The Dead Space remake delivers a truly exceptional horror game where Isaac Clarke is finally fully involved in his own adventure. This is a story-rich, gory, and more engaging experience than the original, and one you won’t want to miss.
When I sit down and think about some of the best horror games I have ever played, Dead Space is always in contention for the top spot. Alright, I don’t play too many horror games, but there’s something special about the way it captured my imagination as a child almost-definitely too young to be playing a game like it. So, as someone who’s a sucker for flashy graphics and modern controls, I was thrilled when I found out Motive Studio, the same team behind Star Wars Battlefront II and Star Wars Squadrons, was in charge of bringing the Dead Space remake to life.
However, that didn’t stop me from being a little sceptical about this remake. Motive Studio was going to give Isaac Clarke a voice in Dead Space and, along with refreshing the UI, it was going to spruce up the story. Going into this review with 2008’s Dead Space fresh in my mind, I still wasn’t sure the game needed either of these changes. The story holds up, albeit a little shorter than I remember, and Isaac doesn’t really need to crack-wise when he’s stomping necromorph corpses. But, in a matter of minutes, I was proven wrong – and I am so glad I was.
Motive Studio’s Dead Space remake is truly fantastic, and I don’t say that lightly. It improves upon every single aspect of the 2008 release – from gameplay to graphics – and it fleshes out an already-interesting story to deliver a wonderfully engaging narrative. However, there’s one thing that takes this game to the next level – from a remaster to a remake, really – and that’s Isaac.
Isaac having a voice really does make the iconic horror game whole. I can see the benefits of having a silent protagonist, but getting Isaac more directly involved with the decisions being made and the events unfolding around him elevates this narrative – and the experience playing Dead Space – to a whole new level. It really is incredible how this somewhat cosmetic alteration to the game completely changes how you feel when you’re playing. It also makes everything feel more real – or, as real as an alien outbreak on a mining ship can feel.
One example from early on in Chapter 2, which you may want to skip past if you’re looking for a completely spoiler-free experience, is when Isaac is tasked with destroying the man-made barricade to the Morgue. In the 2008 release, Hammond – a member of the security team you arrive at the USG Ishimura with – explains that you need to collect a Shock Pad and a thermite explosive tank to destroy it. He marks these on your map, and off you go to collect them. It’s a fairly straightforward section of the game that, to be honest, isn’t all that exciting.
However, this short section of the game has been improved upon and is something of a perfect example when it comes to explaining why the 2023 Dead Space remake is just so good.
In the 2023 release, Isaac doesn’t just stand there idly taking orders; Isaac is the one to suggest the components needed to craft a makeshift explosive. This decision, however minor it might seem, brings his true character – something only Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3 players have really experienced – into this first chapter and makes you really care about him. Not only this, but it adds another level of realism to everything – as Isaac is able to showcase his expertise as an engineer.
Then, you get to the task of actually collecting the Shock Pad and explosive tank. In the Dead Space remake, you’re afforded the freedom to approach these two objectives in any order – and you can even head back to the Hangar if you want to explore. Motive Studio has opened up the USG Ishimura in an incredible way. It has removed loading screens, improved the map UI to help navigation, and peppered in some side quests to encourage back-tracking and exploration. Even if you’re sticking to the main story, the Dead Space remake is deeper and more complex than the original.
Fighting your way through necromorphs is as satisfying as it has always been and you shouldn’t worry about the Dead Space remake losing its charm in that respect. This game does feel refreshed when it comes to gameplay, but the core mechanics remain unchanged and Motive Studio has managed to perfectly preserve the experience of stomping on necromorphs and slicing off arms with a Plasma Cutter. The new Dead Space remake Intensity Director introduced by Motive Studio also builds on each combat encounter to ensure that you never quite feel relaxed while playing. From a racing heartbeat interrupting quieter moments to empty exploding vents, you can’t help but always be on your toes – even when you’re convinced you’re alone.
When you eventually get around to going after the Shock Pad, you’re met with one of Motive Studio’s new gameplay mechanics – something I wasn’t sure Dead Space needed until I experienced it. In this section, you come across a Circuit Breaker. Using these, you can choose which “systems” to power. In this case, you essentially swap the power from the Shock Pad itself – so you can pick it up – to the doors, so you can escape with it. However, in other instances, you’ll find that you’re able to choose between having the lights powered on or the life support systems online – a choice that boils down to deciding whether you want to be scared of necromorphs in the dark, or scared of running out of oxygen.
It’s another minor addition to the overall experience that completely changes how you approach certain situations and gives you more agency than ever before.
It’s also worth mentioning that when you get back to the barricade with both components and assemble your makeshift explosive, you’re able to move Isaac to a safe distance behind a barrier before you detonate it. This really is a minor change, but it’s a perfect illustration of how Motive Studio has really thought about everything when it comes to creating a truly exceptional experience.
I know all of the above is talking quite specifically about one particular gameplay sequence, but the improvements made – and the quality of these improvements – are consistent throughout the entire experience.
Every single environment has also been improved. Whether Motive Studio has simply added more furnishings to an office, or completely redesigned the layout of a sequence of corridors, the USG Ishimura is far more engaging than it once was – and it’s still a terrifying ship to be stranded on.
Not only this, but the storytelling in the Dead Space remake is far more sophisticated than what you’re met with in the 2008 release. With new side quests used to flesh out secondary characters and completely new conversations (now that Isaac can actually get involved in them), there’s so much more to learn about the crew of the USG Kellion – the ship you arrive on – and the USG Ishimura. You can’t help but become more emotionally invested in everything going on, more connected to Isaac’s experiences than ever before, and more desperate to find out what happens next. The major story beats might be the same, but Motive Studio has made Dead Space feel like a brand new game.
However, the developers shouldn’t quite get all the credit for that. Everyone on the Dead Space remake voice actors cast list does a fantastic job of bringing these established characters to life in a new way and Gunner Wright’s return after a decade away is truly wonderful.
Whether you’re a long-time fan of the franchise, or someone who’s never played a videogame in their life, I implore you to play the Dead Space remake. It offers up an exceptional experience that builds on one of the best horror games out there to deliver something truly special. We just need to hope we’re lucky enough to see Motive Studio take on Dead Space 2 and 3 as well.