The Dead Space remake has been my first experience with the franchise. Despite being a huge fan of survival horror, my path has never crossed with any of the games in the trilogy. With the remake, I aimed to fix that, while also providing a perspective from someone who has played through with modern expectations and without rose-tinted eyewear. Does this remake of a 2008 game hold up in 2023? Absolutely, yes, though it doesn’t achieve its glow-up without some struggle.
The problem with 60 FPS is…
Dead Space is as incredible a survival horror experience as it was nearly 15 years ago. In 2023, many upgrades have been made to elevate this experience for both newcomers and veterans alike. But now it’s untethered from last-gen consoles and fully focused on current-gen and PC, I was expecting these upgrades to propel the remake into successfully achieving the balance between performance and visual fidelity that has become an industry standard. Unfortunately, that isn’t quite the case.
Don’t get me wrong, the Dead Space remake looks much better than the screenshots I’ve seen of the original. I found myself regularly stopping to snap photos, inspired by the environmental art. While the original wasn’t bad looking by any means, the remake feels denser with detail, with special care and attention put into each area.
But, when assessing the visuals on PS5, I ran into disappointment. The game’s 60 FPS mode — a staple for any current-gen title that wants to be taken seriously — comes at a significant cost. Whether it’s a drop in resolution, the poor implementation of anti-aliasing, or both, the Dead Space remake suffers from a combination of blurriness and aliasing. With excellent upscaling technologies now available, I was shocked to see these compromised visuals.
Do the slightly blurry visuals and aliasing issues mean the game is unplayable? No, of course not, and I imagine the majority of players won’t even notice them. However, for a remake where the main priority is to overhaul the presentation, I’m a tad disappointed.
I dare you to wear headphones
Thankfully, the Dead Space remake’s audio almost makes up for the visual concerns. It sounds phenomenal, both in and out of combat. I highly encourage headphones, for those brave enough. Developer Motive Studio has gone to great lengths to improve the audio, responding to community feedback from its playtesting sessions with upgraded weapon sounds, and making its hideous Necromorph monsters even more intimidating.
My only issue with the sound design is that audio cues sometimes ruin potential jump scares. A few hours in and players will be able to predict when enemies are about to appear. It doesn’t happen too often, but it’s a shame when it does.
Meet the new Isaac
Another highlight is that main protagonist Isaac has a voice and face now, which he apparently didn’t before. Gunner Wright plays the engineer/killing machine and delivers a great performance that is complemented by the supporting cast. The interactions are believable and the desperation is, at times, palpable.
The game rarely pauses for a cutscene, instead having a video feed pop up during live gameplay. This works well to keep the intensity level high, with no breaks for the player and forcing constant immersion, whether they like it or not. More modern games should do this!
Dead Space begins with Isaac and his crewmates being sent out to repair the Ishimura, a “planet cracker” ship that is used for mining. Unfortunately, things immediately go awry and Isaac is soon fighting for his life.
The bulk of the game takes place on the Ishimura, a maze of larger rooms connected by tight corridors. The repetitive aesthetic is solved by each area being in a varying state of disrepair. Highlights include areas that are fully open to space, with Isaac impacted by gravity and a lack of oxygen.
While the game is confined within a single ship, text and audio logs help to flesh out the wider universe. Those that take the time to read and listen will unearth interesting secrets that add extra context to the tragic events taking place.
The Dead Space remake has great pacing and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Coming in at 10-12 hours for those playing on Normal difficulty, this introduction to the series is the perfect length.
Rip and tear
Necromorphs are the key ingredient to the incredibly satisfying combat system. After decades of aiming for the head in survival games, it was jarring to suddenly need to aim for limbs. However, dismemberment is the name of the game here, and legs and arms are in the crosshairs now.
Whether it’s surgically removing an explosive growth from an enemy using the Plasma Cutter, or peppering foes with Pulse Rifle fire in a panic as Isaac fights to keep his distance, all of the weapons in Dead Space Remake feel wonderfully lethal.
Then there’s Isaac’s stomp. Man, this guy clearly has some pent-up rage that he’s been waiting to unleash on alien corpses. Aliens (and innocent humans…) will break apart from the sheer force of Isaac’s stomp. It’s a great way of checking if an enemy is truly dead, and stomping bodies can result in extra loot, so it’s a win-win.
We’ve got to go back
When Isaac isn’t shooting and stomping enemies into pieces, he’s tasked with solving relatively easy puzzles and backtracking to unlock new doors that he has gained access to. The main enemy of Dead Space isn’t the Necromorphs, but the ship which is rapidly falling apart. Every time Isaac gets a new Key Item and takes it to its home, something breaks and then he’s off to find another. It soon becomes a comedy of errors, with Isaac and his crewmates having the absolute worst luck.
Upon completion, New Game Plus is unlocked in addition to new rewards and objectives. For those looking to spend an extra 10+ hours with the game, perhaps to justify the sting of that $70 console launch price, the Dead Space remake makes a convincing argument for going through again. After all, there’s the “Impossible” difficulty for those who really want to put themselves through hell.
For those who already love the franchise and are simply hoping for a spruced-up version of the original game, then the Dead Space remake is an easy recommendation, so long as you’re okay with paying the $70 price (or waiting for a sale).
However, for those who have no pre-existing affection for Isaac and his dismemberment skills, more convincing is likely required. Happily, even with my modern expectations, the Dead Space remake still delivers a fantastic narrative, a wonderfully presented setting, and compelling gameplay that satisfies from the first terrifying moment until the horrific last.