It’s almost time for a fight between two games that share a remarkable amount of DNA: the Dead Space remake and The Callisto Protocol. And, whether you have thought about it or not, they are about to embark on one of the biggest rivalries in recent months.
The two games, while distinctly different, are intrinsically tied together by a shared history of being created by none other than Glen Schofield. And while Dead Space is technically 14 years old at this point, Motive Studio is hoping to bring the classic sci-fi horror game into a new age, with a remake that’ll not only rival The Callisto Protocol – a game which hopes to build on the foundations of Dead Space – but coexist with it too.
These key modern sensibilities Motive is bringing to Dead Space include some new changes like the Ishimura being one open map rather than a series of interconnected levels with loading screens, and improved textures, lighting, and reflections. This gives the game a modern update, but without radically redesigning it.
I hadn’t actually played Dead Space before this, but after the preview, I went back and played most of what I experienced in the remake in the original release. Going back allowed me to see just how much these aspects improved the experience. The Ishimura being explorable without any loading screens actually deepened my immersion into the experience when I played the remake compared to the individual levels and areas of the original.
Here, in the new version, you felt like you were on a long journey through the Ishimura, rather than making your way through a series of interconnected corridors and rooms, and, as a result, it does a great job of putting you in the shoes of Isaac.
There are no breaks and no places to stop and take a breather. So, like the recent Resident Evil remakes, the entire experience feels far more fluid than it did back in 2008 – at least from the first three chapters I had the chance to play. I also really enjoyed exploring the Ishimura and being able to revisit old areas with that connective tissue, as it felt satisfying to memorise areas and learn the layout of the ship as a whole, rather than having that learning experience broken up by a loading screen.
But while the upgraded visuals bring the game into the modern day, a lot of the Dead Space remake still feels rooted in the early 2000s, and you can really feel it. It is especially evident in the multitude of corridors you go through, shooting at anything that moves in front of you, constantly aiming down sights, as well as the clunky inventory system, and the game’s brown colour palette.
The game design philosophy of this remake is still fundamentally the same as the original, and as a result, it feels incredibly outdated at moments when the game focuses in and doesn’t involve finding your way around the Ishimura.
However, upon reflection, I realised this isn’t as much of a problem as I first thought. Sure, some things feel like they were designed a decade and a half ago, but the core Dead Space experience is still superbly satisfying. It’s also certainly enhanced by the improvements made to the Ishimura. The game now feels like one fun, satisfying slaughter fest, rather than an oppressive, scary, and gory action game, which The Callisto Protocol is trying to establish itself as.
Despite both games being so closely tied together and releasing near to one another, they are actually offering vastly different experiences.
Dead Space’s remake is going to entice nostalgic players who loved the original and want to replay a classic with a modern sheen. But, it’s also going to attract new players too. As someone who hadn’t played the original the first time around, I left the demo wanting more.
The game’s blend of 14-year-old game design choices and modern touches also gives it a distinctly unique feel that isn’t quite matched by other short-term remakes like The Last of Us Part 1. But that mix isn’t a bad thing and I think it actually does a lot to help it stand out from The Callisto Protocol, which is being designed from scratch with a modern, new-technology, game design mentality.
So, what many were touting as a head-to-head rivalry is actually not that at all. We can call the fight off – these two games both have their place and their creators know it.