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The Dead Space Remake Makes Space Scary Again
By Alleef Ashaari|January 27, 2023|1 Comment
Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Genre: Third-Person Survival Horror, Horror, Action, Sci-Fi
When I recently replayed the original Dead Space to prepare for this remake, I was surprised by how well it stood the test of time. Most of that game is still great according to current standards even after 15 years. It begs the question: Can the Dead Space Remake justify itself?
After spending almost 30 hours with the game (no, the game isn’t actually that long, more on this later in the review), I can say that while the Dead Space Remake isn’t quite on par with 2019’s Resident Evil 2 Remake, it’s as close as anything we’ve had in the past few years since when it comes to remakes.
How similar is the Dead Space Remake to the original 2008 game? Well, in a way, a lot of what you remember from the original Dead Space is still almost exactly the same as in the Dead Space Remake. It’s just that the developers at EA Motive have tweaked all of that and improved on them. For instance, the overall basic level design and layout are practically the same, but not 100 per cent.
Along the way, there are differences in the pathways and routes and how you go about them, but most of all, what’s changed is the puzzles, many of which are brand new. One of these new puzzle mechanics are the Circuit Breakers, where you have to open doors by rerouting electricity or power to them but since the power source is limited, you’ll have to sacrifice either the lights or the life support (air). They’re both similarly intense situations; with one having you stumbling in complete darkness while the other will have you clambering to survive while your air supply depletes.
Essentially, doors are opened either by using Circuit Breakers or by having the required Security Clearance to open them. Your Security Clearance gets upgraded as you progress through the story, so it’s really just a way to make the game feel more like Metroidvania where you’ll have reason to backtrack and re-visit old areas for loot.
Speaking of doors, in the original Dead Space, players had to conserve at least one spare Power Node (a rare resource used to upgrade weapons) to open locked doors. In the Dead Space Remake, that’s gone, so you can devote all of your Power Nodes to upgrading your weapons. That’s great because even though they’re the same ones from the original game (there are no brand new weapons), they now have extended upgrade trees and new alt-mode attacks.
Another quality-of-life feature that the developers have added to the weapons is that you no longer have to buy them in order to use them like in the original game. Instead, in the Dead Space Remake, you unlock these weapons naturally by discovering them while progressing through the game’s story. You can then find Schematics. When these are found, you can then buy them in the in-game store to extend your weapon’s upgrade trees. While none of the weapons is new, some of them have been overhauled to be different from their original counterparts.
For instance, the Force Gun is no longer just a weapon that pushes back enemies with a soundwave. It’s now a full-on shotgun that packs a huge punch, so much so that it tears the skin and limbs off Necromorphs. Another example is this, I didn’t like using the Contact Beam in the original game because it just didn’t feel as powerful as it should. The new Contact Beam is pure chaos. Its main fire mode (by pressing the RT button) shoots a continuous laser beam that obliterates anything in its path, while its alt-mode (by pressing the RB button) fires an explosive. Almost every weapon is viable in this one, with the exception of the flamethrower, which is really only good for clearing out those pesky small critters that swarm over you.
Also, the good old plasma cutter is still as good as it was, and you could still beat the whole game with just that. Yes, there’s still an achievement for that, just like in the original game.
Another improvement in the Dead Space Remake is the seamless transition between chapters. In the original game, you had to board trams at the end of every chapter like clockwork, so it’s like switching between levels. The Dead Space Remake is more immersive and more like a modern game since there are no loading screens between chapters and/or travelling to each new section of the USG Ishimura (the spaceship that the game is set inside). The only loading screens are when you boot up the game or when you die.
However, there is one thing that the original game had that the Dead Space Remake doesn’t. You see, the original Dead Space had uninterrupted gameplay from beginning to end because there were no cinematic cutscenes. All the dialogue and story parts featured a third-person perspective which didn’t cut away from the player’s control. In an effort to make the game more cinematic, EA Motive added unskippable cinematic cutscenes to the Dead Space Remake. Admittedly, there are only a few of these throughout the game, but it’s still something worth pointing out when comparing the two games.
There is one new feature that is very welcome, and that’s the developer giving protagonist Isaac Clarke a voice. In the original 2008 game, Isaac Clarke was a silent protagonist, but he was later voiced by Gunner Wright in the sequels. Wright reprises his role in the Dead Space Remake, which is a great decision. Giving him a voice doesn’t make the game any less scary.
In fact, it makes him more relatable and that makes his situation scarier. Plus, it makes Isaac Clarke more of a three-dimensional fleshed-out character. It’s hard to care about him and what happens to him when he doesn’t speak a word. In fact, if I didn’t know anything about Dead Space before seeing Isaac Clarke for the first time in the original game, I would have thought he was a soldier or something. I wouldn’t have known he was an engineer if the game didn’t tell me.
In contrast, the Dead Space Remake depicts Isaac Clarke as a very capable engineer doing what an engineer should do (besides being a Necromorph slayer) and spouting terminolgies an engineer should know.
