As far as I’m concerned, the original 2008 Dead Space still looks and plays pretty good today. Its art design alone goes a long way toward keeping it looking fresh amongst 2022’s next-gen dazzlers.
But despite that enduring appeal, Dead Space is yet another classic game getting the full remake treatment, and where developer EA Motive seemingly uncovered the most space for improvement is in the margins and fine details.
No matter how well I think the original holds up, it’s admittedly nothing compared to what EA Motive showed off to the press during our lengthy preview of the upcoming remake.
My time with this preview build reminded me just how gnarly Dead Space was in the first place. While gruesome games were admittedly in their golden era during the mid-2000s (think of how popular Gears of War was back then), Dead Space really tried to outdo the competition. I definitely blocked the Necromorph babies from my memory, but here they are ready to skewer you through the head if you aren’t too careful.
The USG Ishimura where Dead Space is set is reborn, hissing, and more sinister than ever. The Ishimura is hands-down the least welcoming ship in any universe, and being able to see this rust-colored behemoth in even greater detail is breathtaking.
It can also be fully explored without any loading screens or cutscenes. To be able to freely walk through this terrifying labyrinth only makes one of gaming’s greatest locations even more glorious. Motive has made a big deal about the new tech like this found underneath the hood, from the peeling system that gives the Necromorphs even more layers to surgically hack away, to audio tech that dynamically reacts to whether Isaac is hurt or not.
But beyond these cosmetic changes, Motive has introduced one more impressive trick to add a layer of intensity that didn’t exist previously: The Intensity Director. The Intensity Director was developed to solve an interesting side-effect of the remake’s more open map.
While Dead Space originally relied on scripting terrifying moments for maximum scares, this Ishimura deserves to be explored to its fullest. But that means if you backtrack, you might not be worried about going into certain rooms that you’ve already cleared.
The Intensity Director says ‘not so fast.’ Its presence isn’t overtly advertised, but it’s always there to shake things up or disturb you in new ways if you’re ever feeling too safe. According to Motive there are hundreds of events that can play out depending on the “dice roll,” from environmental effects like light and smoke to Necromorph spawns – some can be very subtle, and t took a couple of instances of backtracking for me to think to myself, “wait did this room always hiss?”
Dead Space Preview Screenshot
Rather than thinking of these additions as game-changing, the remake’s new features make an already great game even better. The Peeling System, for example, as Motive calls it, adds layers upon layers to the Necromorphs, giving each horrifying monster additional flesh, tendons, and bones to hack through. The ability to dismember your enemies is still satisfying, but the added gore only makes the experience that much more (it seems appropriate to use here) visceral.
The Peeling System is also an apt metaphor for the remake itself, which is focused on increasing the depth of an experience that fans already know and love. All this is to say if you remember Dead Space looking good, it now looks even better – and if you remember Dead Space sounding good, it sounds even better.
Dead Space sits in the middle ground of recent remakes in more ways than one. It’s not as old as Resident Evil 2 or 3, but not quite as recent as The Last of Us.
Every EA Game in Development
I still believe the gold standard for game remakes is Capcom’s revival of Resident Evil 2, which essentially created a new game from the foundations of some old but very good ideas, while The Last of Us Part 1 offers a chance to play the best version of an already good game – but Dead Space provides something in between.
There’s enough new in here that will make the first Dead Space obsolete, but not enough for me to think this will be a wholly new experience. Instead, there’s depth where there wasn’t before, and layers upon deliciously sick layers of extra detail to enjoy. These additions don’t exactly breathe new life into Dead Space as much as they give fans, new and old alike, something new and meaty to bite into.
Matt T.M. Kim is IGN’s News Editor. You can reach him @lawoftd.