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Dead Spaceis back. With it comes an exciting love letter to the glory days of survival horror. Players can get plenty of fresh frights down dark, claustrophobic halls. But fans of the original will be in for a sentimental treat when they crash-land on the USG Ishimura again.

EA and Canadian-based developers at Motive have made a logical decision by bringing the franchise to new consoles after a decade. Somehow, the remake pushes one of gaming’s scariest treasures forward with respect to its 2008 original. I’m happy to say Dead Space (2023) keeps all the juicy pieces from the first game without changing much. One of the game’s biggest surprises comes from its no-frills delivery. Players get a full-length, traditional single-player experience that retells the story of space fixer Isaac Clarke. Nothing less, but so much more in the process.

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I won’t spoil just what makes Dead Space’s harrowing tale so refreshing. That’s because the dev team has added enough fresh dialogue and cutscenes to pass the remake bar. Like Capcom’s remake for Resident Evil 2, the story adds more depth behind each character to enhance a familiar tale. Dead Space simply puts players behind the shoulders of Isaac Clarke, a space engineer with the Concordance Extraction Corporation (CEC) specializing in systems for interstellar frigates.

In 2508, his latest job with the crew of USG Kellion went haywire minutes after crashing onto the USG Ishimura. The crew is quickly separated by a mysterious Necromorph (space-zombie) outbreak. Isaac struggles to fend off hordes of infected crewmates, fix the unmaintained Ishimura and save his beloved motion-captured nurse on board.

Dead Space already tells its own disturbing adventure from 2008. While the remake is vastly superior with the benefit of a franchise’s worth of lore to cull from. But in a simple work-smart-not-hard technique, the writers add character development to deepen Dead Space. Actor Gunner Wright returns with a snappy, working-class grit to give Isaac personality. The character absolutely delights new and returning players with dialogue that reflects just what the heck is going on inside the USG Ishimura. Better yet, the story makes more sense with thoughtful banter between Isaac, his crewmates and stranger survivors.

Players feel more immersed in the industrial jargon and camaraderie that doesn’t detract from Isaac’s isolation. Without spoilers, Dead Space even makes time to reintroduce some of the USG Ishimura’s zaniest human survivors. Every gesture has also been meticulously motion-captured for a fluid next-gen presentation of Dead Space (say goodbye to mute, robotic Isaac).

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The USG Ishimura is dark, bloody, and claustrophobic as they come. Dead Space turns up the atmosphere for danger in every nook and cranny of this derelict ship. EA and Motive have handled the ship with extra tender love and care. Here, DICE’s Frostbite Engine makes the next-gen exclusive Dead Space look and feel like a nightmare come true. The photorealism works well with the PS5’s ability to draw strong shadows, lighting and fog without mucking up performance, but the console version still buckles under the weight of Ishimura’s sheer details. I appreciated the extra polish and graphical power used to revive more iconic parts of the ship. While there is more immersion from reading all the new warnings left by survivors that once roamed the halls (and still sort of do).

The remake packs much more choices in how players can explore around. Circuit breakers are laid out to let players access one corridor but shut off another. This open-ended mechanic brings out the ship’s industrial nature and Isaac’s inner engineer. It’s easily a step up above the 2008 game without taking creepy exploration away. Better yet, the circuit breakers act like modifiers. Players can activate elevators but give up all the lights. Isaac could turn on Zero-G to find higher ground but also lose oxygen. Dead Space knows how to turn give-and-take into a mechanic, which can set a new baseline for survival horror games to come.

Puzzles from the 2008 game have been reworked, much to the relief of frustrated veterans. EA and Motive have kept their word for making every repair job less complicated. This starts with scrapping the horrible point-and-jump zero gravity feature from 2008 for the free-roaming kind introduced in Dead Space 2. Frustrating moments including manually dragging cargo and shooting asteroids, have also been made into satisfying highlights.

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Space zombies from 2008 have never been more terrifying to bring to a next-gen light. The so-called necromorphs are back to their horrifying roots after being action-hero fodder as EA’s series progressed. The Dead Spaceremake doesn’t just reintroduce some of gaming’s most terrifying enemies; developers have given the most jaded players reasons to back into a corner. To maximize the thrills, I highly recommend players turn off all the lights and wear headphones (even if some of EA and Motive’s devs couldn’t do it).

The standard slasher Necromorphs are incredibly hard to kill in Dead Space. The uninitiated might go for a headshot or kneecap on enemies, only for them to continue swinging. Veterans should also know better than to cut off their limbs (once). I say this with caution since a single Necromorph now takes more hits per part. This raises the tension as players struggle to dismember enemies. As chunks of sinew and flesh are blasted off, players can find weak points to hit. Players lucky enough to line up clean shots at the next-gen Necromorphs might be too stunned at their tolerance for pain.

