As far as I’m concerned, the original 2008 dead space still looks and plays quite well today. Its artistic design alone goes a long way in making it look fresh among 2022’s next-gen dazzling ones.
But despite that enduring appeal, Dead Space is yet another classic game getting the full remake treatment, and where developer EA Motive has seemingly discovered the most room for improvement is in the margins and fine detail.
No matter how well I think the original holds up, it’s admittedly nothing compared to what EA Motive showed the press during our lengthy preview of the upcoming remake.
My time with this preview build reminded me of how gnarly Dead Space was in the first place. While gruesome gaming was admittedly in its heyday in the mid-2000s (think how popular Gears of War was back then), Dead Space really tried to outshine the competition. I’ve definitely blocked necromorph babies from my memory, but here they’re ready to stab you in the head if you’re not too careful.
The USG Ishimura where Dead Space takes place is reborn, hissing, and more sinister than ever. The Ishimura is by far the least welcoming ship in all of the universes, and to be able to see this rust-colored monster in even greater detail is breathtaking.
It can also be fully explored without any loading screen or cinematics. Being able to roam freely through this terrifying maze only makes one of the greatest places to game even more glorious. Motive made a big deal out of new tech like this found under the hood, from the peeling system that gives Necromorphs even more layers to surgically hack, to audio tech that dynamically reacts to Isaac being injured or nope.
But beyond these cosmetic changes, Motive has introduced another awesome trick to add a layer of intensity that didn’t exist before: The Intensity Director. The Intensity Director was developed to address 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 is worth exploring to the fullest. But it does mean that if you go back, you might not mind going into some rooms you’ve already cleaned.
The intensity director says “not so fast”. Her presence isn’t overtly announced, but she’s always there to shake things up or bother you in new ways if you ever feel too safe. According to Motive, there are hundreds of events that can play out depending on the “roll of the dice”, from environmental effects like light and smoke to necromorph spawns – some can be very subtle, and it took me a few flashbacks for me to think to myself, “wait, has this room ever whistled?”
Dead space preview screenshot
Rather than viewing these additions as a game-changer, 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 necromorphs, giving each horrifying monster extra flesh, tendons, and bones to break through. The ability to dismember your enemies is still satisfying, but the added gore only makes the experience even more visceral (seems appropriate to use here).
The Peeling system is also an apt metaphor for the remake itself, which aims to increase the depth of an experience fans already know and love. All this to say that if you remember Dead Space sounding good, it now looks even better – and if you remember Dead Space sounding good, it sounds even better.
Dead Space sits in the middle of recent remakes in more ways than one. It’s not as old as Resident Evil 2 or 3, but not as recent as The Last of Us.
Every EA game in development
I still believe the gold standard for game remakes is Capcom’s rebirth of Resident Evil 2, which basically created a new game from the foundations of a few 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 offers something in between.
There’s enough new here that will render the first Dead Space obsolete, but not enough that I think it’ll be a whole new experience. In place, there is depth where there was none before, and layers upon deliciously sick layers of additional detail to enjoy. These additions don’t exactly breathe new life into Dead Space as much as they give fans new and old something new and meaty to bite into.
Matt TM Kim is IGN’s Managing Editor. You can join it @lawoftd.