The Dead Space Remake makes a great survival horror game even better
We've played the opening three chapters of the game as part of a trip to EA's London offices.
Considering the original Dead Space only came out in 2008, you could quite easily make the argument that a remake of that very title is a little bit unnecessary. But then again, we're in an age of remakes and remasters, so why not give one of the most iconic survival horror games ever its time in the sun... again. And this is precisely what EA Motive has done. It's taken a beloved title, given it a fresh coat of paint, updated some systems to make it better fit the modern era of gaming, and I know all of this because I've had a chance to sit down and play through the first three chapters of this remade experience, as part of a trip to EA's London offices.
Before I dive into how this remake does slightly differ from the original, let me talk about some of the similarities. First and foremost, this is a remake that does pay a lot of tribute and attention to the 2008 game. The sequences are offered up as they were, albeit with prettier graphics, the horror still excels and aims to scare you through and through, and on top of this, the action-packed sci-fi story remains, seeing protagonist Isaac Clarke having to work his way through the severely damaged USG Ishimura ship while facing all manners of horrible creatures. That core experience is still there and almost 15 years later, it still works incredibly well.
But as this is a modern-day remake, EA Motive has taken some creative liberties to ensure the gameplay doesn't feel dated and truly suits the current-generation of hardware. Of course, as I have alluded to several times, the graphics have been improved significantly. Isaac's suit looks much more detailed, the Ishimura is scarier, darker, and more atmospheric than it ever was, and the way the light bounces off the surfaces of the ship now add to the terror in ways that was never previously possible. Then there's the audio, which has been improved so that sound reverberates through the Ishimura's corridors, making it all the more challenging to tell where the danger is coming from, something that is worsened when the power goes out and you're lighting your way with a simple flashlight.
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But audio-visual improvements are not all that EA Motive has focussed on, as this remake isn't as technologically-limited as its predecessor. The Ishimura is no longer burdened by loading screens, meaning you can travel the entire ship without any interruption, and likewise can play through the entire story in one seamless effort. It's all part of the extra immersive efforts that have been made, something Dead Space has always excelled at, but is on an entire extra level here when combined with the essentially HUD-less gameplay (as all necessary information is found on Isaac's suit and weapons) and the more realistic Necromorphs. And what I mean here is that EA Motive has looked to keep the same monsters and designs, but have built on them by giving them complete skeletons and anatomy that Isaac can blow apart with his weapons in a variety of ways. The Plasma Cutter will literally take chunks off a Necromorph and will dismember them, whereas the flamethrower will instead melt flesh off the bones, making it even easier to remove limbs from the torso. It's incredibly graphic and gory, but also a very welcome improvement.
These features do make Dead Space all the more terrifying and make this feel more like a new game than a remake, and all work in harmony with the environmentally affecting sci-fi abilities (such as kinesis and stasis) to make combat more threatening and engaging. But it is worth noting that the monster AI did feel a little bit flat. While the pure fear of being chased down by an enormous killer monster is still there, the fact that you can easily sidestep them or bring them down without breaking much of a sweat (assuming you hit your shots) does take a bit of punch out of the gameplay. Granted, the preview I got to test was only on the Medium difficulty, but I can't imagine a higher difficulty will make the Necromorphs any smarter.
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But all in all, when I look back on my time with Dead Space Remake, I can't help but break out into a big grin. This is still such a fabulous series, and what EA Motive is doing with this remake shows that the team understands that remakes need to be more than the exact same experience with better visuals. The modernised features make this feel fresh and unique, and yet you never at one moment think the development team has taken too many liberties with the series and sullied the reputation of the iconic survival horror title. It may have stiff competition with The Callisto Protocol debuting around seven weeks before it, but anyone who loved Isaac Clarke's premier adventure should absolutely pay close attention to this one as well.