The distance will always close in combat, especially with hordes of slashers that can overwhelm players. I often felt like the clichéd space marine panicking to empty my ammo into Necromorphs before they tore me apart. Isaac will never stay at full health for long. Ammo count often turns red. EA and Motive have done an incredible job at making their star aliens truly menacing. Worse yet, Necromorphs are also quiet and can follow players around the Ishimura without telegraphing. Some of my scariest moments from Dead Space came with seeing those long blades loom over Isaac’s shoulders.

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Isaac will also encounter a handful of other enemy types. The remake pits all players against lurkers and spitters, all vying to land projectile body parts at Isaac. Leapers will almost always force players to stomp and shoot straight into their faces. More unique types like the Pregnants and Exploders need extra care to shoot — or risk messier encounters.

The remake puts even more Infectors to work, and they can reanimate a seemingly harmless pile of corpses into an inescapable problem. Dead Space reinvents the speedy Twitchers into your new worst nightmare. These necros — reanimated from soldiers — can quickly close in like Agent Smith phasing their way to Neo.

Dead Space can’t seem to escape the original’s older design at times. For what the enemy variety is worth, EA and Motive missed opportunities to bring more terrifying nopes from magnum-opus Dead Space 2. Through a lengthy campaign, Dead Space starts to veer away from horror as players grow accustomed to the same handful of bullet sponges.

A few unpatched oversights can also leave players stuck without a reasonable amount of resources. An incredibly frustrating first encounter with the hulking brute left me without stasis or enough ammo to take it down. While Dead Space’s combatfalls prey to the 2008 design. At the end of Isaac’s barrel, they all go down the same.

The remake’s survival horror vision feels more realized with tougher encounters. I was impressed at the number of choices I was forced to make with spending credits. As space bitcoin adds up, they can quickly run out in stores for ammo. When scavenging for ammo just won’t cut it, Dead Space pushes players to shoot and save with a purpose. Weapons are now acquired throughout the remake as opposed to purchasing them in stores. True to the Dead Space way, Isaac fights with science fiction’s most durable mining tools used to extract Aegis VII’s space rocks.

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It takes one Plasma Cutter to turn Isaac into a space exterminator. The game’s laser pistol makes a glorious comeback with satisfying force. This is barely enough to keep Necromorphs at bay with their added strength. But carefully lined shots to the legs set players up for the arms. Strategic dismemberment is the key to surviving Dead Space, while combat still holds up. Fans of Resident Evil 2 Remake and third-person shooters will feel right at home with a polished aim-and-fire scheme. But it might take some sensitivity tinkering to make sure no shot is wasted.

The cutter is just a handful of weapons Isaac masters before bigger weapons overshadow it. Dead Space brings back the Pulse Rifle — the game’s sole firearm — to clobber alien scum. The remake makes each of these weapons more satisfying to use with redesigned sound and alt-fire capabilities. As players get more powerful, the remake starts to fall into that noise of emptying ammo until they all fall down.

The Line Gun is still my personal favourite as a one-shot weapon that can take out the head and arms of a slasher. Other tools like the Force Gun feel more offensive and can completely blast the flesh off Necromorphs and expose their weaknesses.

But Dead Space — in its simplicity — misses a chance to bring other celebrated weapons from previous games. But these are minor nitpicks for a classic that sticks to its already-fascinating arsenal. Because enemies are more dangerous in the remake, players have to be more mindful of Isaac’s own gadgets. Stasis can slow enemies for a second, buying Isaac time to run or line up shots. Kinesis can pick up objects and even hurl the blades of dead Slashers back (with wacky results). Dead Space’s affinity for powerful enemies makes the limited arsenal and combat way more engaging than the 2008 original.

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Dead Space has greatly refined its upgrade system for Isaac’s equipment and weapons. Taking a page from Resident Evil 2, weapon parts can also be purchased and acquired. Developers keep the existing upgrade path — but use special stats to amplify things like damage, capacity and reload speed beyond the 2008 game’s weapons.

This opens up more spending decisions and compromises that force players to choose even more carefully in the remake. Nonetheless, Dead Space’s New Game + mode gives players some payback against the Necromorphs with fully upgraded tools. Sadly, nodes and weapons can’t be sold for credits as other games have done before.

Dead Spacekicks off 2023’s AAA horror lineup with a seamless, masterful execution of action and frights. The remake deserves even more credit for respecting its original and adding much more depth behind the story and gameplay. By going back in time, EA and Motive have found a way to resurrect a beloved survival horror series with new potential. Though Isaac is sailing through the stars, Dead Space takes EA back to Earth by delivering full-length and narrative-driven single-player games.

No, Dead Space does not have microtransactions.

This content was originally published here.



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Brendan Frye

EIC at CGMagazine (@CGMagonline), Veteran of the field with more then 10 years experience. Also Publisher at Nuada Press.