Some button inputs have been switched; checking RIG inventory is now using the View Button instead of Y, RT is now stomping and RB is now melee instead of the other way around, Stasis now uses the Y button instead of X. As someone who just recently replayed the original, it took a minute for me to re-adjust my muscle memory, but if it’s been years for you, there won’t be any problem.
Of course, the visuals as a whole have been completely overhauled and it looks great, but I don’t have to tell you that. Instead, I would like to point out one specific visual improvement that I found to be the most impressive: the lighting effects.
Remember how scary it was in the original Dead Space when you had to navigate through dark corridors? The sense of dread? Well, in the Dead Space Remake with its current-gen lighting effects, the corridors can look pitch black, with only the light of the torch on your weapon to guide your way through the darkness. With the aforementioned Circuit Breaker mechanic in play, darkness is frequent.
Arguably the best and most significant gameplay improvement compared to the original Dead Space is the new Zero Gravity mechanics, which are actually taken from previous sequels like Dead Space 2. The zero gravity sequences now allow you to move freely in all directions in a way that feels more natural and free-flowing. Isaac can now fly sort of like Iron Man does, which is the best way I can describe it. It’s not perfect, since the camera angles can get annoyingly messed up if you fly around sometimes and that usually forces me to tilt my head as I press the shoulder buttons to re-balance Isaac’s alignment. , rather than hop from surface to surface.
The zero gravity sections are some of the best gameplay segments in the game because they’re usually new playable setpieces. For instance, the ADS cannon turret sections from the original Dead Space are now gone and they’ve been replaced by zero gravity sections. You actually go into space and have to main cannons while dodging enemy attacks and debris. It’s a thrilling spectacle, and it also gave me my favourite boss battle of the entire game. Well, it’s also the only boss battle that’s actually been changed from the original game. The others are almost exactly the same, which is a bummer.
As for the story and narrative, I won’t spoil them in case anyone reading this either hasn’t played the original game or doesn’t know about the game’s plot. The main story and narrative are the same, right down to featuring the same plot twist. Be that as may be, EA Motive added a lot of new details and additions of the lore into the Dead Space Remake. For instance, I’ve previously mentioned how Isaac is a better character now not only because he can now talk, but seeing him interact with other characters also adds development to the rest as well.
I honestly don’t remember much about Kendra Daniels or Zach Hammond in the original game, despite them being with Isaac from the beginning of the game to pretty much the end. However, now they feel more like actual people, and thus, I became more invested in their characters. I can say the same about Nicole Brennan, Isaac’s girlfriend, and the others. I still think the cinematic cutscenes are unnecessary since the best interactions and scenes in the Dead Space Remake are the ones in the same third-person perspective as in the original.
I also like how the Dead Space Remake adds more content and details about the church of Unitology, a major faction in the Dead Space universe and franchise. In the original game, they only became more prevalent towards the end of the game. Of course, it’s best that I leave the details to players without spoiling the game, but I appreciate the developers putting more worldbuilding into the Dead Space Remake. The original probably didn’t have the luxury of doing the same, considering how it was the first game in a brand new untested franchise back in 2008.
And yes, the Dead Space Remake does feature an alternative or secret ending, but it takes quite a lot of effort to get it. I won’t spoil what it is, but it was a bit anti-climactic, especially considering that I spent almost 30 hours overall to get it. Yeah, I spent almost 30 hours with the Dead Space Remake, but that’s only because getting the secret ending requires completing an entire second playthrough and collecting some hidden collectables.
How long is the Dead Space Remake compared to the original? Well, it took me around 10 hours to finish the original, but the Dead Space Remake took me around 14 hours to finish my first playthrough. How is it longer when the story and levels are similar? Well, that’s because another new feature in the Dead Space Remake is the introduction of side quests.
These side quests are optional and they require a bit of backtracking but they add a lot of details that you don’t want to miss, especially if you’re an existing fan of the franchise who’s played the original games.
For new players, the Dead Space Remake offers many accessibility options that the original didn’t, which makes this game a lot easier to complete as a result. There are several difficulty options like before, but this game introduces a new Story Mode option that gives Isaac the ability to automatically heal like he’s Master Chief from Halo. You can also make the game less scary by turning on the option for the game to warn you of any disturbing content or jump scares.
Of course, all of this is optional, and the Dead Space Remake, at default settings and even on the Medium difficulty, is as scary and challenging as the original.
Simply put, the Dead Space Remake is the definitive edition of the first game. While the story and levels are similar to the original, the improvements (both visually and during gameplay) and new mechanics make this worth playing even for those who have already played the original 2008 game.
Just like the Resident Evil 2 Remake in 2019, I hope the Dead Space Remake brings in new players to the franchise so that it can get more sequels and perhaps we might even get a better Dead Space 3 this time around (if the Dead Space Remake is any indication). This game proves that the franchise definitely deserves more games.
Dead Space was reviewed on PC based on a review copy provided by EA. It is now available for PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.
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[…] the meantime, check out my review of the Dead Space Remake, or head on over here to discover how to unlock the Secret […]