Dead Space review - Isaac with his Plasma Cutter

dead space review

dead space review

need to know

What is it? A remake of the 2008 survival horror game Dead Space.
Expect to pay: $59.99 (Steam)
Developer: motivation
Publisher: EA
commented on: Windows 10, i5-12400F, 16GB DDR4 RAM, RTX 2060
multiplayer game: No
Association: (opens in a new tab)

“Twinkle twinkle little star, how do I know who you are?” a dying woman sang in an elevator as I climbed across the deck of the doomed ship Ishimura. I’m not a huge fan of the whole nursery rhyme horror cliché, but it fits Dead Space. This was never a series about exploring the wonders of the universe or the wonders of space, where the worst evil we can imagine is corporate greed dominating the wild frontiers of the stars. No, this is a game about how scary space can be; an abyss into which we peer and see our nightmares instantly reflected. It’s hard to marvel at the universe with the blade of a necromorph stuck in your gut.

By the way, Necromorph is a fancy space word for zombie. You’ll get up close and personal with them in Dead Space, as they’ll scare you every few minutes for the next ten hours or so. If there’s one thing I’m glad the remake hasn’t changed, it’s the scream of the Necromorph jumping out of the vent, which sounds like they’re just as surprised as you are. Returning to Ishimura is really good, even if it’s a remake and not the fourth game.

(Image credit: Motivation)

The fact that this remake feels like an all-new Dead Space makes it all the more frustrating. Sure, it has the same bleak atmosphere, all-encompassing narrative, and the same Necromorph variants, but that could be the basis for Dead Space going forward; And I think a lot of the power of this remake is that it builds on what’s already there rather than trying to do something completely new, much like Necromorph stabs you.

walking dead

Isaac Clarke is your average space engineer hoping to see his girlfriend Nicole after a long separation. Instead, he finds himself going through the worst transformation in human history. As you bounce from crisis to crisis trying to tide over the dying planet cracker USG Ishimura, you also have to deal with the ship’s replacement crew, who are now screaming Necromorphs of all shapes and sizes, desperate to be friends . Your only defense? A range of sci-fi power tools are extremely effective at dismembering angry aliens.

Dead Space handles more in 10 hours than most games do in 30 hours, and that narrative gets further attention in the remake. Isaac can actually talk now, and while I do like his silent but dry Gordon Freeman-esque characterization in the original, it helps make him feel like an active participant in the story. His dialogue does lean a bit towards the action hero at times, like “I don’t have a great idea, so guess what’s left”, but you do get more of him barely keeping his shit together as the crisis continues upgrade. That’s one of the reasons I’ve always loved Isaac swearing under his breath when he stomps the Necromorph into oblivion – you can hear him start to crumble.

Ishimura isn’t just your death trap (Credit: Motive)

After all, even with reforged weapons that feel really good, there’s only so much limbs you can chop off. There’s been a lot of chatter ahead of the remake about the new scary-sounding “Necromorph skinning” system, but other than being a strong visual indicator of what to weaken and chop off limbs, it’s definitely a good time to blow more shards off of Necromorphs . My favorite thing is blasting them at close range with the Force Gun and watching a barely fleshy skeleton stand up like a chicken carcass blown by an industrial blower.

Leviathan boss fights just got a lot more interesting with the addition of the free-floating zero-gravity of Dead Space 2 and 3.

Brutalizing Necromorphs is a signature part of Dead Space’s cathartic loop: you jump up and scare me, I reverse engineer you out of existence, and that’s how we deal with fear. In addition to powerful guns, there are new alternative shots and weapon upgrade options. The Pulse Rifle’s weird bullet cyclone has been replaced with a close-range grenade launcher, and the Line Gun can drop tripwires. For a Plasma Cutter purist like me, it would be nice to be able to place trap perimeters and get more use out of some of the other guns.

Most of the boss fights, like the entanglement with the Necromorph Hunter in Chapter Five, are played frame-by-frame–though they do look a lot better. That said, now with the free-floating zero-gravity of Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3, both Leviathan Boss fights are infinitely more fun. The second boss fight in particular has been completely reworked, allowing you to slide through the massive crowd and manually control the ADS cannon to attack its weak points.

