You can find Seasoned Gaming’s review policy here
On October 31st, 2008, I went to visit my parents for the weekend, and Halloween night fell on a Friday. Having grown up in a very strict, sheltered environment, I had no experience with horror because I wasn’t allowed to engage with it. As a young 15-year-old, I had the confidence of a Navy Seal. So when my father challenged me to watch a scary movie, I replied, “Friends at school say scary movies aren’t scary at all, so I’m good,” wanting to instead turn to my temporary room in their tiny apartment. My dad persisted, and said, “Well if you’re too good for scary movies, what about this game? I bet you wouldn’t make it an hour.” I took him up on his offer, and that experience changed my life.
The lights were dimmed, the surround sound was overwhelming loud in our tiny living room, and I will never forget crashing onto the Ishimura that night. I didn’t last an hour, maybe making it about five minutes from the moment Isaac’s boots started running down a hallway as I heard a crashing sound behind me, only to turn and see a grotesque creature chasing me. I quickly turned off the TV. That moment taught me just how exciting being scared was, and it started me on a journey that led me to my current love of horror.
When you first step off the USG Kellion with your gravity boots, the Ishimura greets you with a stark, gloomy image of mysterious beauty. For players of the original, this will be nostalgic and awe inspiring. For new players, this will still be astonishing. With Motive’s remake of Dead Space, they didn’t just reskin the Ishimura. They put every room, hallway, and open area under a microscopic lens and asked, “How can we make this better?” And they absolutely answered that.
The environments are masterfully put together to give old players that familiarity of ‘oh this is the Medical Deck’ with a twist of not just an upgrade to visuals, but a massive update to ambience, light, and shadows, making every corridor and every room on the Ishimura tell a story of its own. Some areas will be dark with slivers of light filtering through windows, and others will have flickering lights, further adding to the creepy feeling of loneliness that you feel while marching through the Ishimura.
Something that I expected but was genuinely surprised about is that this is not a 1:1 remaster. Let’s face it, some of the original Dead Space really needed the face lift. The changes that they made to environments, in particular, really reflect Motive’s attention to detail with areas feeling more like you could see a ship full of people working, living, and “disappearing.” Along with the visual changes, Motive made the Ishimura completely open to be revisited, and they even made an incentive to get lost looking for loot while you’re being hunted. It is more evident than ever that Dead Space had great environmental storytelling before, and now its current face lift has pushed the expectations and limits of what you would expect to see in a survival horror game in the best way possible.
How do you create a sense of dread of what’s coming? Or prepare for your next jump-scare? Older filmmakers created a formula involving sound to really scare its audience. This formula would encompass a score with a sinister undertone and instances of near silence, then suddenly a crescendo of a loud, dissonant chord that corresponded with what you were seeing to get that good jump out of your seat.
Dead Space’s audio design is something that takes this concept that’s been used in games, as well as movies, for years, finding a way to create a sense of dread, fear, and paranoia with its score and sound design. If you don’t play this game with a headset or surround sound, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. From the sounds of sharp bone being dragged across metal and thick boots stepping through flesh-y sludge, to little alien hands bursting out of a crew mates’ stomach, everything you see has a sound, and this gives players immersion that isn’t comparable to other modern titles.
If you stand still in any small corridor of the Ishimura and just listen, it sounds like you’re surrounded by Necromorphs. You hear them in the vents and in the walls, and you never know when they are going to try and get their pound of flesh. I found the audio so masterfully done that, during my first playthrough at around 2:00 AM, I thought I was being jumped by Necromorphs. While my trusty Plasma cutter’s laser was dancing across the room, I was looking for where the sound was coming from. As the fleeted sound of stomping got closer, panic set in. My five-year-old touched my arm, getting a quick scream of panic out of myself, and my son gave a scream right back like something out of a silly sitcom. Don’t worry, he went right back to sleep. This experience, in particular, really showed me just how well Motive captured and updated Dead Space to provide the player with that immersion. The visuals and audio for Dead Space have never been more terrifying and anxiety-inducing than it is now in 2023.
On top of the face lift of the Ishimura, every character got a new face and voice actor. This decision may have caused some controversy with older fans, much like the decision to give Isaac Clarke a voice, but these decisions really make Dead Space Remake feel more like a rebirth. In the original title, Isaac was a silent protagonist, and if you wanted to learn more about him, you had to read the data logs and text logs. At the time, that was a very interesting decision that made the player feel like Isaac, wrapped in a rustic suit, fighting for their lives on board the Ishimura.
