This is a spoiler free review.
There was a moment while playing Dead Space that I started feeling a little off. Not ill or anything serious, but light-headed and breathless. It was only upon pausing the game for a moment that I discovered I had subconsciously been holding my breath for quite a while. 30 seconds of rest later and I was back in the action. I have never had such an amazing time being absolutely terrified.
I’ve always had an interest in the Dead Space remake; the original version being the final game I played on PlayStation 3 (though I confess I didn’t finish it). When presented with the opportunity to play a review copy of the remake for Respawning, I jumped at the chance, even though my history with horror games is quite limited. I’m only around 7 hours in but am pleased to report I couldn’t be happier to be fully immersed in the USG Ishimura.
Aside from the outstanding graphics which I’ll get into later, the first thing I have to stress is that the sound design is peerless. The frequent grinds and clangs of the Ishimura, the distant Necromorph shrieks and dozens of other ambient sounds immediately surround and consume the player. Every note and effect you hear reminds you multiple times a minute that nowhere is safe, and you are not welcome here.
By ‘you’ I of course mean protagonist Isaac Clarke, resembling Adam Sandler by common internet opinion but who I think looks a lot more like Irish comedian Ardal O’Hanlon. Isaac has a voice and infrequent dialogue lines now, so he has lost his ‘almost a silent protagonist’ label since the original version. It’s almost comforting that he speaks from time to time, emitting loud exclamations when he (and I) are suddenly jump-scared. I often miss what he says as my own frightened gibbering drowns him out, but the helpful use of subtitles inform me he is also less than pleased about his situation while being dismembered.
The graphics are truly excellent as well. I was fortunate enough to jump straight from my mediocre experience with Forspoken directly into Dead Space, with the transition truly highlighting the sizeable gap in graphical quality between the two. Fires blaze up crumpled and rusting walls, while enemies glisten with various layers of gristle and meat both before and after I’ve started carving away at them. The latter is made possible through the games new Peeling System which makes the gore deeper and gorier than ever before. In my time with the game it is clear no corners have been cut during the development process, and that the remake is a real labour of love for the original game as well as its devout and deserving fanbase.
Whilst I acknowledge I haven’t reached this stage in the game yet, I couldn’t help but hear that the widely disliked turret section in the original game has been stripped out and replaced with a new, more engaging segment. This is exactly what a remake should do. Out with the old, in with the new, whilst also remaining true and faithful to the source material. I love to see and hear it!
The story has me gripped so far, and there have been plenty of surprising moments I won’t go into here which I don’t recall from the original game. I haven’t played 2008’s Dead Space in around a decade though, so my memory may be playing a part in that.
The enemy design is truly grotesque in a darkly beautiful way. The screech of a Necromorph appearing from behind the over the shoulder camera angle to chomp on the back of Isaac’s head allows players to see that every part of their layered anatomy has been designed expertly. There are no blurry textures, or artificially blackened areas made simply to prevent us from seeing no effort has been channeled into making them, further illustrating my earlier point about the amount of care which has gone into making this remake feel special.
My absolute favourite thing about Dead Space is the fact that yes, enemies will spring up on you and force a fight or flight situation, but the mechanics of the game very much favour the option to fight. I never get bored of viscerally demolishing anything which startled me in the game, and with the variety of weapons I have already, the choice is exclusively mine as to how violent I want their death to be. The options, to put it bluntly, range from ‘very bloody’ to ‘gory as hell’, and I am so here for that!
I typically would continue to enable gamers such as myself who are hesitant about playing any sort of horror game, by saying ‘if you don’t like scary games then avoid this one’. I’m not going to do that this time, and the only people who I do not think this game is for is anyone particularly squeamish around blood and gore. Whether you are a horror game fan, or a frightened baby hiding behind your sofa cushions, I can still absolutely recommend this game to you. The Dead Space remake is an atmospheric, gory and scary experience in deep isolated space, and despite my usual game preferences leaning away from those things, I am having an incredible time with it.
The only very minor gripe I have is that small enemies can sometimes be obscured by the hologram menu Isaac can pull up to check his map and inventory. That said, as this is a horror game it’s likely the developers knew this and left it in anyway to add tension. With that out of the way, I can comfortably and enthusiastically award Dead Space
10 / 10
Written, edited and images captured by Alexx.
Code provided by Publisher