Date Posted: 09/03/2023
You are probably sitting there wondering if I have taken leave of my senses, as I have made no secret of my love for Dead Space over the years but I have already reviewed it and its sequels so why would I be doing it again. Well, here is the thing, this version of Dead Space is a remake of the original featuring Gunner Wright returning to voice Isaac Clarke (who he voiced in Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3) with Tanya Clarke reprising her role as Nicole Brennan.
I learned of the Dead Space Remake last year and naturally was eagerly awaiting its arrival. A couple of months ago I treated myself to a PS5 because I could, and whilst I cannot say that I purchased it just for Dead Space, I can honestly say that this game might have been enough for me to buy the console so I could experience the game in all its glory.
Now just in case you are unfamiliar with the game and its plot, allow me to introduce you to the world of Dead Space.
The setting is the 26th Century and the game opens with a repair ship named the USG Kellion on its way to investigate a communications blackout on a planet-cracker starship named the USG Ishimura. As the smaller vessel approaches it is damaged by an auto-docking malfunction which results in its crash-landing inside the Ishimura’s hanger bay. The crew of the Kellion comprising Commanding Officer Zach Hammond (voiced by Anthony Alabi), Computer specialist Kendra Daniels (Brigitte Kali Canales), Engineer Isaac Clarke, and Security officers Aiden Chen (Chris Wu) and Hailey Johnston (Erica Luttrell) escape the crash relatively unscathed, although Johnston suffers a broken ankle and remains onboard the damaged ship. Hammond leads the others into the Flight Lounge but to their surprise no one is there to greet them. Isaac accesses a diagnostic panel as a hazard anomaly alarm trips and a monstrous creature bursts into the room, and kills Chen. Isaac flees as more monsters attack and is able to temporarily escape the creatures. Hammond and Kendra also escape and the three communicate over the RIG-link to discuss the best course of action. Hammond is focussed on seeing the mission through, Kendra just wants to leave, and Isaac is determined to find his girlfriend, Nicole Brennan, the Ishimura’s Senior Medical Officer.
Deciding to prep the Kellion for an emergency departure if it becomes necessary Isaac returns to the vessel in time for it to be destroyed by the creatures, and Johnston is killed.
With their only means to escape the horrors gripping the ship destroyed, Isaac and the survivors must venture deeper into the damaged bowels of the mining ship with the twisted creatures hunting them down at every turn. But the monsters are not the only things to be concerned about because the ship itself is malfunctioning, systems are failing, and some of the crew have survived the slaughter seeing it as a Devine reckoning that they are not going to allow anyone to stop…
The first thing that you need to know about this game is that prior knowledge of the original is 100% not needed because unlike a remastered version of a game (like The Last of Us or the god-awful Grand Theft Auto Trilogy) Dead Space has been rebuilt from the ground up and whilst the gist of proceedings is the same as the original, it does its own thing too. It is like someone recounting to you a story they have been told, they change some details, embellish others, but the bones of the story is the same.
One of the things that the first game suffered from in retrospect when it was compared to Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3 (henceforth described as DS2 and DS3) was the fact that in the original Isaac was a silent protagonist. It meant that his interactions with Nicole were very odd because this man who has faced hundreds of bloodthirsty twisted monstrosities to find his love views her no differently than he does to a water cooler. But here because Isaac talks and takes his helmet off on occasion the connection between him and Nicole is a lot deeper than it was in the original. In the first game I was not 100% sure if Nicole was Isaac’s girlfriend, his wife, his ex-girlfriend, or ex-wife but here there is no doubt. Isaac and Nicole are a couple that are having some problems in their relationship which stem from the distance they are apart but also from events that have happened which were outside of their control. It makes both of them seem more human and more like flawed people whose relationship has become strained because people make mistakes, they say things they don’t mean, and long-distance relationships are hard to keep going at the best of times. The improvements in the character interactions doesn’t just begin and end with Isaac and Nicole because all of the principal players have been given more depth. A particular highlight is Dr Challus Mercer (voiced by Faran Tahir) who was in the original a stereotypical religious zealot who was clearly mad as a box of frogs, but here he is more insidious, and intelligent. He is actively trying to spread the necromorph infection through various experiments, and his slow manipulations of several characters throughout the story is a far cry from the lunatic he was in the original. I very much don’t want to spoil but I don’t think there is a character that isn’t as good or better than they were in the first game. The villains are not so cartoonish evil in this remake, and the parallels between how the characters are being influenced by the Marker is so subtle most of the time that you won’t even realise it until the game points it out. I know the story of Dead Space inside out and even I was surprised by some of the events that took place and how things change from the original.
A lot of the mechanics from the original games have been moved over and one of the key ones being the Stores which function, as you would probably expect, as location where you can buy ammunition, weapon upgrades, med packs and so on. You can also sell items that you find around the ship as well as put anything into Storage that you don’t currently want in your inventory. Power nodes are the means by which you upgrade both your RIG and weapons, but sadly they are no longer used to access certain rooms. In the original, Power nodes were a scarce item that were expensive to buy from the store, and could be used to not only upgrade weapons but also to gain entry into certain locked rooms. What I liked about this mechanic was that you have to consider whether you wanted to use a precious Power Node on one of these locked off rooms or keep it to use on a weapon or suit upgrade. It added to the stress of the game because once that Power Node was used you weren’t getting it back so you’d agonise over whether to use it or not. In the Remake this is no longer a thing, Power Nodes are used for upgrades and that is it.
