Dead Space review: Sci-fi survival horror at its most gruesome
Issac Clarke’s original adventure has been remade to terrify a new generation of survival horror fans, but is the Dead Space remake worth your time?
After spending nearly a decade in hypersleep, Dead Space has been revived from its near ten-year stasis. The game is a faithful remake of the original, retelling the events of Dead Space (2008), but on modern hardware while making some changes that are generally for the better.
Like the original, Dead Space is a sci-fi survival horror game that blends Resident Evil 4-style gameplay with an atmosphere that wouldn’t be out of place in an Alien movie. Speaking of atmosphere, the feeling of dread never lets up in Dead Space and you’ll walk past every vent wondering if something horrific is going to jump out and attack you. That’s because more often than not, something will.
Dead Space: Key details
- Price: £69.99/$69
- Developer: Motive Studio
- Release Date: January 27, 2023
- Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Dead Space trailer
Although firmly rooted in survival horror, the game doesn’t hold back on the action, so fans of third-person shooters will find a lot to love. Just like it did in 2008, Dead Space strikes the perfect balance between horror and action, which is often something games like this struggle to do.
It’s also worth pointing out that while the game is incredibly faithful to the original, it’s not a remaster, but a full-blown remake of Dead Space 1. This means there are plenty of changes, with the remake using the original as a template, so those who played it or its sequels will feel instantly at home.
No one can hear you scream
The overall mission and story beats remain the same, Isaac Clarke is an engineer sent to make critical repairs to a mining vessel known as the Ishimura – which has gone dark by the time Isaac and his team arrive. Essentially, the miners have disturbed something nasty, and this has made its way onto the Ishimura releasing a deadly contagion that turns dead flesh into vicious space zombies known as Necromorphs.
There are also personal stakes for Isaac, as his girlfriend, Nicole, is onboard the Ishimura, and Isaac is desperate to find her. Much of Isaac’s quest involves “go here, fix that” as he deals with crisis after crisis while dodging Necromorphs. Just like the original, it becomes eye-rollingly predictable by the later chapters but never stops being entertaining.
The game still manages to be shocking and frightening throughout and Necromorphs never feel like cannon fodder. They are always a threat and the moment you get complacent is the moment they get the better of you. This is especially true on the higher difficulty levels.
Atmosphere is everything
The Ishimura and Necromorphs are the true stars of the show. The ship’s layout is similar to the original, but the rickety old mining vessel squeezes all the horror it can out of what’s essentially a series of corridors and dark rooms. It’s rusty, decaying, and in need of decommissioning.
In many ways, the Ishimura itself is often a reflection of the game’s characters, their troubled lives, and the fate that awaits them. Like the Nostromo in Ridley Scott’s Alien, the ship is the perfect setting for an outbreak of space horror and is so much more than just a backdrop for the action.
The Necromorphs have been redesigned to be even more terrifying than ever. Their ear-piercing screams – which still sound semi-human will send a chill down your spine and the features of who they used to be are more present than before. You’re not killing an alien monster, you’re fighting something that used to be human and the Necromorphs manage to illicit more tragedy than the average zombie.
While the ship and enemies look great in this remake, we can’t say the same for the character models. Isaac’s default RIG (mining spacesuit) looks cool enough, but it, and the unlockable suits we used, all looked bland and low-res. We often felt like we were still controlling an Xbox 360-era Issac in an Xbox Series X|S-era game. This is especially disappointing for those who may have spent extra money on a pre-order or deluxe edition. We played the game on Xbox Series S, so this may be just a symptom of that console’s limited power.
Key changes from the original
While there are several differences between the original Dead Space and the remake, mostly involving the characters and story being more interesting, the biggest change is to do with Isaac himself. In the original game, Isaac was a silent protagonist and represented the player in many ways. However, in the sequels, Isaac was fully voiced and fleshed out. The remake adopts this change, giving Isaac a voice actor and letting the player gain a glimpse into his thoughts during the adventure.
This is a welcome change and helps EA tie the remake to the older games or any future remakes/sequels they decide to produce. Now that the origins of Dead Space have been re-established, the devs have multiple options when it comes to the future of this dark universe.
In many ways, Dead Space is still the game you remember from 2008, but this is the way it was supposed to be played. Despite a few nitpicks, the Dead Space remake improves on the original in every conceivable way. Not only that, it reminds us of the potential the franchise has and makes us look forward to future chapters in the series.
We hope, desperately, that Isaac Clarke isn’t absent for another ten years, especially as the survival horror genre enters a period of renaissance. In space, no one can hear you scream, but your neighbors will.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S
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