When Dead Space originally launched back in 2008, it took the gaming world by storm with its dark sci-fi setting, dismemberment and inspirations from games like Resident Evil 4 and movies like Alien. It didn’t take long for sequels to be pushed, but the following years had EA in a strange position with single-player games, which left them with nothing but bad press. It’s now 2023 and we’re back with a remake of Dead Space, a game built from the ground up with state of the art technology that had the developers expand on the overall project in ways that feels familiar but fresh. Where Naughty Dog set standards on remakes, Motive Studio exceeds in almost every aspect.
Same ol’Story, but Better
You play as Isaac Clark, an Engineer set on a repair mission aboard the mining vessel USG Ishimura. Isaac was hand selected by Chief Security Officer Zach Hammond to finish the operation, alongside several other crew members. The mission takes a dark turn when they find that there was no response from Ishimura upon approach, which force tethered their ship to crash into the vessel; you quickly find that entire ship has been overrun by the Necromorphs – a seemingly unkillable humanoid creatures that’s out to kill everyone. Dead Space layered storytelling should sound familiar to those knowledgeable with the franchise, with similar pacing that’s been expanded in meaningful ways. There’s audio and video logs that reveals further mysteries aboard the Ishimura on what truly happened there – you’ll be facing moments of suspense, large set pieces and harrowing conclusions. It’s excellently told especially now that the writing and actors has been redone from the ground up – including the addition of Isaac Clark speaking, where he didn’t in the original, utilizing the same actor from the original Dead Space 2 and 3. There’s no better way to revisit a classic like Dead Space and going in will feel fresh.
Grav Lifted Engine
Motive Studios effort in reimagining Dead Space didn’t go unnoticed; elements like expanded zones, entirely new locations and having all of USG Ishimura seamlessly connected throughout, freely allowing the player to traverse back and forth – unlike the original – really brings this game to life. That means, each new chapter has been reworked based on this improved design; in the original, each new chapter was based on a new location without the ability to traverse freely. This gives a sense of control to the player, grounding them to play as you please. With bigger areas comes the addition of side missions. There’s 3 of them, but it expands throughout the campaign and unlocks as you progress.
The overall presentation has been lifted to a degree of true next-gen standards. While it still doesn’t match the pedigree Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part I showcased, it’s still an absolutely gorgeous looking game with upgraded shadow casting, lighting engine, shade rendering and a ton more. Isaac’s suit design has been overhauled with tremendous detail and physical based rendering that makes it a delight to see. Just like the original, it’ll upgrade as you go progress, changing the overall aesthetic.
The environment really takes the cake though, with much better ambient lighting and shadows alongside an immeasurable amount of work put into the details of the piping system, wiring, engines, movable parts and so on. Dilapidated areas fill with debris and destruction set the tone of pure nightmare levels. Rarely you’ll see repeated assets, but it’s there. Truly, physical based rendering, volumetric fog, gpu accelerated particles and sparks, all interwoven in such a way that really sets a new standard. When coupling all of this with intense sound design, you’re immerse. I highly recommend playing with a 3D audio enabled headset to get the best experience – nothing currently can match the sounds of your enemies crawling through the vents, or sparks chattering down the hall, screams echoeing through dead hallways, fans spinning uncontrollably – it’s truly a work of art.
And much like the efforts put into the environment, the Necromorphs gets the same level of treatment. In the original, most of the creatures looked the same – discernable but pretty similar. In the remake, there’s new rigging systems for hanging limbs embedded into the abdomen, differentiating clothing, skin textures, facial/limb structures, and more. You can tell which type of enemies you’re facing much easier and that’s not all – dismemberment has gotten a overhaul as well with additional layering – that means chunks will be flying off with every shot. My favorite is when you upgrade your Stasis all the way, you can dynamically see the body melting it’s layers, making it easier to dismember. There’s so much improvements that it’ll be impossible to cover.
Dead Space plays much like it did originally, enhanced by way of visual fidelity. There’s a few new changes to weapons, power nodes, Zero G traversing, unlocks and encounters. First, there’s a new way of unlocking doors in a form of power switching – you’ll know what connects to where with these tubes connected to a switcher. Red means offline, blue means online. Some would require a battery to turn on. This completely eliminates the need of a Power Node like the original where it was used to upgrade gear and unlock doors. It frees up space in your inventory and it’s just far more sensible this way.
In the original, you would unlock new upgraded suits and weapons as you progressed through each chapter by purchasing from a Shop kiosk. The shop is still present in the remake, but this time you’ll have to find the weapons and armor schematics within Ishimura, with new animations to boot. This creates a much more immersive pacing rather than keeping the video-gamey element of the original. These kind of considerate touches can be found in almost all elements of the remake.
Each alternative firing mode has been tweeked to perfection; much like how the Plasma Cutter can rotate its firing pattern to adjust your method of dismemberment, each weapon has been reworked to feel better to use and act even more powerful than the original. For example, the Pulse Rifle has a grenade launcher function whereas the original had some weird umbrella AoE effect that barely did anything. Some weapons got overhauled entirely like the Contact Beam – instead of waiting for a single charge blast, it just shoots a Kamehameha for a prolonged period, and looks incredible as well. The weapon bench is still present which means you can find upgrade parts for your weapons and gear to further enhance their potency.
Alongside these improvements are Isaac’s movement. He’s much more responsive with additional animation and rigging – sprinting included, where you’ll get a heart beat audio cue while his breathing gets deeper. But the biggest improvement is the Zero G sections. In the original, you would have to aim and tap a button to lunge forward. This time, you can freely float and thrust in these spaces much like how it was introduced in Dead Space 2. It makes traversing cumbersome scenes much more bearable. Motive Studio also added new vertical layers of exploration, and areas like the Main Hanger Bay has been expanded to accommodate the new thrusters.
I had very incredibly minor issues with the game overall – some clippings here and there. But my biggest disappointment falls on image quality; Dead Space remake offers 2 graphical modes: Fidelity and Performance. Fidelity allows for top graphical assets and ray traced shadows at 4K30, my usual way to play given my love for fidelity. Performance offers lower graphical assets, no raytracing at 1440p60fps – how I presume most people will play the game. Both options looks absolutely great regardless but to help with stability, the developers implemented a rendering technique called VSR, variable shader rendering. It’s suppose to help with the finer details of the games graphics while maintaining its highest resolution possible. It did not work as intended for a week since launch. It was a blurry mess of a nightmare, it felt like a boss encounter with my vision. The developers had patched the game as of January 30th, but I had gone through 90% of the game at this point. It’s a shame it launched this way because Dead Space is a sight to behold otherwise.
REVIEW SCORE: 9/10
Motive Studios should pat themselves on the back for delivering a masterful remake – setting a new benchmark moving forward. I sincerely hope they consider remaking 2 and 3 with the same labor of love. EA, protect these people!
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