Dead Space Remake Review – Murphy’s Law the Game
Title: Dead Space
Developer: Motive Studio
Release Date: January 27, 2023
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Survival Horror
Dead Space has always been a game I remember for its advancements in action meets survival horror genre that many tried to replicate. Sadly, while the first two entries hold a place in my heart, the series would fall apart thanks to the introduction of microtransactions. However, I always feel like getting back to basics is a great idea to reboot a franchise, and the Dead Space remake does just that. This release enhances what has been available for gamers for years with a modern approach to game design and storytelling, but, similar to the original, the threat that Necromorphs are behind every corner, or behind you, will keep you in a conservative state until the credits roll.
The story of Dead Space is intact in this release, with a few adjustments to crucial plot points that make some aspects of the game more digestible while still retaining the same story structure. In practice, this works throughout the entire game. If you haven’t played it in years, you’ll likely remember bits and pieces and then go to check if that happened in the original, when in fact, it did. Likewise, the game’s core themes echoed the loose memory I had of the original.
We meet protagonist Isaac Clarke, an engineer who has just arrived on the stranded ship, Ishimura, with a team of people to assist. However, he has other reasons for being here after receiving a communication from his girlfriend, Nicole Brennan, who is currently residing on the ship. Unfortunately, events turn from bad to worse after a crash landing right into the Ishimura hangar bay. After looking around, the entire ship seems to have been evacuated, but something about the place seems haunting.
It doesn’t take long, but after getting a feel for controls and exploration, deformed humans known as Necromorphs begin crawling from the vents and popping up behind you to scare the living sh*t out of you. The story of Isaac becomes a bit more complicated when the discovery of a relic known as the Marker is found on the ship. His mission to find his girlfriend and escape proves difficult after every completed task opens up several new issues that must be dealt with.
For returning players, the story beats are similar to what you may remember, with some expanded areas for context, such as the character Dr. Cross playing a more significant role. For those new to the game, you’re in luck because you’re playing a true physiological horror that we don’t see too often anymore. The story itself leaves a little on the table for interpretation, but it does a great job putting all the pieces together in the conclusion. Further, a New Game Plus allows you to carry over all items and equipment held from the previous run, including a few new enemy types.
As for gameplay, players are tasked with exploring the halls of the Ishimura to complete missions that will hopefully lead to an escape. The halls are mazelike, but the design has a way of including landmarks that allow you to understand where you are. A tram connects the areas, but the experience resembles a Metroidvania, where you can collect new abilities and key cards to get to other paths. On that note, the players have so much freedom here. Regardless of where your marker is telling you to go, you’re free to go where you want, which will likely lead to more enemy encounters, but there are also precious resources scattered about.
Resource management is essential because you’ll likely run out of ammo for every weapon at least once. Therefore, knowing what to sell or purchase is crucial, especially in the late game when you just spent 50k on a new suit but have very little HP left and no medkits. This management is more prominent in higher difficulties. Still, it forces you to take advantage of gimmicks such as the Kinesis ability, which allows you to use limbs and objects against enemies, and the Stasis ability, which will enable you to slow down enemies as you take apart their limbs.
The atmosphere is what Dead Space knocks out of the park. The game has a way of scaring you, even when there aren’t any enemies around. I would pace through corridors hearing screams and growls from the walls; my heart rate even managed to match the audible heart beating coming from Isaac. You’ll see an enemy in the distance, but in the moments you take considering how to take it down, two appear behind, and the dynamic music only ramps up when you spin your camera and spot them. It’s anxiety-inducing horror as you fumble to conserve ammo and deal with the pack of Necromorphs.
This attention to audio design pushes the experience to a whole other level. With a good pair of headphones, the immersion is outstanding. Using modern advancements, the team could deliver an experience without loading screens, which does wonders to the over enjoyment. Well, if you do die, a loading screen will send you back to your last save or checkpoint. On that note, checkpoints are sparse, so I found myself saving at every chance I got for the first time in a long time. Further, allowing Isaac to actually talk this time around was a great addition to the delivery of story scenes.
Other improvements to the overall experience can be found in simple quality-of-life additions such as zero gravity exploration, where you can now move around a room using thrusters. Further, some end-game chapters have been streamlined to limit the use of gimmicks. Other areas of gameplay have also been tweaked slightly, but it all manages to be positive adjustments to enemy AI, dismemberment, and navigation.
Weapon upgrades have been left untouched for the most part. Nodes are required to place onto weapons using a workbench. You will likely not have enough to upgrade each weapon fully on your first playthrough so focusing on your favorite weapons is necessary. Four weapons can be equipped with a directional button, each having a primary and sub-attack. However, upgrading unlocks additional benefits that could buff Isaac’s melee power and other aspects of the weapon. Isaac’s Rig can also be upgraded to improve the length of abilities and HP. Remember that everything comes at a cost, even the option to reset all the nodes on a weapon.
Using the Frostbite engine, Dead Space has never looked prettier in the most nightmarish of ways. The weapon effects and overall physics play so nicely with the new engine. The Flame Thrower is a standout weapon based on how awesome the fire looks as it burns up the enemies. Further, interacting with the environments allows you to wreck rooms for no reason or dismember random corpses.
Dead Space is a brilliant and terrifying horror experience made better with this release. Everything you remember loving about the original is still here, with added quality and updates that improve it for a new generation. While playing, I could feel my muscles tense, and my hands clam up, desperately trying to use a healing item I didn’t have as I nervously rounded a corner. This will likely be something I share with all who play, no matter their past with the series. But, even without the nostalgia, I can’t recommend a better survival horror gaming experience than this.
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