As Dead Space grew into its sequels, Isaac got a voice. And it was a stellar one from Gunner Wright, who made our protagonist more than just a silent person controlled by the player. He was someone we could relate to, with flaws, growth, and character development. In Dead Space Remake, they brought Wright back, granting Isaac the building blocks that give us the character that we all know and love. Isaac talks when spoken to, and while he may have some choice words if he goes into a stomping frenzy, he is still quiet when he’s running around the Ishimura. A lot of care went into Isaac speaking, and the attention to detail even goes as far as Isaac speaking differently when he is injured, as opposed to when he is in good health.
These new character interactions drive the plot in a way that makes this experience a completely new one for returning players. With a new cast filling the shoes of the original, Dead Space Remake takes this opportunity to flesh out story-driven moments in a way that is new and refreshing. If you played the original, I promise you won’t know everything that happens on the Ishimura. (X) character may not die at (Y) point in the game like they did in 2008. Granted, most fear change, but with the changes that Motive made to the plot, my experience was elevated and more enjoyable.
On top of major story elements being expanded upon and tweaked for its 2023 awakening, the audio logs and text logs make a comeback. In the original title, you would find different text logs with information about what happened before you arrived on the Ishimura. There were also audio logs detailing significant events, along with some video logs and hologram events. When Motive updated the cast, they took the opportunity to invest in the Dead Space series as a whole with nods to the sequels, the comics, novels, and movies hidden throughout the Ishimura. They are all believable and pay homage to the series while expanding upon current characters and their motives, making the plot that much meatier and filling.
Plot wise, Dead Space has always had a good story to tell, and in the remake, they capitalize on that with a new addition of side quests that dive deep into the lore at the heart of the series, giving the player a reason to explore previously visited areas. Much like Cyberpunk 2077 and The Witcher 3, each of these quests has a purpose and a story to tell. The quests themselves aren’t too difficult due to the game’s navigation system, but they answer so many questions that players have been asking since the original, and they flesh out characters in a way that is uncommon for survival horror games.
Dead Space (2008) had a very unique gameplay loop, tied to its weapons, methods for defeating necromorphs, and the tools you had at hand to solve the Ishimura’s troubling malfunctions. In the remake, this is further improved upon, much like every other aspect of the game, in quite the devious fashion.
Necromorphs are now layered with bone, muscle, and sinew, as well as the skin on the freaky little monstrosities that torment you over the course of your stay on the Ishimura. When you shoot them with the intent of dismemberment, each successful hit takes a chunk away from the corresponding limb until the limb is gone. This changes the entire resource economy of the game, making necromorphs much more terrifying with their updated AI which takes away any delay in their attacking you; as soon as a necromorph decides to attack you, you better be ready. Since the new system changes the loop, with the player now needing to be much more precise in hitting the limb in the same spot that they hit before, this means the player needs more ammo. This decision makes big fights anxiety-driven if you’re low on ammo. Even if you pay close attention to your ammo and health, you will still have to be resourceful.
Motive brought one of Dead Space 2’s most unique improvements to the remake, and it fits perfectly into the newest entry. When you blasted a slasher’s arm off, you could grab it with Kinesis and return it to sender with some violent force. And this inclusion in the remake takes combat to a whole new level, especially when you are low on ammo. With combat getting an update, Motive also took initiative in including the spitter enemy from Dead Space 2, as well as updating some of the older designs for different necromorphs.
These updates add more tactical questions for the player to answer, such as which enemy to eliminate first, and these answers will often be the difference between keeping the rest of your health or moving to the next area near death. And another notable change is that zero gravity puzzles have been vastly improved upon to be more in line with Dead Space 2 and 3, bringing something fresh to puzzles for returning and new players alike.
Among all of the changes presented in this rebirth, replayability is a welcome addition. With an alternate ending and new necromorphs available in New Game+, there is the classic Dead Space challenge of a hard mode with a bare bones start and one save to get you through the game, awarding a new suit and a “secret” weapon to brag your dedication to the game.
With all of the creative ways Motive brought Dead Space into the new age, they also went the extra mile for the differently-abled, providing settings options akin to Naughty Dog’s treatment of The Last of Us 2. Being inclusive and giving the opportunity for as many players as possible to get scared is always a wonderful thing in the gaming space. I hope that everyone who can will give Dead Space Remake a try.
One of my only criticisms of the game has to be the performance on PC. Every title these days suffers from growing pains, and Dead Space Remake is no different. There are areas and cut-scenes that would often cause my FPS to drop immensely. For someone playing the game with a GeForce 3070ti and more than the recommended requirements, this would impact my playthrough, but it did not ruin it.
Dead Space was a franchise that many thought long dead. Motive has revitalized the flesh around the series and provided a rebirth that not a lot of studios have been able to replicate. This accomplishment alone speaks to the work that the developers put into the remake, creating a survival horror experience unlike any other. Dead Space has been made whole.
Final Verdict: 9.5
Fun Factor: 10
Technical Prowess: 9
Time Investment: 15 Hours+