There are few horror game experiences in the AAA space as potent as the original Dead Space. The remake does a great job of not just relaying the same sense of dread and foreboding as the original but improves upon it in key areas to deliver one heck of a knockout punch. Dead Space (2022)’s key strengths come from its ability to sustain increasing levels of tension across its entire runtime and always keep the player on their toes.
The redesigned areas and reworked combat scenarios do a great job of improving upon a game that could be considered nigh perfect. The increased level of fidelity helps players immerse themselves into this horribly mangled nightmare of a ship and place themselves firmly into Isaac’s bloodied boots.
Dead Space is a phenomenally well-made remake that accomplishes everything that it set out to achieve with great levels of polish and exciting minute-to-minute gameplay. While the game occasionally suffers from a few pesky performance issues, Dead Space (2022) is one of the best remakes currently available to purchase.
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Dead Space: Dismembering, Stomping, and Running Towards Excellence
The original Dead Space is still considered one of the most tightly-scoped and optimized games of all time, given how it is able to accomplish a lot with a fairly limited set of mechanics. The core gameplay loop involves using a variety of weapons to dismember and put down horribly mutated enemies and scouring for resources. The player is aided in this quest by their trusty RIG, a holographic tool that provides key functions to the player such as a compass, a holo-map, a health bar, and an objective tracker.
How the game really takes things to the next level is by subverting the common zombie/mutated monster enemy trope. Players new to Dead Space will likely try and pop off as many headshots as possible, seeing as how the enemies aren’t really the most agile and their head is stationary for the most part. They will find out real soon that this is, in fact, the least efficient way to deal with the enemy.
The game throws several hints towards the player, begging them to cut off their limbs to kill the enemies. This becomes extremely tricky as enemies will often flail around and jump at the player from corners. Isaac isn’t exactly the most agile dude around, so that means dodging is out of the question. Instead, the players are forced to run away and create distance between themselves and the enemy to effectively dismember them. This creates an interesting cat-and-mouse situation in every combat scenario, and it certainly helps pretty much all combat areas are pretty fun to experiment with. Oftentimes, the game will throw environmental tools such as pipes and barrels to slow down the enemy.
The trick is to always be aware of your surroundings and use them to your benefit. Dead Space really shines when it comes to level design as each combat arena is massively claustrophobic, leaving the player feeling extremely vulnerable. Jump scares are used extremely frequently, conditioning the player to always expect a flailing monster coming at them from every dark corner. This unrelenting tension and anxiety drive much of Dead Space’s effectiveness.
To combat this unrelenting tension, the players are given a variety of tools and weapons. Stasis allows players to slow down oncoming threats and Kinesis lets players pick anything up from the ground and send it barreling towards the enemy. The tools at your disposal are pretty fun to use, including an extremely satisfying one that lets you slice through enemies with Ripper Blades. Despite the variety in terms of weapons and environments, Dead Space remains incredibly laser-focused and doesn’t take away from the tension. The game is an incredible exercise in minimalism in the way that it doesn’t stray too far of course, but provides enough variety and options to encourage player agency.
The game shines in these darkly-lit hallways as you hear the sounds of the swarm ready to jump out at you from around the corner. This minute-to-minute anxiety is exactly what made the original Dead Space work so well, and given the technological advancements the team at Motive have at their disposal, it only amplifies the effect thousandfold. There are very few complaints in the gameplay department as the game knows exactly what to throw at the player at any given moment to keep them scared for their lives.
Dead Space: The Story of Isaac Clarke and His Questionable Stance on Stomping for Loot
One might expect that Dead Space could be weighing lighter on the story side of things to make way for all the horror and tension, but that’s not necessarily the case. The game smartly avoids the use of longer cutscenes to sell its story, but instead, lets most of the storytelling happen on the stick. This means that the player will be able to pick up pieces of the story together by gathering tablets strewn across the USG Ishimura and have allies fill them in on the larger plot.
The basic premise of the story is that Isaac Clarke and his crew of 3 find themselves stranded on the USG Ishimura after answering a distress call. Isaac must now fight his way through the ship to get to his wife, Nicole, and hopefully, get himself and his crew off of the doomed ship. The story unfolds as Isaac repairs certain parts of the ship, given his skills as an engineer. While initially, the work involved repairs, ultimately, Isaac finds himself staring down gargantuan monsters and cutting them down to size. While all of this sounds horrifying and gory, there is somewhat of an emotional core driving the horror – given Isaac’s strained relationship with his wife.
The story begins to get all sorts of freaky and paranormal towards the middle, but the game thankfully manages to steer the ship and get right back to the realm of a sci-fi thriller. Dead Space wouldn’t exactly make for the most compelling novel, but, as a game, it manages to deliver a kind of story that can only happen in video games. The game allows the player to wholly invest themselves into Isaac’s hopelessly vulnerable position as he goes up against one monstrosity after the other, all the while, slowly losing his grip on reality.
To the game’s credit, it isn’t trying to be the most complex or morally challenging but is rather content with its own brand of sci-fi horror and nerve-wracking tension. That isn’t to say that the game doesn’t have its fair share of surprises as the twists will often catch players off-guard.
Graphics, Sound Design, and Performance
It would be an understatement to suggest that Dead Space looks positively gorgeous. Despite the number of severed limbs and crushed skulls on the screen. Motive has done a great job of introducing new lighting systems that can greatly change the way players might feel about familiar locations. The sparing use of light creates dramatic levels of tension as the player must constantly be aiming their weapon to gauge exactly what is in front of them.
The game looks pretty great even on Performance Mode and it doesn’t feel like you’re losing out on much fidelity. Even though the game looks and feels great, the real star of the show is the sound design. The game creates a hellish soundscape of screams, scrapes, and all sorts of other blood-curdling noises to set the player on edge. At no point in the game will the player be completely sure that they are safe from harm.
The sound design also comes to great use as the darkness often impairs the player’s decision to see where the enemy could be charging from. By paying close attention to the sound, I personally saved myself from death on at least 132 points in the game. Dead Space often lulls players into a false sense of comfort by taking away sound from the mix, but be on your guard, because there’s always something freaky around the corner.
I played the game on a PS5 and encountered zero visual or gameplay bugs except for the one time the game decided to act up and corrupt a save file. This might not be the case for everyone, but there is still a sliver of a chance that the autosave might not work as efficiently as it does usually. This is likely a problem that will be solved in the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled and save as often as you can. The framerate is extremely steady and rarely ever drops below a strong 60.
Final Word: Dead Space
Save for an autosave bug, the game is largely devoid of any game-breaking impediments and plays rather smoothly. One of the best qualities of the game comes from its tightly-scoped length which sits at around 9-10 hours. The game is broken down into 12 chapters, and depending on how well you’re able to navigate these treacherous waters, it’ll take you about 10-12 hours to complete on higher difficulties.
Dead Space is an incredibly well-made remake that justifies its existence every minute of its runtime. Whether it be the much-improved action set-pieces or the little changes to the environment, the game makes a strong case for itself right out of the gate. Despite the original holding up fairly well, this is a pretty strong outing for Motive and bodes well for future remakes EA might have in store.