Dead Space remake review: the godfather of horror shows how it’s done
Horror fans have been eating well over the past six months. In addition to space horror, The Callisto Protocol, upcoming slasher Slitterhead and the Resident Evil remake, there’s almost too much to choose from. However, Glen Schofield is a master of the genre, so if you’re going to choose one, choose the Dead Space remake.
This retooled version of the original classic takes all the best elements of the original and upgrades them, making (if possible) for a better playing experience than before.
As in the original, Dead Space follows engineer Isaac Clarke. He’s on the hunt for his missing partner Nicole — and his search takes him all the way to the USG Ishimura. This is a mining rig that has been invaded by a certain kind of deep-space nasty, the Necromorphs.
Given that this is a horror game (arguably, the iconic horror game which set the pattern for all games to follow), does it succeed in scaring the pants off you? Absolutely.
The Necromorph invasion is evident in every room of the Ishimura; whether that’s the grim, fleshy growths on the ship’s walls, the dead crew members, or the full-on monsters made from necrotic tissue. Wielding their classic spike hands, they’re a terrifying foe — especially given that the lighting on the Ishimura is prone to cutting out and leaving the player stranded in almost complete darkness. This is a problem, because players will be exploring every inch of the ship over the course of the game, doing everything from defeating the monster blocking the comms systems, to looking in dark corners for the remains of the crew.
In addition to the spike-handed Slashers (which can vomit acid), you’ll also face off against improved foes such as Twitchers, whose blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moves make them a nightmare to aim at. All of them are tough foes, requiring literal limb-from-limb dismemberment before you can be certain that they’ve been defeated.
To take them out, Isaac will have to rely on his trusty plasma cutter and repurposed mining tools — though over the course of the game, he’ll gradually acquire some nifty new weapons that were much harder to use in the original and have been streamlined somewhat here.
These include his line gun (which also can be upgraded to shoot flames), the visceral Ripper (which lets you saw enemies to death) and the Contact Beam, aka a super-powerful handheld laser. Pretty much all of them can be upgraded during the game, too, either by finding the spare parts hidden around the ship or by purchasing them from in-game Stores — which makes for a pleasingly varied combat experience.
However, the best thing about Dead Space is that it’s not just a remake. Yes, the graphics have been beautifully upgraded — every dent on the Ishimura is lovingly rendered, and the Necromorphs are spilling guts and gore all over the place.
But the game’s developers have also gone out of their way to enrich the storytelling experience, adding new video logs that trace Nicole’s last moments aboard the Ishimura. Isaac also gets some much-needed character development by actually talking; reacting to the insanity unfolding around him and panicking in a very relatable way (for context, he barely does more than grunt in the original).
Special mention must also be given to the jaw-dropping, zero-gravity sequence, where Isaac must navigate deep space with nothing but the thrusters on his suit to repair the Ishimura’s asteroid defences. It’s a gorgeous scene that really shows off what modern video games can do, as well as providing a brief moment of respite from the never-ending horror happening inside.
This game isn’t for everyone. Those who baulk at jump scares, the sight of people being torn limb-from-limb or a general mood of creeping dread, will find plenty to hate here.
But for horror fans, that’s all part of the fun. And there’s something rather satisfying in knowing that the godfather of horror games is still showing others how to do it right. Welcome back, Dead Space. We’ve missed you.
Dead Space is available on PlayStation5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC for £79.99