Dead Space Remake Review – This is how a remake should be
- Excellent build-up tension
- New layout of the Ishimura
- Effect of weapons on enemies
- Great upgrade to a modern look
- More background through additional missions
- Not too long
- Little variation in environment
- Bigger weapon wheel would have been nice
New games aren’t cool anymore; old games is what we like! That is said a bit jokingly, of course, but it is clear that we are currently in a large wave of remasters and remakes. One old game after another is getting a next-gen patch, appearing for the first time on a modern console, or even being recreated from the ground up. In the latter category, we already saw the remakes of Resident Evil 2 and Final Fantasy 7, which logically count as two of the most successful re-releases of old games. A third now presents itself, because Dead Space has also been made from scratch. If you want to know more about the manufacturing process, you can read this article again. Daan spoke to developers at EA Motive at the end of December, who explained how they worked for this Dead Space remake.
Basically, this version of Dead Space is the same as the 2008 game. That is, the setting and large parts of the story are the same. You still play as engineer Isaac Clarke, who goes out with a crew to investigate what happened aboard the USG Ishimura. The large ship, a ‘Planet Harvester’, is no longer showing signs of life, so it’s up to Isaac and his friends to find out what’s wrong. The Ishimura is the scene of action in both games, but EA Motive has changed the layout of the ship. Not only do the different environments, corridors and rooms look a lot more spacious; they are also more connected. In the old Dead Space you had to take a tram between different parts of the ship. That ride was then a disguised loading screen. Still in Dead Space you take the tram, but you can often also go inside, through the corridors, which now connect several parts of the ship. This creates the image of a large ship that forms a whole, without loading screens in between. We deliberately say ‘the image’, because in reality Isaac is still often in an elevator, which is, of course, the same idea as that old tram ride, but the effect comes across well.
The same setting with the same main character means that you will once again face Dead Space with a person who is not trained at all to take on hordes of monstrous creatures. Isaac fixes things and can handle all kinds of machines, but not necessarily weapons. Fortunately, the machines used aboard the Ishimura by miners and other personnel turn out to be perfectly suitable as weapons. The improvised weaponry was already one of Dead Space’s charms and that is of course also the case in this version.
Blast necromorphs into pieces
Of course, the weapons and the effects they cause have undergone the same metamorphosis as the rest of the game. This effect is best seen on the samples. An important element of the enemy Necromorphs encountered in Dead Space is that they are most vulnerable on their limbs and other protrusions. It is therefore especially important to take them under fire if you want to defeat them quickly. It is good to see that those limbs are shot to pieces step by step, with intermediate steps between completely intact and ‘completely shot off the body’ and of course that looks a lot nicer and more detailed than fifteen years ago.
When Isaac and the crew approach the Ishimura in the opening phase, however, there is still no trace of all the misery. The crew approaches the unresponsive ship, but throws it at a technical problem. That is not so important. This opening scene is especially nice because it shows the differences between Dead Space (2008) and Dead Space (2023). Cinematographically, much is the same. The approach angle and many of the camera perspectives are similar, but much else is different. The graphic differences are of course in light effects, resolution and level of detail, but the sound is also different. If you put the scenes next to each other, you will not hear exactly the same texts. That part has also been redone for this remake. In fact, Isaac only had his own voice from Dead Space 2 onwards. The fact that he is now talking in this game is therefore new in itself.
Also new is, of course, the graphics choice you have to make. The game has an option to enable Performance mode. The resolution then switches back to 1440p and some other features, such as ray tracing, are disabled. This ensures that the game can be played in 60 frames per second. We would recommend doing the same; the graphical advantages of playing without ‘Performance mode’ on do not outweigh the disadvantage of a lower frame rate.
