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Thu, 20th Apr 2023

Dead Space, EA’s classic survival horror game from 2008, gets a complete overhaul, reimagining the chilling encounters on the derelict mining platform, the USG Ishimura.

I’m all for remastering classic games. For too long old favourites of mine have been lost to time, incompatible or unplayable on modern hardware. Reissuing games has become in vogue for developers of late, with mixed results. Some are just retextured with upscaled character models, cynically remastered with minimal effort. Others, like Dead Space, have been rebuilt from the ground up, echoing the original but adapted for a more refined audience.

I’ll be honest, the original Dead Space seems like only yesterday and the sequels even more so. I was hoping for another sequel rather than EA wiping the slate clean and starting again. I’m not sure where this places all the animated Dead Space movies or the comic book in this potentially new chronology. Dead Space’s lore is detailed and well-documented.

But here we are, once again, as engineer Isaac Clarke en route to the USG Ishimura as part of a search and rescue team answering a distress call. Upping the ante, the distress call was made by Issac’s girlfriend, Nicole Brennan, a medical officer on the station.

Dead Space has a classic haunted house in space scenario. There’s something primal that the game taps into. Similar to the movies Alien and Event Horizon, eerie goings on in abandoned places make for some terrifying horror situations.

It’s a strange feeling to be revisiting a game over a decade later on a PC vastly more powerful than the one I had back in the day. Your mind plays tricks on you, your memories updating the old game’s graphics in a manner that can take the shine off the remastered visuals. 

Firing up the old version of the game on PC to compare the two was a no-go, the game being incompatible with modern machines. In the end, I resorted to the Xbox 360 version, and the 2008 Dead Space looks nothing like how I remember. Those of you that think that this is a cynical cash grab are very much mistaken. This is a totally new game.

The Dead Space features incredibly atmospheric lighting that provides plenty of scares when the lights go out. The environmental effects also add to the atmosphere as Issac makes his way through misty rooms and steaming corridors. Everywhere you go, there are sparks and flickering light creating shadows that could be something in a corner. The little details, like like scrawled messages on the walls and discarded dolls resting amongst dismembered bodies, help make Dead Space a game that is not for the faint-hearted.

The disfigured creatures that roam the USG Ishimura are not prone to announcing their arrival. Most encounters are from panels bursting open with the horrific mutant clawing away at you. Aiming for the head doesn’t work, with Issac’s cutting tool being best utilised by slicing off the creatures’ limbs. The monsters often don’t travel alone, a swift punch staggering one creature whilst you deal with another. 

As the game progresses, Issac’s stasis ability, primarily for slowing down faulty doors and equipment, comes into play, allowing the player to slow down the enemy so better chop them up to bits. Kinesis, which Issac can use to move stuff about, also doubles as a weapon- hurling objects at the enemy. A stomp of Issac’s foot on a fallen monster often yields loot, which is nice.

The USG Ishimura, as uninviting as it is, encourages exploration, although Issac’s path is clearly defined. Indeed, your path can be highlighted, removing any irritation by getting lost in the abandoned space hulk. Add in zero-G sections, air-less, unpressurised areas exposed to space, and extremely captivating and nail-biting environments that keep the game fresh and players on their toes.

I found the game genuinely unnerving but in a good way. It is gory but doesn’t confuse gore with horror. It’s the anticipation that’ll get to you, that and the clatter in the wall that may or may not be something coming for you. 

The level design is impressive. The maze-like design illustrates both the vastness of the Ishimura but still allows for claustrophobic corridors. The station feels lived it, with habitats, metro stations, and medical bays telling a tale that is waiting for Issac to put together.

The Dead Space remake embraces the power of current-generation gaming equipment to give older players the same feeling as they had back in the day and new players a contemporary take on a classic game. Hopefully, this is just the start, and we will see remakes of Isaac Clarke’s further adventures in the future.

Verdict: 9/10