Dead Space Review on PS5
Launched into the cold expanse of the cosmos back in 2008, Visceral Games’ limb-slicing, blood-drenched IP Dead Space turned heads and stomachs. It went on to spawn a multimedia franchise that spans a trilogy of core video games, a handful of spinoffs, a bunch of comic books, and even a potential movie adaptation that’s rumored to be in the works. Fast forward to today, and we now have a from-the-ground-up Dead Space remake spearheaded by Canadian developer, Motive Studio.
But does this latest reimagining deserve to be blown out of a goddamn airlock or is it something truly special? Rejoice, Dead Space stans! This is one trip back to the USG Ishimura, you’re not gonna want to miss.
Set in the distant future of 2508, Dead Space centers on a small maintenance team aboard a rescue ship dubbed the USG Kellion, who have been called in to answer the distress beacon of a large mining vessel known as the USG Ishimura. You assume the role of Isaac Clarke (a knowing nod to two of sci-fi’s most accomplished authors: Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke), who is essentially an interstellar mechanic with a proclivity for repairing communication arrays. Thing is, all communications with the Planet Cracker-class ship have been lost, and it soon becomes clear that something more sinister is afoot.
Not only are there very few survivors on board, but the majority of the crew you do meet have been transformed into undead monsters called Necromorphs, who have a penchant for eating peoples’ faces off. These spindly monstrosities boast sharp appendages and pointy forelimbs, and it’s here where the game begins to set itself apart from other survival horror titles of its ilk, like Resident Evil et al.
See, those aforementioned pointy limbs need to be strategically sliced off to put the undead beasts six feet under as quickly as possible, and you’re going to want to be doing this, especially when you’ve been ambushed by half a dozen of the deadly critters in a room the size of a telephone box. As a result, that age ol’ instinct of “aim for the head” is rendered moot as you begin to unlearn some of your traditional aiming methodologies and lean into more strategic dismemberment.
This works really well as not only does it make the moment-to-moment combat more unique, but it’s a system that has a big impact on both the gameplay and the overall visual design of the nightmarish enemies. Seriously, I’m happy to report that those Necromorphs still look absolutely terrifying (more on this later).
Moving onto the weaponry, then, and it’s safe to say that Motive Studio has attempted to shake things up here. While the Flamethrower was largely disparaged by the Dead Space community for being hopelessly underpowered in the original iteration of the game, it’s been reworked in this remake and is possibly one of the most dominant guns in your arsenal. Meanwhile, the Force Gun is also a bit of a beast and is so powerful that it even strips away the skin of the Necromorphs, which is truly a grisly sight to behold. Of course, the tried-and-true Plasma Cutter is still as effective as ever as you switch between a horizontal or vertical laser bolt and shred Necromorph limbs from their body. Fun times!
Further deepening the mechanics of combat is an upgrade system that you can employ to boost the various attributes of your arsenal. Instead of simply accentuating the damage output of said weapons, there are also a plethora of bespoke upgrades for each gun that adds a distinctive trait to your armaments, and these are all new additions in this remake. For instance, an Angled Launcher can be installed onto your Ripper, which adds an additional ricochet to your blades, while a Kinetic Reloader can be equipped onto your Pulse Rifle, which greatly increases the gun’s rate of fire. In addition, upgrading your suit’s HP, armor, and oxygen are also surefire ways to stay ahead of the curve, especially as the game starts throwing progressively more powerful adversaries at you in the latter half of the roughly 15-hour campaign.
Outside of Isaac Clarke’s traditional armaments, you’ll also have access to a Kinesis module that allows you to manipulate objects by pulling them towards you or pushing them away from you in Jedi-esque style. Similarly, you’ll also pick up a Stasis module early on the journey that you can use to slow down time for a short window. While these are used sparingly in some environmental puzzles, what’s really cool is that they’re also really effective in combat as well. The strategic dismemberment, Kinesis module, and Stasis module all coalesce together and make for some of the most chaotic and nerve-racking second-to-second horror-action, well…. ever.
Furthermore, much like the original, the interior sci-fi setting of the Ishimura oozes atmosphere in its claustrophobic passageways, blood-splattered medical bays, abandoned research stations, and dilapidated living chambers. Likewise, it’s also a trip relishing those rare moments when you get to venture out into the zero gravity of space. These exterior moments have the potential to really take your breath away, especially if you’re a fan of the genre, like yours truly. Now, let’s really dig into the nuts and bolts of this reimagining and discuss what sets it apart from its predecessor.
There’s been a lot of chatter about some of the changes that the developer has made with this remake, especially in regards to Isaac’s pivot to a voiced role, as the original title, on the other hand, featured a silent protagonist. Let me assuage your fears right now: Motive Studio has done a great job at fleshing out the narrative of the original in meaningful and respectful ways, and this stems a lot from the new dialogue and side stories that have been introduced in this remake.
Not only is Isaac a more believable character, with a little more nuance and personality, but the cast of individuals around him is noticeably more developed. Moreover, if you’re a Dead Space fan, there are a lot of extra details that you’ll likely appreciate that help to explain why Isaac Clarke has to get from point A to point B. What’s more, certain side characters, like Dr. Elizabeth Cross – who you only really read about in the original game – get a little more time in the spotlight as she’s a fully-voiced and more pronounced character this time around.
Make no mistake, however: Dead Space is almost structurally identical to its predecessor, but this time, you’re privy to a more fleshed-out and nuanced story, a few extra bells and whistles combat-wise, some re-worked puzzles, and a few re-designed jump scares. Additionally, backtracking is even more viable now, as you can use the tram system to fast travel to previous locales, unlike in the first game. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shoutout to the John Carpenter-esque horror score, which is an eerie delight. Really, the overall audio design is simply pitch-perfect as some of these iconic sound effects will truly make your hair stand on end.
Of course, this is all wrapped up in a buttery smooth 60fps and a 4K resolution that will make your eyes pop out of your head. That being said, it’s probably worth mentioning that if I was to put the recently released The Callisto Protocol in a head-to-head battle with Dead Space, I’d say that Striking Distance Studios’ underperforming sci-fi horror may just edge it by a hair’s breadth from a visual standpoint. From an everything-else standpoint, though, it’s clear who the real winner would be.
Still, while my haunting journey through the Ishimura was largely a bug-free experience, there were a couple of very minor niggly bugs that did rear their head. For instance, at one point, Isaac got stuck in a door and took damage for seemingly no reason and, in addition, I had to reload my game because the camera ostensibly froze in place. Honestly, these moments were negligible, but I felt like they were worth mentioning nonetheless.
Taken as a whole, though, Motive Studio’s Dead Space remake is an unmitigated success that builds upon its predecessor’s story in small yet meaningful ways. It both looks and sounds phenomenal, and the Necromorphs at the heart of the horror-action still remain one of the medium’s most bone-chilling adversaries ever. It’s been a long time coming, but Dead Space is finally back… to make us whole again.
- Thrilling combat with unique dismemberment mechanics.
- The Necromorphs are still terrifying.
- The USG Ishimura oozes atmosphere.
- Incredible audio design.
- More fleshed out story.
- Very minor bugs here and there.
Jan. 27, 2023
PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC