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The Original Gangster
In 2009 I got out of the hospital after a short stay and was told by my doctors that my recovery would be “timely.” I was instructed to pick up some sedentary hobbies to keep me occupied while my body healed.
At that point in my life, I was reading like a maniac, devouring every Star Wars novel on the planet, but I figured I would need something more engaging than books to keep me sane for the foreseeable future.
I had been a gamer before my hospital stay but hadn’t kept up with modern consoles.
One of my favorite games was a little title called Resident Evil 4, so as I perused the local Gamestop in search of something that would entice me the same way Ashley Graham and Leon S. Kenedy did, I happened upon an undeniably gory game cover.
A severed forearm floated listlessly in space, droplets of blood trailing behind it while starship debris peppered the background. Dead Space, it was called. It caught my attention. It looked similar to the macabre, foreboding atmosphere of Resident Evil and hinted at a memorable story.
I picked it up, popped it into my Xbox 360, and the rest, as the kids like to say, is history.
Dead Space reignited a passion for storytelling in video games within me. If something like this could be done with horror video games, what else could be done with other genres? How many unique characters can we make? How many fantastical worlds can we visit?
In 2021, when the game featured in this Dead Space Remake review was announced, I was skeptical. It came on the heels of the Resident Evil 2 & 3 Remakes, which were highly successful.
My skepticism came only from wanting to preserve something I held dear. I saw this as an opportunity for some hot-shot, spoon-fed, clueless writer to ‘make a name for themselves’ by rewriting something that was damn near perfect.
Similar to the abominations that Hollywood produces when adapting novels, I saw this as an attempt to pervert the original.
I could not have been more wrong.
Just as I hold the original Dead Space (hereafter referred to as the OG) near and dear to me, thousands of others out there hold it equally near and dear.
And some of those people are game developers, directors, and artists. And some of them got to work on the Dead Space Remake (hereafter referred to as DSR). This means the people who recreated the horror of DSR loved the OG as much as I did.
And allow me just to state for the record now: they did a damn good job.
DSR Is Pretty… Pretty Intense!
From the get-go, DSR aims to wow and impress players with its stunning visuals and crisp details. It’s a game that easily contends with the best animated shows and movies. The motion capture of every actor is used with modern, cutting-edge technology, bringing them to life in hyperrealistic ways.
I was stunned when I saw Hammond talking to me on Isaac’s live feed; every reaction, twitch of the mouth, and subtle facial feature was clear to see. Likewise with Nicole, Dr. Mercer, and the rest of DSR’s cast.
Honestly, you won’t have much time to enjoy DSR’s visuals while dying. You’ll have just enough time to make a first impression of an area, then you’ll hear an air vent break, a necromorph roar, and suddenly you no longer care about the visuals–you just don’t want to die.
While I saw the OG’s influence throughout DSR, I could see where they added their own creations and built on top of what came before. Going back through in New Game+, I enjoyed the visuals a bit more, as I wasn’t nearly surprised by every encounter.
The visuals also face an obstacle with lighting. It’s hard to get the lighting correct in horror games that rely on deep shadows to obscure the environment.
I never felt like I got the balance right regarding DSR’s lighting. But then again, it could just be the developers never wanted me to get that balance. They wanted me to either be in complete darkness or blinded by bright white.
Gameplay – Not For The Weak Of Heart Or Stomach
I have friends who are hardcore gamers–they even put me to shame–who cannot play the OG. That’s not a ‘will not’ play the OG; that’s a ‘cannot’ play the OG.
I believe the words they used the most were “intense” and “too much.” And while they are absolutely right about the OG’s ability to make you panic in ways you never thought you would while playing a video game, they are wrong about it being too much.
Because somehow–SOME WAY–the developers at Motive enhanced the intensity of Dead Space in DSR.
Too much? No, no, no. Just getting started? Yes.
The typical survival-horror gameplay still prevails throughout DSR; you scavenge for resources, discover story and lore through audio and text logs, explore dangerous areas, and fight off horrifying monsters.
So if you were disappointed by the OG and wanted a complete overhaul, tough titties. However, that’s not to say DSR didn’t add new features and mechanics where they could.
Pick Your Poison
One new gameplay feature is what I like to call “choose your horror.” Since Isaac is an engineer, the developers thought it would be clever to add some more engineering-like features to the game.
So, when installing batteries and repairing systems throughout the Ishimura, players can choose which system to repair and which to leave broken.
Do you repair the lights? It’s nice to have light. You can see things, which is good. But if you choose lights, the gravity turns off, and fighting enemies in zero-G is always a headache. You could choose to keep the gravity and turn the lights off, but you know the creepy crawlies will come hunting if you do.
These choices put the difficulty of enemy encounters in the player’s hands, and they make for engaging challenges.
