The big budget horror game is back, and boy have we missed it.
Spurred on by the success of the Resident Evil 2 remake, publishers are once again taking chances with dormant horror IPs and even serving up some new ones. And so, hot on the heels of The Callisto Protocol, and before remakes of both Silent Hill 2 and Resident Evil 4 hit later this year, we have Dead Space, a remake of the 2008 hit that introduced us to protagonist Isaac Clarke and the fearsome Necromorphs.
As remakes go, Dead Space remains very faithful to the original game. EA Motive has carefully chosen aspects of the game to update and expand upon, however, resulting in something that feels entirely modern and that throws up an ample amount of surprises for even those that have played it to death. Take Isaac, for example: this unfortunate engineer’s exploits aboard the USG Ishimura previously found him voiceless. Now, he speaks, allowing players to build much more of a bond with him as he seeks to locate his wife and survive unimaginable horrors.
In truth, many of the changes made here won’t be all that obvious unless you’ve played the original Dead Space recently or know it like the back of your hand. But that shouldn’t be taken as a negative. Instead, it’s testament to how brilliantly EA Motive has been able to recreate the thrilling experience provided by the original. Perhaps the biggest change here is the freedom players have, as they’re now able to go back and explore areas of the USG Ishimura at their whim. There are even new side missions to encourage it.
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All this leads to something very important in the horror genre: immersion. No longer are there loading screens or significant breaks in the action, so once players are immersed in their surroundings there’s very little to pull them out. And there’s more. Thanks to what EA Motive calls ” The Intensity Director”, players can never rest on their laurels. Various aspects of the game, including enemy spawns and lighting, are dynamic rather than being set in stone, so you can never get complacent even after multiple playthroughs.
As stated before, the core of Dead Space hasn’t really been changed at all. This is a third-person horror game with an over-the-shoulder camera, the occasional puzzle and plentiful combat encounters. All of the elements that made it feel fresh over 10 years ago, however, still do so now. The plentiful weapons at your disposal, for example, can be upgraded as you see fit. And accompanying them is a device that grants you the powers of stasis and telekinesis. So, while you can simply shoot your enemies if you wish, you can also slow them down or pelt them with objects in the environment.
It’s the Necromorphs that are perhaps key to the Dead Space experience, though. They come in various shapes and sizes, but all are very dangerous and, as a result, utterly terrifying. What makes them troublesome to take on is the need to cut off their limbs – pump enough ammo into their bodies and they will succumb to death eventually, but it’s wasteful. Instead, it’s those who are able to choose the best tools for the job and skillfully take apart their attackers that will proceed without much of a hitch.
We’ve been playing Dead Space on PS5 for review and while it doesn’t impress with its visuals as much as the aforementioned The Callisto Protocol, it’s certainly no slouch. Environments are meticulously detailed, and effects such as fog add to the already thick atmosphere. A swift post-launch patch has corrected a bug regarding the game’s implementation of VRS, too, which has dramatically improved picture quality. Sound design is also on point: you’ll often find yourself on edge way before you see a Necromorph thanks to having heard it.
A playthrough of Dead Space is likely to take most players around 12-15 hours depending on how thoroughly you explore. And thanks to New Game Plus being included at launch, there’s a chance you might head through it again to perhaps tackle it on a higher difficulty level. There are incentives for doing so, too; not only will players encounter new ‘Phantom’ Necromorphs, but an additional ending is also available.
Dead Space is an accomplished remake that not only brings new life to a classic, but hopefully paves the path for more entries in the series in the future. While much of the game will be familiar to those who have played the original, the meaningful updates and additions go a long way to keep the experience feeling fresh, modern and unpredictable. So, whether you’re already a Dead Space fan or new to the series, this is well worth your time and money – as long as you have the nerves for it. For some, it’s even likely to be an early game of the year contender.
Dead Space (2023) Review – GameSpew’s Score
This review of Dead Space is based on the PS5 version, via a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.