduced much earlier and save you the large dose of exposition towards the end of the game. You also have new objectives in the form of side quests, some of which give you more details about Nichole, the player’s love interest.

In the original Dead Space Isaac Clarke was a silent protagonist, but this time around, he has a voice played by Gunner Wright, who donned the role of Isaac in Dead Space 2 and 3. So this time, all the “engineering decisions” to salvage the USG Ishimura are taken by Isaac rather than coming as objectives giving the story a more natural flow.

Overall, the remake has polished the rough edges of an already fantastic tale to make it an overall immersive experience for newcomers and fans of the franchise alike.

Gameplay

The gameplay of the original 2008 Dead Space still holds up quite well barring a few niggles which were fixed in the sequel. This is just a testament to how good the original gameplay design was as it is largely unchanged in the 2023 remake. The game is still a third-person action-adventure horror game with an over-the-shoulder view keeping you up close to Isaac.

Unlike other shooters, a straight headshot to the Necromorphs doesn’t lead to victory. You need to shoot off their limbs which means multiple shots to take out each enemy. The Necromorphs design this time around has layers. With each shot, you can see skin, bone and flesh peal off adding a gruesome layer to the horror elements. It is very akin to the layers found on the enemies in Doom Eternal who shed layers with each striking blow.

Needless to say, just like the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes, the position of the enemies in the game has changed. So if you think you know the USG Ishimura by heart, we say, think again. Also with the addition of side quests, you will be revisiting previously explored areas. Thanks to the newly designed ‘Intensity Director’, you will encounter random scares when you revisit an area multiple times. At one point you will hear the vents rattle, at another, you will have enemies spawn, a third time, the lights will flicker, and so on and so forth, making each revisit feel fresh. Revisiting some areas has new motivation as some doors are locked behind a security clearance level which you gain access to during the course of the story. I wish the developers had taken a leaf from the Resident Evil 2 remake and marked cleared rooms with a unique colour making looking at the map to explore the previously unreachable area’s a smoother experience. But this is a small gripe in an otherwise masterpiece experience.

Another change is how you interact with different sections of the game. In the original, you clear your objectives, move to a tram station and head to the next section of the game. This time around, the experience of going from one section of the USG Ishimura to the other feels more natural as you can walk from one end of the ship to the other if you like and unlocking the tram is a simple fast travel solution, adding a more seamless experience to the game.

Finally, you no longer get new weapons in the in-game store. but stumble upon them throughout the game. This makes the experience of getting new weapons feel more seamless.

Speaking of weapons. While the arsenal is the same, there are some refinements that go beyond just the looks. The alternate fire of each weapon has been modified slightly to either consume less ammo or have a new effect entirely. Additionally, each weapon has a passive effect like adding Status to an enemy the more it is fired upon. The entire experience seems a lot smoother than the original.

Graphics and sound

For its time, Dead Space was a phenomenal technical leap in visuals. Compared to the remake, however, the original looks quite outdated especially when it comes to the details in Isaac’s suit, the details in the environments and of course the amazing lighting. This is just a testament to how far technology has advanced over the past 15 years.

Isaac’s suit looks super detailed with each element shimmering differently in the light and it gets drenched in blood after each encounter. You can feel the heft of the suit with each gameplay movement.

The enemy design has improved too, ensuring you sleep with the lights on for a few days after beating the game. But the true star of the show is the sound.

I highly recommend you play this game with a pair of headphones as the 3D sound (on the PS5) gives the game a more immersive feel and more than once I found myself looking behind when I heard a vent shake. While there is a background score the true audio mastery lies in the silent sections when you are exploring the ship and the loudest thing you can hear is Isaac’s heartbeat. Sound design is the true star of any horror game and it really excels here.

Verdict

The Dead Space Remake stays true to the original while polishing up the gameplay and story beats to offer players an immersive experience. The quality bar of the game is as high as that set by the Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes. If you are a fan of horror games then Dead Space Remake should definitely be at the top of your list. You can beat the game in 10-15 hours making it the perfect weekend experience.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Pros:

  • Visually stunning
  • Plenty of jump scares
  • Immersive gameplay
  • Incredible sound design

Cons:

Backtracking can get tedious at times

More info
Developer: Motive Studio
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC
Reviewed on: PS5

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