They’re The Same But Also Not
I didn’t find the gameplay of DSR more difficult than the OG, but the enemies were tweaked, and it took me a minute to adapt.
The necromorphs in DSR are definitely faster than the OG. There are also variants with impenetrable leg armor that appear all the damn time, making my preferred method of dismemberment obsolete.
The necromorphs are faster, they can leap from further away, and their projectiles rarely miss. And the boss fight! Oy vey!
But you can adapt. The enemies make way more sound now, so you usually hear them from them down the hallway. And while I didn’t notice it at first, there are more usable environmental items waiting to be weaponized than in the OG.
The gameplay is harrowing. You’re going to feel adrenaline, you’re going to be holding your breath at times, and you’re going to shout out loud in surprise at least once.
You might get frustrated at a few points when the difficulty spikes a bit. Or when you suddenly find yourself in a mini-boss fight and think, “That wasn’t in the original!” Even the major boss fights with the Leviathan are harder and might cause a few more deaths than in the OG.
But it all balances out quite well. I usually knew a serious fight was coming up when the game became oddly generous, giving me more ammo and health resources than usual.
And by the end of the game, I’d picked up enough semiconductors and power nodes to feel like I was an action hero, blasting through the hardest necromorphs with grit and gumption.
What To Do When Not Disemboweling Enemies
Aside from combat, DSR features plenty of engineering obstacles for Isaac to overcome; fix the centrifuge, reignite the gravity tethers, and put the automated defense system’s cannons back online, just to name a few. These aren’t necessarily puzzles, as you won’t find yourself interfacing with prominent mind games.
But you will have to trace a few electrical currents, replace plenty of batteries, and realign a few satellite dishes. Probably the most puzzle-like obstacle was fixing the communications array in Chapter 9.
And even that isn’t much of a challenge, just annoying because every time you think you’re getting somewhere, a group of leapers comes out of nowhere to halt your progress.
Perpetual Psychosomatic Auditory Hallucinations, a.k.a. Scary Sounds
The Dead Space series has always had masterful audio design. The OG won nine awards for sound design. When starting with that kind of foundation, you can only go up. I won’t waste words talking about DSR’s amazing sound design; it was mainly handed over by the OG.
I don’t think the sound design was enhanced or improved upon much. I think it was simply modernized with today’s technology. And while that’s not nothing, that’s not as impressive as setting the industry standard for sound design and winning nine awards for your efforts.
I’ll Take An Order Of Story With A Side Of Story And Some Extra Story, Please
Experiencing the story of the OG is a rollercoaster of adrenaline and cuss words. Players are dropped into the aftermath of the necromorph outbreak on the USG Ishimura and bombarded with lore, text logs, audio logs, environmental messages, and occasional dialogue that reveals the haunting story bit by bit.
There Are Layers To This Story, Like A Story Onion
But even at the end of the game, players may have some lingering questions. Since so many details of what happened on the Ishimura are found in logs left behind by the crew, players might miss a few while running for their lives or dismembering enemies.
And if you miss a few key logs, you missed out on critical parts of Dead Space’s story.
Players that only have the stomach to go precisely where the game’s navigation led them missed out entirely on side characters and essential characterization elements; Jacob Temple’s story, for example, or the dynamic between Dr. Mercer and Dr. Kyne and just what happened to Captain Mathias.
Players needed to collect every audio and text log in the game to make sense of everything that happened on the Ishimura.
Not in DSR. The reordering of story priorities in DSR ensured that players knew everything that happened on Aegis VII and the Ishimura just by playing the main storyline. But they also rewarded players who were brave enough to explore the extra hallways and locker rooms with some excellent side stories.
Players can find out so much more about Nicole and what she was doing during the outbreak by exploring extra side missions, and they’ll get some valuable items while they’re at it.
This reordering of Dead Space’s story respectfully keeps the OG intact and carefully adds on top of it. DSR doesn’t retcon anything, and it doesn’t remove any event or critical sequence from the OG; it only enhances them.
Having more context of what Isaac and Nicole were going through makes their teamwork all the more impactful.
Knowing how hard Jacob and Elizabeth are fighting to save the Ishimura crew vicariously transfers some of their responsibility to you. And seeing just how twisted and sterilized Dr. Mercer is makes you all the more willing to watch him die painfully.
The Machinations Of Dr. Mercer
Speaking of Dr. Mercer, his elevation from a meddling Unitologist to a full-blown, mustache-twisting, monologue-speaking, sadist-loving antagonist was one of the best changes in DSR. In the OG, Dr. Mercer feels more like an obstacle.
He was a doctor who recognized the outbreak as a Marker convergence event and tried to capitalize on it.
