Still far down the rabbit hole of packing up your stuff and heading to Mars? Developer Motive Studio has an ironic twist for you —to reenact the classic Dead Space adventure that’s essentially a scary, body horror-filled take on deep space. If you don’t already know, Dead Space is a sci-fi survival horror franchise that has, under its belt, three main games, plus spin-offs, comic books, animated movies, and a lot more.
Since 2013, Dead Space has gone into an almost decade-long hibernation period. That’s until January 27, 2023, when the franchise decided to go down memory lane and release a remake of the 2009 original Dead Space. Remakes often have their work cut out for them. The best ones remain faithful to the original, with only a boost in performance and gameplay to set themselves apart from today’s counterparts.
So, if you’re wondering how the Dead Space remake compares to 2008’s original, how it compares to today’s survival horrors running on current-gen consoles, or whether it generally sets a gold standard for how to develop remakes, be sure to stick around through to the end of this Dead Space review that deep-dives into all that’s to like, love, or hate about the new game.
Dead Space Remake is Out. What’s New?
I bet the question on everyone’s minds is whether the Dead Space remake faithfully adapts to 2008’s original. Does it live up to its high expectations? What’s new? What’s changed? How does it compare to the horrifically fantastic survival horror experience from so many years ago?
You’ll be happy to know that Dead Space nails the “how to make a remake” recipe to the core. It maintains much of the original’s plot, which is the average space engineer Isaac wanting to reunite with his girlfriend Nicole after a long time spent apart.
Instead of a happy reunion, Isaac lands the worst shift in history, struggling to keep the doomed ship USG Ishimura from falling apart while fighting off the outbreak of hordes of agitated mutant beings called Necromorphs. Or, simply, the ship’s crew turned space zombies.
I love that the remake sticks to the original story because the plot is exquisite. It worked back then and still does today. What Dead Space does differently, though, is making some much-needed renovations to the gameplay and performance that make playing the remake feel just about right in today’s current age.
Time to Suit Up
It’s customary to suit up in space, and Motive Studio does a perfect job with space engineer Isaac Clarke’s everyday onesie. It’s the one thing that stands out the most throughout the game: the finely rich detailing of the player’s costume and that of his surrounding.
I mean, the design here hardly compares to the original (as it shouldn’t). So, thumbs up for the realistic level-up wear, the creepy weathered steel surfaces, the prevalent body horror, and just about every sinister pus-filled level masterfully curated from out of the mostly engulfing pitch-dark shadowy hallways.
Let Loose, Explore Away
Additionally, you may remember how the original was pretty stiff in terms of moving about the doomed Ishimura spaceship. However, if you pay close attention, you’ll notice the remake allows you to move more freely about Ishimura.
Using shuttles between tram stations, new corridors connecting various decks, and even zero-gravity sort of floating through space, the remake allows players to explore areas in such cool ways that they couldn’t do so before.
In turn, free explorations result in more enhanced gameplay and progression. You could have easier backtracking routes if you mistakenly skipped some clues or have more discoveries of weapon upgrades and other perks you may have otherwise missed.
Aliens in Fury
There’s no describing the feeling of blasting off a Necromorph’s limbs or having them tear away at your gut, for that matter. You’ll hear that aiming at the limbs is what works best, and the visuals do more than applaud you for it.
It’s, after all, the sole fun experience playing Dead Space; Necromorphs jump-scare you from vents, dark hallways, and other ludicrous places, and you go into a guns-blazing frenzy obliterating each one into oblivion.
All Things Gameplay
The guns feel really good. These easily pierce through the Necromorphs limbs like a Christmas party. You could have the Plasma Cutter, Flamethrower, Pulse Rifle, or Disc Ripper that shoots saw blades. Others will prefer the Force Gun from Dead Space 2. With Isaac’s kinesis and gravity manipulation techniques, blasting away Necromorphs into a pile of nothingness is incredibly fun.
