It has been a decade since the Dead Space trilogy came to a close and over the years fans of the franchise have remembered the series quite fondly. Now with the survival horror genre seeing something of a revival in recent years EA has chosen to revisit the series by going a step beyond a simple remaster, instead choosing to remake the classic Dead Space from scratch. As such, nearly fifteen years later Motive has brought Dead Space and the USG Ishimura back with new life just waiting to be dismembered. Perhaps the biggest worry most fans have with Dead Space is that it would tarnish their memories of the original, but thankfully all those worries can be forgotten as this new version of Dead Space sets the standard of what fans should expect from a remake, enhancing upon the original while adding fresh new content expanding upon the game in every way.
Motive has kept the story beats of Dead Space the same but for those who have yet to play the original, Isaac Clarke and a small group of others travel to the ancient but legendary planet-cracking ship the USG Ishimura where Isaac’s longtime girlfriend Nicole has been stationed as a doctor. Upon their arrival the group crashlands due to malfunctioning equipment and things only escalate from there as horrifying creatures called “Necromorphs” begin crawling from the vents and killing members of their tiny crew. If Isaac has any hope of finding Nicole and escaping the Ishimura alive, he’ll be forced to dismember countless gruesome creatures right out of his nightmares while uncovering buried secrets revolving around the Church of Unitology and the mysterious Marker.
Anyone familiar with Dead Space will know mostly what to expect when playing through this remake but Motive has made a number of changes, both big and small, that not only expand upon the story but make it all the more interesting by having Isaac actually engage with the story as a character. Whereas Isaac spoke in the sequels, the original Dead Space left him as a silent protagonist that barely reacted to the gruesome sights he saw and simply took orders. Now, while Isaac does speak sparingly, he takes an active role in conversations with Hammond and Kendra as well as even interacting with characters that were never actually seen before and instead only heard through audio logs. By making Isaac interact with the story not only are we able to see how the hardships and influence of the Marker begin to affect him but also see a more emotional side to his story with Nicole, who is also given far more story agency this time around through additional audio logs, visual logs, and side-story content.
Alongside the big change of having Isaac speak and the smaller changes here and there involving how certain events play out, where they happen, and how certain characters meet their fate, the biggest addition to the story of Dead Space is the addition of side-stories. Though small in number, these side stories expand greatly upon the events that happened on the USG Ishimura once the Marker was brought on board as well as how things devolved into their current state, heightening the role that the Church of Unitology plays into the game, and even some important backstory that wasn’t touched upon in the original.
These various adjustments and additions to the story makes it so players never quite know what to expect even if they already know the story, making for a great way to experience the start of Isaac’s journey once again or perhaps for the very first time. Of course, those looking for something brand new will also find that the ability to view an alternate ending by obtaining every piece of a certain object in New Game Plus will find even more reason to delve back into the shadowy horror filled halls of the Ishimura once more.
Just like with the narrative, Motive’s remake of Dead Space has made a number of refinements to the way Isaac moves around the Ishimura and fights against the Necromorphs that can appear from any vent to completely refining a few previously rougher sections entirely. These changes have improved many aspects of the game while still sticking true to the same aspects that fans will fondly remember. A few of these changes involve the Ishimura itself as players will find that they are no longer limited by a “level” system with the tram. As players progress through the game they will unlock various parts of the ship that have been previously locked down and, once unlocked, these areas can be revisited at any time. This means that areas that players may have been traveling through in chapter 3 can be easily visited in chapter 10 and there is some good reason for this.
The aforementioned side quests that players can now undertake will often have players revisiting old locations to uncover a previously hidden audio log or open an inaccessible door. Another aspect that plays a role here are Security Levels. As Isaac ventures through the Ishimura he will encounter doors, lockers, and chests that require a higher security clearance to open and the only way to raise it is to progress through the story. This works both as a way to give players a chance to still have items to loot upon revisiting an area for side content as well as giving extra incentive for exploring every part of the ship. It is also worth noting that the concept of using a Node, the main upgrade resource, to open a door is no longer a thing in Dead Space. All Node doors have been replaced either with small puzzles that players must solve by moving or shooting a fuse, swapping electrical power from life support or something else to open a door, and more allowing players to freely upgrade Isaac’s arsenal as they see fit.
The various weapons that Isaac has at his disposal feel as familiar as ever and, thanks to the new “peel” system we will discuss in a moment, pack quite a punch. Like always Isaac will receive his signature plasma cutter weapon but unlike before players will no longer need to purchase other weapons as all other weapons will now be found organically throughout the game. Along with this, all empty upgrade slots on weaponry has been removed making it so every Node spent is improving a weapon or Isaac’s suit in some way. That being said, every weapon in Dead Space be it the Ripper, Line Gun, or even the Force Gun have three attachments around the ship that will unlock additional upgrade slots for each weapon as well as add unique upgrades to the weapon. For example, the Plasma Cutter can be improved to light enemies ablaze after a couple shots.