Previously the game was very much a level based structure with each section Isaac travels to beginning with him arriving by tram and leaving the same way. This time around the tram system is locked down so you have to walk from section to section before activating the tram station allowing a fast track location to effectively be unlocked. The thing is though that the Ishimura is basically a sandbox now and as the game progresses you are required to travel back through previous locations to get to new areas of the ship. Not all of the ship is accessible from the word go but opens up naturally as Isaac repairs more systems granting him access to new areas. The game features a new Security Override system in which some of the rooms are locked behind Security Levels so you cannot get into those locations until later on when you have unlocked higher Security Clearance. I like this feature because it means that you are going to be coming back through areas you have been through before when searching for secrets or hidden logs or upgrades. The game also features various side quests which grant greater insights to how the crew struggled against the infection which slowly gripped the ship.
On that note, you also encounter dead necromorphs. In the original game any necromorph lying on the deck was always just playing dead waiting for an unsuspecting player to approach, but this time not all of them are faking it. It demonstrates that the crew put up a fight against the twisted monsters because again in the original it did not really make sense that Isaac could take on an army of the creatures single handily whilst the crew were slaughtered so easily.
Similarly to the first game and its sequels Isaac can upgrade his weapons and suit at Benches which are littered around the levels. Power nodes are once again used to upgrade weapons capacity, damage, clip size and so on with his suit (or RIG) as the game calls it more stream-lined in terms of upgrades. There is no separate Stasis section or Kinesis bit. Those are incorporated into the RIG upgrade options. The weapons are also found through exploration so you don’t have to buy everything from the store and can leave weapons in your Storage but are able to upgrade them whenever you are at a Bench
Now as I am writing this I am talking as though you are already familiar with some of the terms I am using but in case you not and this is the first time you are reading one of my articles, then first off, “Hi, good to have you here” and second let me just explain a few of the terms I have been using. The first: Necromorphs is the blanket term used to describe the creatures in the game which are heavily mutated former members of the Ishimura’s crew. You have a Kinesis Module which can be used to move heavy objects but can also fire blades and various poles at enemies. Indeed one of the preferred methods of fighting is to shoot off an enemy’s limb and then pick it up with kinesis and fire it back at them. The final tool in Isaac’s arsenal is Stasis which temporarily slows down objects and enemies which is used in certain puzzles.
This version of Dead Space is not afraid to fix some things which didn’t work hugely well in the original game. The asteroid shooting section or the Slug boss fights were examples of this where the game turned into a shooting gallery for a few minutes. But here both parts have been stripped out and replaced with a far more challenging boss fight in which you have to venture outside the relative safety of the ship to take on tasks in the vacuum of space whilst having to balance fighting with dodging and making sure you have enough oxygen to survive.
On the subject of fixing stuff, the level layout makes more sense here. One of the most infamous parts of the Medical Deck in the original was a platform which needed to be moved so you could walk over it. Fine for a game mechanic but contextually made no sense because it would mean that every time someone wanted to walk along that walkway they’d need to move a platform so they could get to their office or something. Also Isaac being an Engineer is able to rewire different junction boxes to channel power to different location or open doors which helps to immerse you in the fact that Isaac is not a Space Marine or something, he is a guy using improvised mining tool to battle nightmarish creatures that want to slice him apart.
The Zero-G elements have been enhanced with the inclusion of the thrusters seen in DS2 and DS3 so Isaac can freely fly around instead of leaping from surface to surface. This lends itself very well to the asteroid and boss fight sequences which he is in a zero-gravity environment and must avoid incoming attacks and debris.
The graphics make full use of the PS5’s power and whilst my previous experiences with PS5 games did not look overly impressive (Spider-Man Miles Morales leaps to mind), everything looks amazing in the game. The necromorphs have been built on a technique called “Peeling” in which layers of flesh cling to the bones. Dismembering them is still the only way to stop them but the joints are the weakest point so if you open fire at their torso then they aren’t going to really slow down. Target the elbows, knees and shoulders though and you’ll easily slice limbs apart. The flamethrower particularly highlights the details of the peeling effect because using it on an enemy reduces them down to a bloody skeleton. Enemies also don’t de-spawn. I stapled a necromorph to a wall on the Engineering Deck and when I returned to the area later on, it was still there. In the late game they did disappear but there is a reason why rather than just the game cannot remember where they were so removes them from the level.
Finally there is a New Game+ options which I am currently working on. It apparently features an alternate ending which is new for the remake. I was a little disappointed that after working my way through the side missions which gave me a Master Security rank that was not carried over into my New Game so I have to do that side mission again in order to find all the things I missed the first time around.
Honestly though my complaints are very few and far between. A smile was plastered to my face most of the time I was playing and even for a veteran Dead Space player like myself it was still challenging in places. The changes made all work in the game’s favour and I really hope that both DS2 and DS3 get a remake too. It should come as no surprise that my Thumb is strongly up; in fact I am going to give Dead Space my very rare Two Thumbs Up.
9/10 – Not only does the story itself hold up but the overhaul of the graphics, the ship, the mechanics and everything else I have talked about make this a master class in survival horror. If you have played the original then this one will not disappoint, and if you are new to this franchise then you couldn’t ask for a better opening chapter to the Dead Space games.