Horror games have always been the next step to immersion compared to their TV and movie counterparts. Whether you're slowly pacing through an eastern European village in Resident Evil 4, or peering through the mists of Silent Hill, having control of your character brings a new level of fear to the experience. While these titles lean into traditional horror it's tough to think back and not also recognize Dead Space as an important element of the horror landscape. Dead Space showed that horror could be outside the box, in an unfamiliar place, and truly otherworldly. The Dead Space remake totally understands the assignment of recreating that feeling and while it adds to it, it also completely understands the original idea and sticks to its guns.
Players land on the derelict USG Ishimura, a ship that had been on a mission to mine a planet called Aegis VII. After losing communication with the large vessel Isaac Clarke, the playable character, and a small crew arrive to investigate what happened and assist where they can. Within mere minutes of landing the rescue crew is assaulted by a disfigured humanoid figure; bones extended elongating the human form while creating large singular needle-like fingers, muscle ligaments stretched to their limits as these creatures towered over the rest of the human crew.
Throughout the course of this story, you not only get to work towards finding a way off the Ishimura, but also learn about what caused the crew to transform into the Necromorphs, how some of the crew members were complicit to the hellscape that occurred, and what the true purpose of it all is. For what could have been as simple as, zombies but in space, there's a lot of interesting religious and political scandal that gets scratched upon to set up some of the even larger plays that take place in Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3.
It's easy to expect with Dead Space's reputation that even if you're coming into it fresh that you'll have an idea you're playing a horror game. The way that it immediately drops you into a tense situation, makes you feel almost safe behind glass as you watch what a Necromorph is able to do without fearing for your life the next thing that's happening is when one appears next to you and you have no other option than to separate from your friends and protect yourself.
Isaac, as an engineer, is well equipt with the tools and brains for pulling off pretty much anything that he's required to on the Ishimura to survive, which is a lot. From repairing ships and essential systems to assisting in the synthesizing of a virus to defeat a large entity known as the Leviathan Isaac is the best person for the job. This works to the advantage of the other crew mates who are able to assist with the formulation of plans and then tell Isaac to go and carry them out.
In the remake, Isaac does have added agency in that he's fully voiced and takes a larger role in the different conversations that take place. Isaac shifts in the remake from being a character with no agency and following orders, to being part of the team even though he always gets the short end of the stick. There are still a few ways that while we see Isaac become more personable that he acts distant and stiff as if he wasn't, some notable moments include while watching key character deaths. There's no large reaction and instead, Isaac just takes it and moves on with his mission. There could be some argument to say his reactions were muted due to the horrors he'd already witnessed in the past few hours, or that he's so far under the Marker's influence that it doesn't matter, but it still seems out of place.
Dead Space gameplay has Isaac moving through the different parts of the ship overrun with Necromorphs. Your Plasma Cutter, the first and best weapon you have access to, is perfect for shooting off the limbs of the Necromorphs as they run, jump, or crawl at you. The aim of killing Necromorphs is to amputate limbs leaving them in various states of completion.
It's an extremely satisfying feeling not just to be going for a headshot but planning each shot around how you can cripple your opponent. Taking out their arms leaves them a bit less deadly, however, a well-placed shot to the knee will drop them to the ground. When resources are limited in the harder difficulty modes you can use this to your advantage to drop an enemy and then curb stomp them to deal the finishing blow.
A key aspect of Dead Space is that all of the important HUD elements including your map, collectibles, and limited storage are holograms projected from the Engineering RIG that Isaac is wearing. This obviously carries the idea that all of these menus are exactly how Isaac is seeing them too, but also means at any time you want to check your inventory or where you're going the game doesn't pause leaving you as a potentially sitting duck as you look for that Stasis or Kinesis recharge that you swear you put in here somewhere. Key functions like healing are at least tied to a button press for fast access so you at least don't need to worry about that.
Some puzzles and world elements have been slightly updated to give returning players a bit more to get into. One of the main new elements is fuse boxes that appear around the world, where you might have previously just needed to supply power now you'll also be forced to pick which of a few elements receive power.
An early example of this is when you're forced to choose between the power to the elevators, doors, or the lights and you can only pick two options. Unfortunately for Isaac, you need both the elevators and doors to get out of the room. Throwing Isaac into the dark immediately ramps up the tension of the moment allowing for a number of Necromorphs to emerge from the darkness and stalk you. Another later example forces you to pick between having lights or oxygen, there's no good option but no matter what you pick will make navigating the next section of the game slightly different.
So much of Dead Space has been left untouched, and rightfully so as it was a good game when it came out and still holds up very well. Where Dead Space has received the most improvement is in how it looks and sounds. Moving from the PS3 and Xbox 360 up to PS5 there are all kinds of improvements including remade character models and environments.
The Necromorphs, which were already terrifying, gain a new level of chill to them as there's finer detail in the shreds of clothing indicating who these monsters were in life. You'll know when you're coming up against former security, or someone who was likely just working an office job. The lighting of Dead Space adds so much to what sets the theme of the game. Moving from brightly lit areas like the Bridge into service halls or sections of the Ishimura with no power there's always some impending feeling of dread but it all hits differently.
With terrifying visuals, and lighting to set the atmosphere it's how everything works with the audio that becomes a perfect blend of horror. The Ishimura will creak and moan due to the stresses of space leaving players to jump at even a shower that sets off at the wrong time. Hearing crawling through the walls, Necromorph gurgles, and then finally the explosion of a vent as a Necromorph burst through screaming at you is the perfect setup for the horror that the player should be experiencing.
Dead Space Review | Final Thoughts
Dead Space has always been a great game. With an interesting cast of characters with different motives for positive or negative purposes, a brilliant setting placing players in the unknowns of space isolated from any chance of rescue, and a horrifying set of enemies with the ability to show up whenever and wherever they can be. This has been truly enhanced in this remake as the visuals have been dialed up to 11 and lighting and audio set the scene for horror even further. Fans of Dead Space will have a blast coming back to what was likely an excellent horror memory, and with updated visuals, a whole new generation of gamers can become fans of Dead Space.
TechRaptor reviewed Dead Space on PlayStation 5 with a key provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox Series X|S and PC via Steam.
- Still scary
- Improved characterization of Isaac
- Better than you remember
- Isaac's lack of response