(Image credit: Motivation)

against gravity

Dead Space’s zero-gravity isn’t just for taking on gigantic space monsters, though. Another change is the addition of new gravity-free puzzles, and there’s nothing like sitting and floating while you’re trying to solve some complex space engineering problems. I say “complicated” even though it’s usually just kinematics to grab junk. I’ve always found these sequences to be a nice respite from fighting the Necromorphs, to make you think for a moment about something other than alien amputations, and they’re a solid addition to the remake. Repairing the comm array in particular is a really cool puzzle that lets you slide around in the middle of a large dome, swapping out parts, and repositioning to admire your work. There are even some open zero-gravity areas, similar to the ship graveyards in Dead Space 3, that you can explore at will.

This is just one of many changes made to enhance the original. Circuit breakers are another good example. These power switches have been added to older parts as a devil’s deal, letting you choose what turns on and off. Do you want an elevator? Sure, but it will cost you lights or oxygen. It’s a choose-your-poison mechanic that lets players choose their preferred difficulty modifier and fight in that area. One of my favorite hydroponic circuit breakers is a purely psychological circuit breaker that lets you turn off the “jungle vibe” so you can hear the entities living in the vents.

Even a small expedition to open a locked room can be a dangerous proposition.

While there used to be little reason to return to the old areas of Stone Village, the reforged version adds locked security inspection doors and containers to incentivize you to fully explore the additional items. Since you’re given permission to progress through the story, you have to memorize the location of these secret stashes, Metroid-style, and return to them when you’ve earned upgrades. Combined with new random encounters and visual and audible cues, this goes a long way towards making previous areas feel more hectic. Even a small expedition to open a locked room can be a dangerous proposition, depending on your luck.

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Dr. Mercer now feels more like a real villain (Image credit: Motive) There are new upgrade options for your suits and weapons. (Image credit: Motivation)

already dead

This Dead Space remake could also be called a narrative version, because while it doesn’t change the main storyline or plot of the original, it does cast them in a fresh light through side quests, holographic journals, new characters, and Isaac This time I can talk. People like Elizabeth Cross, whom you’ve never had direct contact with, are now full-fledged characters with their own unique plots. Side quests also offer Nicole’s perspective on what happened aboard the Ishimura, giving you more insight into the brutality of arch-nemesis Dr. Mercer, who is now a more well-rounded character.

Motive does a good job of judiciously adding layers to the original story, focusing on existing but undeveloped elements, and generally giving players a deeper understanding of Ishimura and its conflict before Isaac’s arrival. From a storyline and continuity standpoint, it made the first Dead Space a better fit for other games, but what really landed was the execution, without crossing the line or overly drastic changes. Subsequent playthroughs even feature additional audio logs and easter eggs, some of which reveal the truth about the original ending.

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Look forward to being reunited with your most beloved Necromorphs (Credit: Motive) The holographic journal helps to retell Ishimura’s story (Credit: Motive)

The overall effect, however, is surprisingly depressing. On one level, it’s surprising that so much effort has gone into redeveloping the original game’s plotline: but at the same time, that effort could equally well apply to the new Dead Space. It’s hard not to feel the same way about the improved sound design and visuals. The remaster was built from the ground up using the Frostbite engine and looks and sounds incredible. All of this mostly makes me want to play a new non-remastered Dead Space game in 2023 with this production quality. Another frustrating aspect is that there might be room for another game to push some of the remake’s new ideas and mechanics further.

But it also goes to show how strong this remake is, and my main complaint is wishing there had been more effort and attention put into the sequel. The game could have gone a step further in increasing the replayability of older areas, since you don’t really need credits or ammo from a safe clearance stash past a certain point, other than weapon upgrades. The side quests also mostly run parallel to the main story, so while they add a nice supplemental layer, they don’t provide much additional gameplay time.

It took me about 12 hours to complete everything on medium difficulty, but the remaster also contains the new game as well as the harder “Phantom Enemies” and twelve hidden marker shards (opens in a new tab) that if found Unlocks another ending. So, even though it’s a bit short, that’s what Dead Space has always been: an intense, kinetic-driven experience. Most of all, I’m glad Dead Space is back and Dead Space is great. Even if this doesn’t lead to a new game, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an equally strong second remake in the future.

Dead Space: Price Comparison

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.