When EA and the now disbanded Visceral Games (then called EA Redwood Shores) unleashed Dead Space onto the world, they delivered a modern masterpiece of the survival horror genre. From its unique brand of cosmic horror that was legitimately scary as hell to the great gameplay and lore it established, Dead Space totally won the horror fan base over and kicked off a legacy not seen since Resident Evil. Now, with EA Motive, the studio behind Star Wars: Squadrons, taking the reins of the franchise, Dead Space returns in grand fashion after over a decade of being dormant.
With how Dead Space has been totally left behind as a franchise ever since Dead Space 3 left fans mixed, it’s incredibly refreshing to see the original’s tense and frightening world reimagined and revamped. Motive didn’t just put a fresh coat of paint on their remake and call it a day. Instead, they’ve totally modernized the original’s story and experience.
In terms of the game’s atmosphere, Motive goes to great lengths to add some good polish and grime to the world of Dead Space. The distinctive sound design and unsettling environment of the original is upgraded with higher-quality background noise and lighting effects that make for a nerve-shredding setting. The echoey feel of walking around the desolate space craft makes players cautious about turning every corner and enemies are always lurking in the shadows where players won’t expect them.
It’s even great how Motive never makes players feel safe as they’re open to attacks even when standing at the upgrade bench or store. So, there’s never a clear escape and players will always have to be completely aware of their surroundings. It’s a horror environment that not only preys upon the player’s fears of being hunted and under intense watch, but also is just stunning to look at. Motive has brought the Dead Space franchise into the modern visual landscape of gaming, and it makes things way more terrifying. There’s an intensely dark feel to every part of this game and exploring open space has never felt more chilling. Even the gruesome death scenes players will encounter if they’re not careful are gorier, more brutal, and nastier than ever.
The iconic Necromorph enemies, human corpses mutated through an unknown alien infection, are also given noticeable improvements in look and design. The improved graphics definitely make their character designs more grotesque and distinct. They’re definitely smarter with how even the common Nercromorphs can easily sneak up on players and they use the shadows well to deliver surprise attacks from afar. The game, as a whole, honestly feels a little tougher and it makes for a more rewarding challenge for players who have become pros at the original. Thankfully though, Motive has also revamped Dead Space’s gameplay experience without reinventing the wheel.
Personally, the original doesn’t show its age much with how good the gameplay still feels to play and smooth the experience is. Motive clearly felt the same way when designing the remake’s gameplay as it hasn’t changed much. Sure, the framerate and feel are highly improved, but with this remake coming two console generations after the original, that should be a given. Dead Space’s third-person combat feels just as good as the original and for longtime fans it’ll really feel like jumping back on the saddle, which is exactly how it should be for a remake. All the excellent guns from the original return and are given some interesting changes that work surprisingly well.
The entire library of guns from the original reappears in the remake, but in a different way. Instead of buying most of the guns from the store, players will actually pick them up one by one as they naturally progress through the story. So, money doesn’t have to be wasted on grabbing new guns and this new way of earning guns fits more into Motive’s vision of making the experience more cohesive. Some of the guns also come with new alt-fires that are honestly way better than their previous incarnations. The Pulse Rifle’s secondary now fires a proximity mine that can decimate groups of enemies with one blast and the Flamethrower’s alt-fire now sprouts a flame wall that helps engulfs enemies, especially brutes if you use statis to freeze him in place. The Plasma Cutter is still the GOAT weapon though and is one of the ways that things staying mostly the same shows the timelessness of the original.
Weapon upgrades also take new form with players finding schematics for upgrading parts for each gun along their journey. Players will still use nodes they collect to upgrade different aspects of the gun, but finding schematics will open the upgrade map for each gun, meaning that players can further upgrade their guns. They can even earn special attachments that heavily improve key aspects of combat with that gun. It’s a good reimagining of the upgrade system of the original that fits better into the more exploratory feel of the remake.
Motive has essentially made the remake have some open-world aspects to it with the level of free roaming that players can experience. Through the tram system, players can freely go to different parts of the Ishimura whenever they want after experiencing a part of the main story there. Motive has also added some real reasons to want to return to old areas that reward players both physically and narratively. By gaining security clearance in main story progression, players can access new rooms that contain more supplies for survival as well as audio and text logs that flesh out the story. Newly added side-missions also help flesh out the story as they help show players the origins of one of the toughest enemy types and what Nicole Brennan (voiced by Tanya Clarke), the girlfriend of main protagonist Isaac Clarke (voiced by Gunner Wright), was up to during all the chaos.
One of the best things that Motive does in improving Dead Space’s experience though is changing the zero-gravity sequences. Before, zero-gravity in the original was essentially pointing and clicking to different walls. It was certainly archaic at the time and made combat tougher in these sequences for no reason. What Motive does to improve zero-gravity is just *chef’s kiss* as it offers much more mobility for movement and combat. In zero-gravity, players have complete freedom in how they want to traverse open space and it makes flying around not only fun, but more fitting for Necromorphs flying around the room. It’s a great way that the modern vision for this remake shows and there’s no doubt that Motive’s time making Squadron’s influenced this form of zero-gravity.
The remake’s story will likely be the most surprising aspect for fans though as there are some noticeable changes that actually improve the narrative. For the most part, the story of engineer Isaac Clark being stranded on a giant planet-cracker ship that’s gone to hell after a wider conspiracy and mysterious infection spread to the entire crew stays the same. The shocking moments and horrifying twists still land perfectly and there’s even an alternate ending players can find that suggest maybe another entry could be in the works. However, there are some pretty substantial changes that make for a better flow in the story and help fill some of the gaps of the original.
First and foremost, the character redesigns and new voice cast are great in having the spirit of the original while providing a new look. With Isaac actually being able to speak in this remake, unlike the original, you get his actual perspective on what’s happening, and his voice helps make him go from mission to mission more realistic. It simply offers better reasoning for him to be doing what he does, and you can’t help but love the badass attitude he has of wanting to jump into the action. The story does take different routes in getting through each section and even the story beats of secondary characters can change. It’s pretty great how they bring characters who were originally left in voice or text logs into the forefront of the story and utilized to help give the storytelling a better flow. Motive really provides an excellent retelling of this story that’s still an instant classic and packages it together in a more refreshing and engaging way.
Capcom set a new gold standard for remakes with Resident Evil 2 back in 2019 and EA and Motive have somehow surpassed that high bar. Dead Space is an improvement on the already great original in every technical and narrative aspect while also being a blast to play. Whether you’re a long time fan ready to jump back into a new and improved classic or someone ready to see what Dead Space is all about, this remake is the perfect way to get your survival horror fix. Who knows, maybe we’ll even see the return of the Dead Space franchise in a new light.