Review: ‘Dead Space’ a masterpiece built on blood, bones and space


Dead Space, the ground-up remake of the sci-fi survival horror classic, is now available on PlayStation5, Xbox Series X|S and PC. (Courtesy image/EA Games)

Let’s take a pause from reality and step into the distant future. You’re a spaceship engineer who’s heading towards a mining station that’s sent a distress signal. On top of that, your romantic partner is on that very station. 

After a sudden crash landing into the hangar and an ominous understanding that the vessel has been turned into swiss cheese from nearby asteroids, there is now a pressing matter that the station crewmates are large, horrific monstrosities that will stop at nothing to attack you with their pincers-for-arms.

Your name is Issac Clarke and this is officially the worst day of your life.

This story isn’t new to players. “Dead Space” is an over-the-shoulder sci-fi horror adventure that took players onto the dangerous Ishimura in 2008. In fact, when the now-released remake was announced, many went back to the 15-year-old game and wondered why this was even happening. Yeah, the graphics have surely aged, but the gameplay is still top-notch.

What you get in the 2023 re-release is so much more rich, intense and clean it will make it difficult to go back to the original. 

The biggest improvement players will be quick to notice is the high graphical fidelity of the remake. Frankly, it’s nothing short of phenomenal. Because this is a game only exclusive for PS5, Xbox Series, and PC it's no wonder why it looks so great. Faces display true emotions and bones protrude out of creatures’ flesh in a way that will make anyone shiver. 

The Ishimura sports many details like bright and positive ad campaigns alongside bloody messages to warn other survivors. Never has the mining colony felt like such a sci-fi marvel and a hellish landscape all at the same time. In a way, the ship has its own eerie character that jumps out at players from every corner.

My favorite new details were on Issac’s suit. The helmet looks more transparent and believable. Zooming in on the Resource Integration Gear (R.I.G.) vitality system shows that a wire is suspended in the middle that lights it up. 

But this isn’t the main reason why anyone’s playing the game. They’re originally here because they want to know just how scary it is. 

It’s scary. Really scary.

Going back to the original version after playing the remake was a huge shift for many reasons — the biggest being the creatures called necromorphs. 

Necromorphs come in many shapes and sizes, but these were previously crewmates of the mining station. Their skin shines of gray, cold flesh while long and sharp spikes come out of their forearms. Some look like a human's been molded and contorted to the shape of a scorpion. 

It really depends on what kind of necromorph you face, but no matter what they'll run at you with zero caution for themselves. The best way to take them out? Shoot the limbs. 

This means taking sci-fi mining tools and utilizing them as weapons to take out creatures’ arm-pincers and legs. The biggest change from the original version is the necromorphs' reactions to getting shot by plasma cutters, which is now reduced to zero reaction. These parasitic beings do not have pain detection in their systems and will stop at nothing to spread their condition to Isaac.

In the original, one hit might stun the necromorph to a full-stop and make it easier to chop down and clean house. In the new version, things are much messier to deal with. Fights get tougher and players will need to really consider their surroundings as multiple creatures may corner you. The only way you can get any reaction out of your enemy is through upgrades on some of your weapons.

This change is slight, yet makes for an adrenaline-filled experience that will be hard to forget.

A great change seen in this remake is the overall environment and lighting of The Ishimura. Largely, the original version was too scared to go completely pitch-black. This can be found in so many games — in fact, it’s only recent that developers aren’t scared of this concept. 

Thankfully, Motive Studio made the right decision and went a step further with it.

The remake includes a clever mechanic that’s so simple it’s quite shocking it isn’t used more often in games: the circuit breaker. As Issac stumbles from objective to objective, he’s met with one of the scariest decisions a person in his position could make: Should he sacrifice the power for the lights and redirect it to the only door between him and the task at hand?

Of course, the only choice that can be made, reluctantly, is the sacrificing of lights; however, this change is amazing because it puts the action of turning the lights off into the player’s hands. Before, the lights might have gone out and it felt more like a trick someone was playing on Issac. 

Now, the responsibility is plopped onto players’ laps and they have to force themselves into a necromorph hunt in the dark with nothing but a makeshift weapon, a flashlight and an urge to not perish.

What makes these situations even more harrowing is its sound design. Issac’s greatest weapons during these moments are his limited vision and his hearing. The sounds of vent doors crashing down and screams of a dangerous foe fill the air, and as Issac’s eyes darts around the room to find movement, feet patter on the floor and the music builds to add even more tension. 

In the background, the faint sound of Issac’s heart pounds at a steady and rapid rate. Suddenly, a flash of flesh and bone hits his light and the tension is at an all-time peak. 

Enemies have never been so terrifying in a game, and all of these elements add up to one of the most haunting and entertaining experiences money can buy. 

Kendyl Wilson | Staff designer
"Dead Space"
Created by: Motive Studio, a division of EA Games
Release date: Jan. 27
Systems: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S and PC
Price: $59.99-$79.99, depending on system and editio

And that’s really what it is — an experience. “Dead space” originally felt like a video game that could take players out of reality for a few hours; but due to its shortcomings of immersion, a silent protagonist and some questionable dialogue, it failed to deliver what the remake has done. 

Now, players can relate to Issac Clarke as he talks with his crewmates and shows my favorite personality in a horror game: a regular, reasonable man that wants to do his job in the worst circumstances imaginable.

The narrative driven by Issac’s dialogue, motives and always-changing heartbeat enveloped me in his situation. By the end of the game, I felt like I had gone through these terrors, yet it didn’t stop for me there. 

Motive Studios added a thing called the Intensity Director, which changes factors like enemy spawn, music buildup and even how much fog is in the room, to always make a new and stressful experience for players. This makes every playthrough completely different from another. 

For those that are playing for the experience and story, there are different difficulties that can range from story mode (a mode below easy) to impossible mode. Impossible mode is set on hard difficulty, but with an additional perma-death feature — meaning you only live once in this playthrough.

With a new game-plus mode and the Intensity Director, I immediately jumped back onto the Ishimura on a harder difficulty level. The replayability is some of the best you can get in a game, and I cannot wait to see it again in the coming days. 

Motive Studio had the impossible task of remaking one of the most critically-acclaimed horror games and making it good, if not better. Not only did they improve just about every factor of the game, but they made it hard to go back to its source material. 

“Dead Space” is an experience I recommend to anyone with the guts to face the unthinkable horrors waiting for them. With a better focus on environmental horror and improved dialogue, this experience is a masterpiece of blood and stress.

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