He constantly gets in your way, throwing his pet ‘hunter’ necromorph at you when he can, but he never felt like the antagonist of Dead Space. Isaac was fighting the necromorph outbreak, not Mercer. Mercer was just in Isaac’s way.
But in DSR, Dr. Mercer is somehow worse. He doesn’t feel like a comic book villain; he feels like a seriously dangerous threat. He’s someone who’s been biding his time, waiting for his moment. And his moment has finally come.
His perversion only worsens the more audio logs you find of him experimenting on innocent Ishimura crew members. The negative was how Dr. Mercer faced his demise. In the OG, he succumbs to an infector and becomes a necromorph.
You get to kill him! Maybe. It’s not confirmed, but you see the room where he transforms, then you enter it to murder all the necromorphs in sight. I always assumed it was implied you killed him. But in DSR… well… meh.
Nicole Brenner, Badass Doctor
One of the best additions to DSR is the extended storyline of Nicole’s time on the Ishimura. Players can see recorded holotapes of her unraveling the mysteries of Unitology and doing whatever she could to stave off the necromorph outbreak. It turns Nicole into a character as selfless and heroic as Isaac himself.
Nicole is no longer just a doctor doing her duty on the Ishimura. She’s actually a semi-vigilante who works undercover, helping people cut ties with the Church of Unitology. She’s dedicated to helping her patients, whether that’s their body or their minds.
And she doesn’t stop her work just because some alien zombie monsters are out there. She does everything she can to stop the Marker, thwart Dr. Mercer, and warn Isaac of what’s happening. Serious couple goals.
Les Commandes De L’horreur
Interacting with DSR’s many designs was pleasant and fluid. Players can adjust many extra settings in the menus to give them forewarning about intense scenes of gore or to turn down the intensity. When I think about a game’s user interface quality, I think about how intuitive its menu screens are. Do they make sense? Is it easily navigable?
The store menu and tab screen are clear, concise, and easily navigable. They mostly copy the OG and lean into its strengths. But the menu for upgrades at the bench is a downgrade to me.
The process of upgrading weapons feels rigid and not as open as before. Players aren’t as free to upgrade as they see fit in DSR and must find upgrade modules before they can fully unlock weapons.
We Can’t Stop Here; This Is Necromorph Country
Pacing is an important tool in any storyteller’s toolbox. It’s something that allows the audience to catch their breath and process events, or it’s something that pushes an audience to the edge of their seat as action after action bombards the main characters.
Pacing can make an audience feel harried or bored, and its execution is doubly essential in horror stories. Boredom can kill your horror story’s monster before it even appears, and feeling too rushed can blend all the scares together in a blur the audience barely has time to register.
The pacing of the OG was on point. You had moments of sheer terror and dread, and you had calm moments where you could collect yourself and process everything that was happening.
Those quiet moments lulled you into a sense of security, a feeling that was broken throughout the game to throw players off their tilt. I saw the pacing of the OG as tight and well done.
And while the pacing of the OG is objectively tight and well done, the pacing of DSR lends itself to true horror. You don’t get those moments of calm where you can process events. You better process those events while running and gunning, my friend, because the times when you can stop and take a breath don’t really exist.
And perhaps that’s because it was my first (and second) time through the game; I was still getting used to all the incoherent screams and shouts. But I never felt like I had peace–even in rooms where I could stand at a bench or purchase stuff from the store, as I was often attacked from behind.
The developers masterfully manipulated players into vicariously feeling the same panic and sheer pants-shitting horror that Isaac feels. It will take me some time to get desensitized to this new Dead Space.
Once I am, perhaps I can see through the audio design, random scares, and break-neck pacing to take the game for its basest value.
But right now?
It’s scary as shit.
That Was Awesome! Do It Again!
Beating the main story of DSR rewards players with a modernized version of the original ending. You kick that hivemind’s ass, watch everyone who betrayed you–and everyone you liked–die, and escape a doomed planet to wander aimlessly in space.
Upon beating the game, you’ll unlock the fully upgraded military suit, a bunch of credits, and New Game+ mode. And if you feel tempted to go back through the game and do it all again, good. You should.
One new feature added to DSR is security levels. As you progress throughout the game, you’ll gain higher and higher levels of security clearance. The problem is, right from the get-go you’ll run into locks that require a level 3 or master-level security clearance.
And even if you take the time to carefully go back through the entire Ishimura once you have those clearances, you won’t unlock master clearance until you beat the game, and some locks are only reachable once.
So, once you beat the game, you can go back through with the highest level of clearance and go behind every locked door.
There is also an alternate ending hiding in DSR. If you beat the game on New Game+ mode, you’ll be treated to a different ending to Isaac Clarke’s story on the Ishimura. And let me just say right now: I have no idea how THE FUCK they managed to make it more unsettling than the first one, but they did.
