The Dead Space Remake, developed by Motive Studio and published by Electronic Arts, is a masterful re-telling of the classic survival horror game of the same name.
I could tell the Dead Space Remake was going well when I started looking for excuses to stop playing. It’s been a decade and some change since Isaac Clarke and his original adventure aboard the USG Ishimura, but playing the remake woke up all the old memories. To the point I recognized an upcoming sequence in an early chapter just by the styling of the hallway.
Coming right back with it was a dread that I soaked in the longer I played. Even knowing the enemies and (most) scripted scares by heart, I still found myself saying, “that’s enough for today.” That is what I play horror for. Everything else is just a bonus.
Horror You Can Bite Back
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the combat. Isaac’s opponents are not alive in a conventional sense, so standard shooter tactics don’t work. Monsters must be picked apart; the Standard Shooter Guns are replaced with different tools. Unlike the original, they’re all found through playing the game. They come with a big stack of ammo which is a nice way to help players experiment and try new loadouts. Some of the alternate fire modes have been replaced, and most of them are both more interesting and more effective.
I will say the game is a little stingier on supplies; twice I decided to swap weapons because a chapter had passed without finding more ammo for them. Thankfully the shop returns, and players can put their excess cash into whatever they find useful. I was dead-set on buying power nodes for upgrades and went for that over restocking rounds.
The node system returns with extra frills: each tool has 3 unique upgrades to be found. These give them some extra flair and let the upgrade tree organically expand as the game continues. It’s a great addition to the formula. These upgrades give more incentive to reach the end of a tree beside the standard 10 extra points of damage.
The gunplay combined with Isaac’s Kinesis and Stasis modules makes the combat feel satisfying. At their best, players will juggle attacking enemies with a mix of staggers and slows to keep from being cornered. At their worst, they’ll burn half their health and ammo on a single enemy they reacted poorly to. That ever-present danger is a big part of the fun.
Sometimes the game will broadcast, “I’m trying to kill you now” but those eventually feel routine. My favorite moments are coming back to a supposedly safe room and finding a small mob waiting for me. Dead Space spends most of its runtime establishing certain rooms and scenarios as safe only to pull the rug out from under you once you take it for granted. Any other genre would be called out for doing this; in horror toying with the player is part of the appeal.
A More Organic Setting
The Ishimura has changed with the remake. One of the most praised changes is the ability to revisit any part of the ship. The tram now allows easy return to previously visited decks. This, combined with the sidequests and new access permissions system, means there’s reason to go back to previous areas. It’s very Metroidvania light, as the map system lets players track what doors they couldn’t open and come back later when prepared. Easier — but perhaps less fulfilling.
The ship layout and enemy design return mostly as it was. That said, I can still credit the new devs for sticking to the source material and bringing the designs into modern times. The Motive-specific changes are excellent, with my favorite being the ADS cannons. Motive brought it back in a form more players can enjoy, which is exactly what a remake should do.
The Intensity Director that Motive teased feels great. It mixes up enemy spawns and environmental effects. Not just to build and release tension but to give players that one fight that goes poorly and leaves them limping with no health or ammo. It even got me a few times, which should be embarrassing but shows their dedication to crafting the experience.
The Dead Space Remake also enjoys dropping an orchestra on players’ heads to inform them of approaching enemies but does it just enough to keep players guessing. Often, the game is content with little audio cues letting players know the monsters are close but not whether they’re close enough to start shooting.
Little Tweaks with a Big Impact
Replaying the original, I was surprised by some details not being as good as I remembered. Early Necromorphs look washed out, and despite spending the game traversing a derelict ship, there was always enough lighting to see what I was doing. The remake went too hard on the lighting, though, as it stopped being scary and became frustrating to get nicked by Necromorphs that I could barely see with the flashlight. This only applies to the biggest rooms, thankfully.
While many original designs remain, Motive has packed in so much more detail with advances in graphics technology. My favorite is seeing the Necromorph limbs take damage under fire; how the pulse rifle’s rapid hits form a fountain of gore, giving it a sense of impact the original lacked. The Necromorph screams sound the same, but the added environmental effects keep the Ishimura a setting players never fully trust.
The story has also been altered, but there’s only so far they can go while leading into a potential DS2 remake. The changes I noticed made sense, some more than the original plot. The story flows better as a result. Knowing the game will end the same way but not knowing how exactly it will happen added a layer of suspense I appreciated, which is all I can ask from a remake.
While I personally didn’t use much of the accessibility settings, I’m glad they’re there. The whole point of Horror as a genre is self-inflicted fear and discomfort; letting players choose how deeply they want to dive into the gore and psychological sides is merely an extension of difficulty settings. Maybe I can finally convince my friend, who ran screaming from the original’s Attract Mode, to give it a try.
Dead Space is a solid survival horror game, just like the title it is recreating. The changes made by Motive only serve to improve the game’s atmosphere, story, and combat. The new sidequests add some extra content for players that want to linger on the USG Ishimura just a little longer.
Dead Space Remake Review
Dead Space is a solid survival horror game, just like the title it is recreating. The missteps of the original have been replaced, and the core gameplay refined. The result is an excellent experience.
The Dead Space Remake is on Steam.
Reviewed on PC. See our Review Policy.