All of these weapons are impactful as ever and the game’s dynamic drop system that drops ammunition, health, credits, etc. from stomped corpses and containers related to the weapon player’s are primarily using remains as strong as ever. Alongside the well-tuned tools of destruction and the return of the ever helpful Stasis blasts, Isaac has gained a few abilities earlier than before. Players can now use Kinesis to rip pipes off walls or even blades from fallen Necromorphs and launch them at enemies to deal tons of damage or even pin one to the wall, killing the target, while saving ammo. This feature previously wasn’t available until Dead Space 2 and, just like Kinesis, the zero gravity navigation has also been taken from the game’s sequel. Players will no longer jump randomly around to flat surfaces in zero gravity as Isaac can now use his suit’s thrusters to float and zip around making all zero gravity sections a delight, especially when facing off against enemies far nimbler than Isaac is.
Facing off against the numerous Necromorph forms feels as dangerous as ever as their upgraded designs feel just as grotesque and twisted as before. Motive had made limb-cutting a bit more interesting this time around as the primary way to take down enemies and it has to do with the aforementioned Peeling system. Rather than simply taking damage, Necromorphs now have layers of flesh, muscle, and bone that will be exposed as players deal damage to any given limb, showing players just how close they are to severing one. This means that putting two shots into a Slasher’s leg may expose its skeleton, confirming that the next shot will remove it entirely. This can be incredibly gruesome at times as some weapons take things to the next level. The ripper is an example that just shreds an enemy’s limbs apart and sends blood spraying everywhere while the flamethrower can reduce an incoming Necromorph to a walking skeleton before it goes down. Few games could even get away with the amount of gore that players can witness as they tear apart enemies but with a fully upgraded force gun, any enemy has a chance to be flayed and slain in short order. This level of gore simply from killing Necromorphs does make the inclusion of a sensitivity and warning option a bit of a strange choice. It is good that this option is there for players who may not want to see certain events happen but displaying constant warnings about upcoming visual deaths, gore, and more is a bit odd when every enemy encounter is a bloody one.
Now as for what has been completely overhauled, and for good reason, are the turret sections of the game. Previously these sections saw players needing to take control of a mounted turret and a minimal amount of health that could easily ruin harder difficulty runs and now have been changed entirely. While we won’t say specifically what players will be shooting at for newcomers, these sections now take place in zero gravity and sync the turret to the player’s own aim in a system that works far better than what was previously included.
Visuals & Audio
Although the original Dead Space pushed some boundaries at the time, especially by integrating the HUB entirely on Isaac’s back, it was also released in 2008 making it more than ready for a visual makeover and Motive has done an exceptional job here. The USG Ishimura is a dirty worn ship that looks as aged as it is meant to be with bad lighting, failing systems, and horrible monsters screaming for Isaac’s blood possibly appearing from any corner. Not only this, but thanks to some clever tinkering with the “Intensity Director” can make certain jumpscares with the ship or enemies happen entirely different from playthrough to playthrough. While certain events will always happen the same way, a death may expose a completely different type of scare or none at all the next time through.
As for the blood and gore, Motive has made sure to take things to the next level here. As mentioned before, the Peeling system has amplified the amount of viscera that players will experience in every enemy encounter and watching plasma cutter rounds seer through flesh to bone is a sight that never gets old. On top of the gore from enemies a lot of attention to detail has been given to the character models and even Isaac’s own rig that often gets covered in dripping blood from defeated enemies or even ice that melts as players travel from areas with no atmosphere to warmer areas back inside the ship.
By lovingly crafting the atmospheric horror found within the halls of the Ishimura Motive has made it so players will always feel like they are on the edge of their seat. Between creepy atmospheric sounds, rustling and growling in the vents and moving around the player as they progress through areas, and even basic spaceship sounds players will find themselves in for a real scary treat here. The voice work for the characters is handled nicely and Isaac’s voice actor from the sequels returns to provide his new voice work here. Along with the aforementioned sound effects the company has put a lot of effort into crafting incredibly fitting background stinger music and horror themes that feel right at home with this type of action horror.
Sometimes when a remake is announced fans wonder just whether or not the game actually deserves such treatment, especially one from only a few console generations ago. Thankfully Motive and EA have proven that Dead Space more than deserves the remake treatment it was given and has created an extremely memorable survival horror game into an even more iconic version of its former self. Between enhanced graphics, deeper storytelling, new puzzles, and plenty of ways to dispatch the Necromorphs that roam the ship, Dead Space is a remake that sets the standard for what fans should expect.
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