Review: 'Dead Space' remake gets everything right

Dead Space remake updates the classic game perfectly. — Electronic Arts/TNS

The original "Dead Space" is 15 years old. It arrived two console generations ago, back in PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 times, long before the hyper-realistic, immersive visuals of the current era. But even back then, the game was ahead of its time.

You realize that early in the "Dead Space" remake, which was released last month. Naturally, the game’s been given an huge ultra-high-definition coat of paint, and the end result looks visually arresting. But only slight tweaks to the game have come other than that – and that’s in large part because the original "Dead Space" still holds up today.

The game starts as it always has. You’re playing as Isaac Clarke, and you’re headed to the USG Ishimura, a mining ship, to handle some repairs. Except when you and your tiny crew dock quickly realize that something’s wrong. The game ramps up quickly from there, and then it’s a lot of Isaac exploring and surviving on the lifeless Ishimura, finding survivors and unraveling the mystery of what left the ship in shambles, the Necromorphs.

The story itself is well-written and holds up tremendously today. It sees a few tweaks too. The core tweak comes to Isaac. In the original game, he was a silent protagonist. Two follow-up titles, "Dead Space 2" and "Dead Space 3," saw him fully voiced – and in this remake, he’s fully voiced, too. This creates a stronger feedback loop and more fleshed-out conversations between Clarke and the crew of the USG Kellion, the repair ship that arrives at the Ishimura.

It also opens the door for more character development from those who are in constant communication with Isaac. His computer specialist, Kendra Daniels, feels a lot more alive and three-dimensional in this remake. Clarke’s personality manages to not take away from the mystery of exploring the ship, too.

That’s partly because the creep factor of "Dead Space" is still ever-present. Developer Motive Studios does a splendid job of delivering terrifically remade visuals, but it retains the structure and feel of almost every area in tremendous detail. So you’ll still race down a hall, unsure what’s coming next, after first discovering the Necromorphs, and all your key battles remain terrifying. The game also retains its HUD-less feel; your energy readouts all are placed directly on Isaac’s back. Add in the almost-complete-absence of load times, and the new "Dead Space" continually has your attention.

None of this feels dated, and that’s for two key reasons. First off, Motive incorporates many of the upgrades that came to gameplay in "Dead Space 2" and "3," making anti-gravity sections more immersive and natural. Your main weapons have also been revised slightly, with tweaked upgrades to several of them. This gives you more to fight off the Necromorphs, although you never feel overpowering against them.

The second reason the game doesn’t feel dated: Your methods of attacking the Necromorphs were always ahead of their time. Head shots have never been the main course of action in "Dead Space"; as you learn early on, you need to shoot off Necromorphs’ limbs. This system of dismemberment was always incredibly fun; here, with upgraded visuals and more responsive weapons, it’s even more satisfying. The Necromorphs look the part too, keeping you that much more immersed in your enemies.

The end result is the finest way to experience the original "Dead Space." And, 15 years after its release, "Dead Space" remains a game that everyone should play. That’s what happens when a game arrives ahead of its time: It can thrive two full console generations later. – New York Daily News/Tribune News Service

Dead Space

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on PlayStation 5

Platform: Available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC

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