Since it’s a survival horror game, you’ll need to explore Ishimura’s twisted hallways and unlock storage rooms to uncover secrets and solve puzzles. Stomping on select boxes spins up ammo and credits. There’s also asset management. For example, when using Isaac’s zero gravity, you’ll need to manage his oxygen levels. Or other assets like health, stasis, and, of course, ammo.
Weapons can either be improvised or scavenged. Each one has some distinct sci-fi capability. Like the flamethrower can spit out a wall of fire. Similarly, Isaac’s unique skills, like gravity management and stasis, can freeze the Necromorphs in place, while kinesis allows him to hurl objects at whatever with unlimited duration. Oh, and there’s also fun integrated gameplay, like stomping on corpses to scoop up some goodies.
All in all, Dead Space offers nothing short of perfection when it comes to gameplay. It’s so versatile you’re never stuck just using one overarching weapon or ability. Even the Necromorphs are of good enough variety to keep wanting to tear them apart. When the mechanics of a survival horror work for you rather than against you, it becomes much more fun to constantly want to put yourself through hell. Otherwise, the game ends up being a brutal experience at no reasonable risk-to-reward ratio.
Take a Detour When You Can
Additionally, you don’t always have to constantly grind toward one single end goal. You can always take a detour to complete one of the optional side quests available. Unlike the original, these side quests hold actual value in story fillers and perks, too. So, it’s not an entire waste of time to pursue.
Wouldn’t you say the drastically reduced load times drastically reducing is to die for? Before, something like the tram station didn’t work properly because of the lengthy load times. Now, loading screens are no more, if not greatly reduced, and the tram system runs smoothly without fault.
It’s also pretty evident the Frostbite engine's impact on the remake. Compared to 2008, the Dead Space remake looks and feels more surreal, especially with its gorgeous visuals via dynamic shadowy walkways and moody lighting to match.
Dead Space quite impressively grasps the very essence of a remake. It’s better to stick with what works than create something totally new. That way, fans can enjoy reminiscing about the aspects they loved about the original while experiencing a renovated look and feel of the same.
In that regard, I’ll go as far as to say Dead Space sets a gold standard for how to make a remake. Sure. The game maintains the same old survival horror formula from so many years ago. It adopts the same bleak atmosphere and the same plot. Even the fan-favorite scary Necromorphs are back to scare the life out of you all over again.
But, for the aspects that remain the same, they are far more elevated than today’s modern current-gen console experience, so much so that it feels exhilarating to be back on the Ishimura. The remake looks absolutely gorgeous. It’s finely detailed, despite the overall pitch-dark hallways. This comes in handy when Necromorphs jump out of the shadows and from behind you to give you the fright of your days.
Besides the visuals, the gameplay is highly enhanced too. You have more room and pathways to explore. Rather than feeling like parts of a whole, Ishimura feels more interconnected via seamless environments. The sound design also feels surreal; it easily crawls up your skin at the most opportune times. Plus, you have optional side quests that act as story fillers and can come in handy with progression too.
Overall, if you get easily nauseated, Dead Space may not be the game for you. The game makes no apologies for making a spectacle of twisted skin, lumpy intestines, pus-filled levels, and generally gory sights to behold. Simply put, you should have a blast if you’re from the opposite end of the spectrum.
Dead Space Review (Xbox Series X/S, PS5 & P.C)
A Gory Survival Horror Remake Dating Back to 2008
Step into the 26th-century USG Ishimura’s deep-space mining ship as an average space engineer on an everyday shift doing some repairs. When a bloody massacre ensues, and the space crew turns into scary-looking zombies called Necromorphs, it’s up to you to fight them off and save Ishimura from falling apart. This Dead Space remake stays true to much of the original’s plot, gameplay, and overall aesthetic. However, it elevates the experience a lot more, such that the remake looks visually stunning, feels most unnerving, and almost feels like a new experience altogether. Even if you haven’t played the original, the Dead Space remake is certainly a survival horror that anyone should give a try.