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Review: Dead Space Breathes New Life Into Survival Horror

Incredible visual upgrades and procedural scares make this a ride to remember

Derek Swinhart

Feb 16, 2023

The definition of a remake seems to lose shape more and more every day. Some examples, like The Last of Us and Demon’s Souls, transform the visuals for a new generation but leave the gameplay almost untouched. Others, such as Resident Evil 2 or the Final Fantasy 7 Remake fundamentally change the mechanics, the story, and everything in between. EA’s remake of the 2008 title Dead Space provides the closest thing to a conclusive answer as to what a remake should be by adding incredible visuals, smart story changes, and modern gameplay updates—all while retaining the soul of the original.

Image: EA

The Good

EA Motive reigned in the notoriously unwieldy Frostbite gaming engine to give Dead Space a total visual makeover. The environments are rich and detailed, the enemies are suitably disgusting, and the lighting stands out above all else. Nearly every light source can cast shadows, making every room and encounter even more dynamic, especially when using the flamethrower. Everything from the reworked weapons, the refined shooting and movement, to the new ship layout offer smart improvements to an already great game. The remake treats the source material with the respect it deserves while doing its best to make smart changes; the most unfortunate thing is that it is truly so good that it makes the original nearly obsolete. But that is a great problem to have.

The Bad

While most of the plot retains familiar beats, nearly every (if not every) line of dialogue and interaction was rewritten.  Overall, most of the story changes work to tighten the script and connect the characters, but it isn’t quite the slam dunk that the visuals, gameplay, and sound design of the remake are. 

The Surprising

The Intensity Director, a procedural system that dictates spawning enemies, changes in lighting, sound cues, and more, builds 1,200 unique events into the gameplay. This makes backtracking through the Ishimura a nightmarish joy. Returning to old haunts later in the game evokes new scares, new enemies, and more surprises.

The Unsurprising

The story changes and the focus on connecting characters feels directly influenced by Marvel and Disney’s way of doing things. Sometimes the narrative gets lost trying to build to things that were originally only ever hinted at in the original 2008 release.  

Bottom Line

Visuals: A This is a visual tour de force, and outside of stuttering and performance issues, it is a nearly perfect representation of the Ishimura and all its disgusting glory.

Sound: A Much like the original, the remake is a masterclass in sound design. Necromorphs have never sounded so disgustingly real, and the procedural sound system built into the Intensity Director is truly impressive.

Playability: A The game makes smart changes to controls and gameplay to streamline combat while also making it more dynamic and satisfying. Everything feels natural and intuitive and moving throughout the Ishimura is a terrifying delight.

Story: B

The story of Dead Space remains mostly untouched, warts and all, and while the original tale is generally gripping, the new changes can do more harm than good occasionally.

Replay Value: B

New game plus, a variety of upgrades and difficulties, and a permadeath mode make the Remake a blast to revisit repeatedly. Much like the original, this is a game you can replay many times, especially with the addition of the Intensity Director.

Overall Grade: A

Derek Swinhart

Derek has worked in games journalism and PC gaming hardware and has a depth and breadth of experience across many genres. He plays almost everything but has a particular fondness for challenging games like the -Souls series and real-time strategy titles.

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