The first one is so iconic. I remember beating the game for the first time at a friend’s house and both of us sitting in disbelief. To somehow top that absolute mind-fuck the OG produced is no easy feat.
DSR did it.
So once you beat it, beat it again.
There Are No Alternatives To Perfection
Just kidding, there are plenty of alternatives. While they might not capture the same atmosphere and heightened sense of paranoia that Dead Space delivers, they all capitalize on their own brand of twisted horror.
- Resident Evil 2 Remake – 3rd person pov just like Dead Space, you collect weapons and upgrades as you progress, circling back around on early areas with later items, unraveling a story with rich characters as you go.
- Alan Wake – High influential story-driven game that follows the same troupes of Dead Space: save your girlfriend, you’re the only one who can fix what’s gone wrong, put together the mystery of what happened, and stop the catastrophe from getting any worse.
- Callisto Protocol – a carbon copy of the Dead Space series written and directed by the director for the OG, Glen Schofield, except it’s worse than Dead Space.
- Alien Isolation – set in a world a little too similar to Dead Space (or is it the other way around?) and following a protagonist in a situation a little too similar to Isaac Clarke’s, Alien Isolation is a terrifying horror experience that’s all first person pov.
Outlast 2, Resident Evil 4, Dead Space 2, and Madison are survival horror titles that I would put closer to 10 than a 9. They each became the bar with which I measured other titles.
I would ask myself, “Did this game disturb me as much as that scene in Outlast 2 did? Does this game offer fun challenges like Resident Evil 4 does?
Does this game have an unpredictable, mind-bending, award-winning story like Dead Space 2? Am I going to have to walk away and catch my breath again like when I played Madison?”
The OG was always outstanding. A solid 9. And what I loved about Dead Space 2 is they took everything great about the first one and made it better.
I think developers at Motive did the same thing with the Dead Space Remake. They took everything good from the OG, they took everything added into the second title, and they mushed it together to remake the OG in a lovingly horrifying way.
I may have to reorder my gaming 10s, but I think the Dead Space Remake would have to be a 10. It’s as good as Dead Space 2, and that’s always been such a high bar to reach for games.
Alright, Regis. For a million dollars. 10/10, final answer.
The Good & The Bad
- Cutting-edge graphics
- Incredible acting
- Intense gameplay
- Side missions
- New Game+
- Varied difficulty levels
- Kickass story
- Some rooms aren’t optimized
- Intense gameplay
- Some events aren’t displayed well
- The game is really, really dark; as in, adjust your monitor and your game settings
I played DSR on my Asus ROG Styx Gaming Laptop and clocked in my first playthrough at 20.20 hours.
Question: Is the Peng Treasure in the Same Place?
Answer: It is not. Well, not really. In the OG, players can find the Peng treasure in Chapter 11 if they look hard enough. They can actually see it in Chapter 1 if they look hard enough, but they won’t have the kinesis module needed to grab it.
In DSR, the Peng treasure is still found in Chapter 11, and you still need a kinesis module to reach it, but it’s in a different place. And honestly, it’s way easier to get in DSR.
Just ensure you’re checking every locker you can in Chapter 11–especially the ones that might be blocked behind moveable debris. Cough cough, hint hint.
Question: Give it to Me Straight: How Much did they Change from the OG?
Answer: A good bit. Not going to lie to you; right off the bat, things are different. The repair crew that’s with Isaac now has names and they’re actual characters.
Cutscenes litter the game now, the voice actors aren’t always the same, and the game straight-up hands you every weapon in the game instead of making you find schematics. There’s a lot that’s different. Dr. Kyne, for example, becomes a much more significant character.
Mining spikes are much more frequent throughout your journey now. And do you even know who Elizabeth Cross was from the OG? But at the same time, so much has stayed the same. Isaac, Kendra, and Hammond are essentially the only survivors on the Ishimura, trying to fix what they can and escape.
There’s a sentient Marker and a murderous religion that worships it. And Isaac’s main goal is always to get back to Nicole.
Much has changed. But I think it’s all changed for the better.
Question: Will there be a Dead Space Remake DLC?
ANswer: Negative. Technically, there is a DLC in the digital deluxe edition. If you order the super bundle, you’ll start the game with a few extra suits to try on. Some of them are pretty badass, not going to lie, but you don’t get anything for them.
It was a treat to explore the haunting Ishimura again with Isaac Clarke. And it was a refreshing experience hearing Gunnar Wright speak as Isaac and watching all the subtle changes. The Dead Space Remake achieves what every Hollywood movie aims to accomplish when they adapt a book.
It took the source material, understood it at a primal level, and lovingly added on top of it. The Dead Space Remake is a tribute to the original with better graphics, and that’s something I can live with.
Want some original Dead Space goodness to satiate your survival horror needs? Check out the articles below.