We don’t only see new material in the intro of the game. The game stays true to the main story but adds additional content with small storylines. Don’t expect too much of that. They are mainly simple ‘look-up missions’ that seem to have the main purpose of providing more information about what happened on the Ishimura. In that respect, the ‘Intensity Director’ is a much more interesting feature. This is a system that ensures that the Ishimura does not feel empty if you have already defeated Necromorphs everywhere. The system monitors the tension of the gameplay and ensures that new monsters spawn here and there. In Dead Space you have to visit certain locations more than once and sometimes you have to walk back quite a bit. Because of this system, you have to be on your guard all the time,
Excellent tension arc
You can read and accept the latter very factually, but think about it for a moment. The tension arc is what makes Dead Space Dead Space. The game is incredibly good at keeping you on the edge of your seat. Okay, right after a tough fight you usually have some time to breathe easy, but every moment you’re exploring further aboard the Ishimura feels exciting. It’s not that enemies are constantly appearing and that’s what makes it so exciting. You never know if the sound you hear is a harbinger of a Necromorph falling from the ceiling or not. It never feels safe. From time to time there will be a climax in the form of a special enemy or intermediate boss. Those are entertaining, but it’s the general sinister atmosphere that makes the game special.
Part of the tension is also: how do you manage your resources? From time to time, Isaac finds new machines that act as weapons and all have their strengths and weaknesses. A personal favorite is the circular saw, which allows you to quickly dismember nearby enemies. But more important than what you like is what you have ammunition for. You can find that ammo everywhere in the game world and you can also buy it here and there, but your credits are limited and upgrades and health packs also cost money. So which four weapons you have active is often determined by what you still have ammo for and by which bullets you prefer to save for more difficult fights. In addition, you can also improve the weapons by upgrading them and that also determines which weapons you use most often. Small point of criticism: switching weapons feels good as long as weapons are in your active weapon wheel of four weapons, but using other weapons from your collection has to be done through a menu. That’s inconvenient during combat. A more extensive weapon wheel would not have been out of place.
Fortunately, EA Motive does make all kinds of changes in other areas that positively affect the gameplay in this remake. There are all kinds of new puzzles and Isaac can move freely in ‘zero-G zones’ by using the boosters in his suit. In the original, Isaac could only jump from surface to surface. This change is a good example of how the gameplay in this remake is different from the original.
While playing Dead Space, we also noticed something else. Of course, we already knew that The Callisto Protocol, which we reviewed back in December, was a lot like Dead Space. However, how much the two games match up wasn’t really apparent until we played Dead Space. The games certainly do things differently, but they have similarities. A main character not trained as a soldier must hold his own against all kinds of mutated creatures, while a plot slowly unfolds that shows that what happens is not necessarily based on chance. Both games are linear and the way the characters move is similar. And there are even more examples to be found. Yet we missed that feeling of tension in The Callisto Protocol. Or well, that’s not quite true. We thought we experienced that tension, but Dead Space takes that to another, higher level. In addition, Dead Space has peripheral issues such as the system around saving and checkpoints in better order and the game is also slightly longer. So Dead Space is more or less the better version of the Dead Space-like game that The Callisto Protocol had wanted to be. For both games, by the way, they are not excessively long and where ten hours of playing time in 2008 may have been okay, in 2023, even with a few hours extra, it is not a lot of money.
You can make the assessment whether Dead Space is a good game in several ways. Is it a game in itself? Yes. If you’ve never played the original, this is just a new game for you, with a new storyline. Or are you looking at it as a remake? That’s what it literally is. Do you think this is enough to justify a renewed purchase? As far as we’re concerned, you can look at it from both sides, but see the same thing: a game that is absolutely worth your time and money. For one it will be a nostalgic trip, with the way the game world is now built and the renewed overall audiovisual level provides some freshness. If you missed the original, this is of course the best way to still experience Dead Space. The game plays excellently with suspense, let it come to a climax in strong ways and know how to hold on to it at other times as well. Somehow we regret that so many old games are coming out again instead of seeing more new games, but if they are rebuilt as EA Motive did with Dead Space, then we too can only enjoy that.