Dead Space (2023) Review | What Modern Action Horror Should Be

Dead Space (2023) is remarkable as it manages to establish itself as a brand-new experience while staying meticulously true to the original.

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The original Dead Space was such a good game that to this day, I genuinely believe that it is the best unofficial video game adaptation of Ridley Scott’s Alien. It is up there with one of the best sci-fi action horror games ever made. 

When it comes to remakes, a lot of the discourse revolves around “does the game really need it?” The initial answer in my mind was absolutely not. The first Dead Space aged phenomenally well and it’s a testament to how talented the folks were at Visceral Games. Given how rough Dead Space 3 was for the franchise, I was initially skeptical about how EA was going to handle the IP again.

However, Motive Studio did something remarkable with the Dead Space remake. They managed to take what was already a nearly perfect experience and show everyone just how much better it can be. Other than getting a whole new modern makeover, the Dead Space remake features a number of additional content that fits so perfectly into what was already established. 

What makes Dead Space (2023) so remarkable is that it manages to establish itself as a brand-new experience while staying meticulously true to the original. You can tell just how much passion was poured into making sure this was done right. This is one of the best remakes ever done and it also might just be one of the better things to come out of the Dead Space franchise. 

Fresh faces, familiar spaces

Dead Space is a science-fiction horror video game that follows the story of gaming’s unluckiest engineer named Isaac Clarke, who joins a mission to investigate a distress signal on a mining ship called the USG Ishimura. Upon arrival, Isaac discovers that the ship has been overrun by grotesque alien creatures known as Necromorphs

As Isaac navigates through the ship, he must fight off hordes of Necromorphs and uncover the truth behind the events that led to the ship’s downfall. As the story unfolds, Isaac must confront his own demons and the darkness within himself. The game’s plot is a thrilling ride from start to finish filled with intense horror and action.

One of the biggest changes in the remake is that Isaac Clarke isn’t a silent protagonist anymore. I was so glad to find out that the excellent Gunner Wright returns to give yet another amazing performance as Isaac. Motive Studio even went as far as to use his whole likeness which is just so great to see in-game. It was so nice to finally know just how Isaac reacts in the first few hours of the game when everything is in chaos. He’s not just someone that people boss around to fix stuff. He has his own personality, feelings, and opinions that bounce off well with the other characters. 

Speaking of which, the crew Isaac is with also gets a bit of a makeover in terms of their character arcs and personalities. I won’t speak about it too much but know that they’re now more likable compared to their original iterations. All performances across the board are great with even the main villain being more of a significant presence. 

The story moves at a really strong pace having the perfect mix of adrenaline, tension, and horror. There is quite a number of backtracking to fix this and get that and push this button type of beat. But the core gameplay loop and structure that surrounds the story is just so finely crafted that it was easy to forgive some of the more tedious aspects. 

A horrific sight to see

The Dead Space remake looks absolutely fantastic. Every corner of the Ishimura screams atmosphere with highly detailed environments, some of the best lighting systems in the business, and impactful imagery that tells so much of what terrible things might have happened before you stumbled upon it. 

Exploring the different areas in the game had me at the edge of my seat at any given moment. This is because literally, anything can happen from anywhere. A monster can burst out of nowhere, a distant loud noise, an electrical fuse randomly blowing up, etc. all came so naturally that it really forced me to think that I was almost never safe. This was a feeling I sorely missed with modern AAA horror titles. 

The sound design is bone-crunchingly astounding in every sense of the word. From the sense of weight you get from Isaac stomping around with his iconic engineer suit to the subtle noises that echo through the ship’s empty halls all add so much to the immersion factor. Use the best headsets or speakers you have because this game is an auditory treat. 

And stay dead

Exploration feels great here. Walking around Ishimura and discovering every nook and cranny was something I never got bored of. The Dead Space remake definitely rewards the curious as going off the beaten path can merit significant rewards for upgrades and extra gear to help Isaac along the journey. 

The visually striking zero-g sequences are now more expansive bringing them closer to what it was like in the Dead Space sequels. Flying through space debris never gets old. Hearing how the sound drowns out while you glide your way through making sure you still have oxygen in the tank is an unmatched feeling in sci-fi gaming. And up until someone releases a well-made Iron Man game, this is the next best thing.

There’s also the interesting inclusion of side quests which further explores some of the more cryptic parts of the original game. For example, we can actually see more of what happened to Isaac’s girlfriend, Nicole during the initial fall of the Ishimura. Again, I won’t go into specifics but just know that these side missions feel so natural in their integration with the main plot and they also give fantastic rewards. Don’t miss out on any of them. 

Combat is equally of high quality in the Dead Space remake. Killing necromorphs has never looked and felt this good. All of the weapons in Isaac’s arsenal pack a satisfying punch from the iconic plasma cutter to the more eccentric ripper. 

The best way to deal with the enemies is to “cut off their limbs” and even then, the image of a creature crawling its way to you because you’ve chopped off its legs is something that has been engraved in my mind ever since the 2008 original. With modern technology, you can see more clearly how an enemy is reduced from bloody muscles to just pure bone and they still keep on coming. The level of visual feedback and in-game physics the combat system of Dead Space remake has is so impressive. 

You could be aiming at one corridor and suddenly, an enemy will come out of a vent that’s above or behind you. It’s these types of random encounters that feels so curated to make sure that the player is always on their toes. Every trigger pulled is a prayer that any of the enemies can stay down. Additionally, the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers from the DualSense controller add a welcome layer of gameplay feedback that further enhances the experience.

Final verdict – 9.5/10

The Dead Space remake is undoubtedly the definitive way to experience Visceral Games’ action horror classic. EA Motive has gone above and beyond to make sure that the core experience of the original masterpiece remains intact while adding their own improvements that make it all so much better. 

I’m interested to see how the studio will tackle the excellent Dead Space 2 and the love-it-or-hate-it Dead Space 3. This is one of my favorite gaming franchises of all time and I’m so glad to see it all come back into the spotlight. 

This review was made via a PS5 game code provided by the publisher.