A few days before visiting EA Motive for our Dead Space-focused IGN First, I played the original game for the first time since 2008. My intention was to play just the first hour, but seven hours later I was still fighting the rusty corpse of the USG Ishimura. I always knew Dead Space was a modern classic, but I was surprised at how well it held up all these years later. So I headed off to meet the developers with a slightly cynical mindset: what was the point of redoing something that is still so brilliant?
After playing the same seven hours of the remake, I think they have convinced me. In many ways, Dead Space is a purist remake; I would estimate that about 85% of what I’ve experienced is identical to the original game, just with much better visuals. But it’s the remaining 15% that makes me wonder… could this remake really be better than its progenitor?
Many of these changes are Gameplay enhancements, several of them lifted directly from Dead Space 2. Zero gravity sequences now allow you to move freely in all directions, instead of jumping from surface to surface. This obviously allows for a greater sense of freedom, but the redesigned segments around this ability are noticeably more interesting than its original counterpart. The third chapter’s centrifugal generator puzzle is now a real spectacle, while the ADS cannon repair job has been completely changed into a dangerous, tension-increasing spacewalk.
The influence of the 2011 sequel can also be found in your weapons, which can now be equipped with a variety of special upgrades that alter their function. The Plasma Cutter, for example, can be modded with an expanded magazine and the ability to set enemies on fire for damage over time. The Ripper, meanwhile, can fire blades that bounce around the room.
I found the new secondary abilities much more useful than the ones in the original game.
Such modifications are hidden throughout the ship, so they serve as a stimulus to explore all the rooms and closets. But thanks to the new security authorization system, at first you will not be able to access many of the places you discover. As the story progresses, you are granted increasing clearance levels, allowing you to move backwards through the spaceship to open doors that were previously forbidden. This interconnected design and the ability to move backwards make the Ishimura akin to Prey’s Talos-1 station: a massive structure that feels like a real place, not a series of video game levels. It’s an admirable direction, but I’ve yet to see exactly to what extent it’s used throughout the campaign. My hope is that Motive has cleverly integrated backtracking into the main quests and the newly added side quests to allow for revisiting previous zones organically, rather than turning backtracking into a segregated task.
Regardless of whether you go backwards or forwards, Dead Space is full of gruesome necromorphs that threaten to rip you limb from limb.. Much has already been made of the new system that rips skin, fat, and muscle layers from enemies with each new wound, but this grotesque idea is about much more than visceral visual effects. Like the protagonist Isaac Clarke has a health bar built right into his suit, Necromorphs’ own bodies are now a visual representation of their health. This is more apparent than ever when using the force pistol, a weapon that has been completely revamped for the new version. What was once simply a thrusting weapon now rips the flesh from enemies with a thunderous explosion. Looted necromorphs can be finished off with a more conventional weapon; their exposed bones ready to be broken with just one or two bullets.
Speaking of weapons, each of Isaac’s deadly tools has been redesigned to foster a new level of strategy. Dismemberment remains the primary goal of every skirmish, but the Flamethrower’s new alternate fire creates a searing wall of flame that can cordon off areas and control crowds, while the Pulse Rifle’s new Proximity Mine doubles as a trap and makeshift grenade launcher. . These are small changes, but I found the new secondary abilities much more useful than the ones in the original game, and they quickly became a regular part of my combat routine.
Nevertheless, The change that I have liked the most so far are the circuit breakers. These occasional puzzles require you to redirect power to different machines, usually to open locked doors. Each breaker box has a limited number of fuses, so to open a door you have to turn off something else. In an early example, this involved turning off an elevator that he no longer needed, but in the third chapter I faced a much more intriguing sacrifice: To power up a refueling station you had to divert power from the engineering deck lights or life support systems. I had a choice to make: stumble in pitch darkness and risk being ambushed by unseen threats, or navigate well-lit corridors while my air supply was rapidly depleting? It’s a clever way of combining challenge with player choice, and I hope this example is the first of many diabolical scenarios and not an isolated occurrence.
It feels like elements of Dead Space 2 are being retrofitted into the original.
Graphics aside, the most noticeable change from minute one are alterations in the script and narrative. The once silent protagonist, Isaac, can now speak, and while I think this is largely unnecessary, he has thankfully not become too talkative a character. Instead of talking a lot, Isaac’s responsiveness puts him in a scary situation realistically. Gunner Wright, the voice actor who brought Isaac to life in the sequels, reprises the role, so once again it feels like elements of Dead Space 2 are being retrofitted into the original.
Isaac’s new script is pretty good, but the best changes have been made to Kendra Daniels. Once an incredibly prickly character, she has become a much more empathetic and likeable colleague to Isaac. For anyone who knows the ultimate direction of the Dead Space story, I think Daniels’ revised persona will work much better with her story arc (as long as, of course, the main story threads remain intact).
Speaking of the course of history, the church of unitology (a religious sect and of great importance in the Dead Space universe) it is introduced much earlier in this remake and in a much more organic way. The characters know about the reputation of the church and talk about it casually, even before they are aware that it will change their lives forever. It’s an approach I really appreciate, and I think the plot revelations will be that much more meaningful because of it.
Motive has made a lot of clever changes to Dead Space, but without going so far as to change things beyond recognition. The result, at least in the early chapters, is something that resembles the philosophy of a director’s cut (albeit a director’s cut shot entirely on new sets). Experience is largely the same as the 2008 original, but honed and polished to a beautiful, bloody finish. As such, this remake will likely work best for new players or more dedicated Dead Space fans. As a lover of the original game, what I have played has delighted me. But for less dedicated fans the value is more questionable, as even with the changes it’s still a remarkably similar experience. Because of this, I don’t think Dead Space is as essential and transformational as the Resident Evil 2 remake was. However, as the best possible way to play this milestone of survival horror… I have no doubt that Dead Space will achieve its goal.