14 years is a long time in the video games industry, yet it still doesn’t feel like quite long enough for EA’s Dead Space. The original 2008 game is a modern classic that holds up exceedingly well by today’s standards. There’s very little that feels dated about its design, and the strategic dismemberment that forms the basis of its combat still offers a unique and gory thrill that’s yet to be replicated. The remake’s leap in graphical fidelity breathes new life into its stifling horror, but public discourse has centered on whether it really needs to exist in the first place. That might be a cynical viewpoint, but it’s no less valid. And after reaching the end credits myself, I’m still not entirely convinced it needs to either, yet I’m extremely happy it does. Remaking Dead Space in 2023 may not feel especially necessary, but EA Motive has crafted a game that manages to improve upon its excellent progenitor in a variety of ways–even if only marginally so.
These improvements begin with its story, which has been expanded via a number of alterations to both its characters and storytelling. The basic beats that make up the original game’s narrative remain intact, starting with your fateful arrival on the USG Ishimura. After responding to a distress signal, you find the hulking planet cracker-class ship floating lifelessly above the planet of Aegis VII. Once on board, things take a familiar sharp turn downhill, but now once-silent protagonist Isaac Clarke has been given a voice to react appropriately. I’m generally not a fan of silent protagonists, although there’s always a danger of vocal characters being overly chatty, especially in a horror game where atmosphere and tension are so delicate. Thankfully, that’s not the case here, and Isaac’s newfound agency makes him feel less like a simple tool to be ordered around. Actor Gunner Wright reprises the role after bringing Isaac to life in Dead Space’s sequels, so there’s a level of continuity here that’s also reflected in other aspects of the remake’s design.
Much of the script has been rewritten to accommodate Isaac’s speech, and the tale it weaves is still engaging. The church of Unitology–a cultish religious sect that plays a significant role in the Dead Space universe–is much more prominent this time around, especially early on. Characters mention the infamous church in a way that feels natural, discussing the sect before they’re aware of just how substantial its impact will be on future events. Kendra Daniels–one of Isaac’s colleagues and your main point of contact throughout the game–has also been rewritten in a manner that elevates the remake. Previously she was prickly and leaned into some needlessly antagonistic behavior, but she’s now been transformed into an empathetic character, which pays off down the line in a more effective way than before.
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