Dead Space Review – Look Behind You

January 27, 2023

The original Dead Space from 2008 is fondly remembered by horror fans, as it kick-started a multi-media franchise from EA that felt like a spin on Alien and 2001, while adding enough of its own horrific ideas to make a special kind of sci-fi terror. For a time there were games, animated movies, spin-off games, but it all came to screeching halt with the action-focused Dead Space 3, which while containing some interesting ideas, underperformed critically and commercially. However, now Motive Studio, with clear love for the original game have remade the title using the modern Frostbite engine, with 2023’s Dead Space looking as pristinely gruesome as you’d expect.

As it was the first time around, Dead Space follows engineer Isaac as he and his team arrive on board the USG Ishimura, a mining vessel. They’ve been sent to investigate the ship suddenly going quiet, which is of particular concern to Isaac as his girlfriend, Nicole, is meant to be on board. Of course, it’s no surprise to anyone who follows the sci-fi horror genre that the Ishimura may have found something, which has unleashed a plague of deformed mutating monsters on the ship, which Isaac and the rescue crew find they suddenly have to deal with, if they ever want to escape with their lives. Motive have kept the main narrative largely unchanged in Dead Space, with the same beats and set pieces found in the original, but they have found ways to expand in some areas or switch things up in others. Whereas before you might have had a distant view of a horrible mutation, now it’ll occur in a horrifying cinematic close-up as Isaac scrambles to get away. Isaac, who was mute in the first game, now has new dialogue and the same voice actor from the other games, although his appearance has changed to match the actor better. Other characters look different now too, both major and minor, but never to any detriment to the narrative or atmosphere, which are only highlighted with the new elements added.

Frostbite can make some pretty games, and Dead Space is no exception, with detailed models and textures, immersive lighting effects, ever-present fog filling the various rooms of the Ishimura as well as new objects and details to flesh out the environments. I was able to recognise all the major environments, despite my last playthrough being a decade ago, and it ultimately does feel like how you remember the original game being. Even if the visuals are vastly updated, I think that’s the sign of a good remake.

Most of the horror in Dead Space comes from the Necromorphs, twisted versions of dead crew members who stalk corridors with elongated limbs, tentacles and tails. The key thing they all share are clear connective weak points – like arms or legs – which become your target in combat, as severing these is the only way to stop their rapid approach and allow you to put them down for good. This still feels good, there’s a perverse grotesque satisfaction with dismembering the Necromorphs, and enemy types get changed up just frequently enough to keep you on your toes, from speedy baby-sized projectile vomiters to crawling shorter abominations. A new ‘Intensity Director’ is meant to dynamically influence enemy encounters and horror elements to continually surprise the player, but to be honest, I felt like every time I came across a baddie I knew that one would be instantly spawning behind me as well as the ‘scare’. Not that it was diminishingly scary, thanks to continually good use of dramatic string music, but it did mean many Necromorph encounters could get repetitive.

There are other changes from the original, including an updated upgrade system that retains the same basic structure of the original – allowing you to allocate ‘nodes’ found around the ship to slots on your suits or weapons – but adds a few more options and a bit more weight to every decision, by making sure every slot used has a definite bonus. There are new alt-fire modes on weapons to make them more useful in combat, and rather than locking sections of the ship behind narrative chapters, you’re free to go back and forth between areas using the ship’s tram system. It’s up to you whether backtracking is worth the hassle of dealing with enemies, but you’ll come across many locked doors and lockers during your journey that you won’t have the clearance for until later in the game, requiring thorough exploration of the ship after the fact. Zero-G sections are also made a lot more interactive (if a little more confusing) with the addition of free roaming jets, which is a feature that wasn’t added into the series until its sequels. While there is the same save system, with stations around the ship you also won’t be sent back too far if you die in an encounter, with checkpoints along the way.

The overall experience closely matches the original, just with certain areas expanded upon to better fit the rest of the franchise, as well as updates to gameplay to modernise everything. More than anything else, it just feels good to return to the look and feel of Dead Space, even if it is a story that’s familiar to fans, from the crunchy satisfaction of dealing with Necromorphs, to the Ishimiura’s grandiose techy designs, which are made even more grandiose with Frostbite’s new lighting and effects. While enemy encounters themselves can feel a little repetitive, despite the efforts of the Intensity Director, it’s nonetheless great to get back into Isaac’s overly complicated armour, in a cracking remake of a horror classic.

This review is based on  PC code provided by the publisher.


- Incredible visual update - it looks like how you remember Dead Space, even if side-by-side it's clearly leaps ahead - Tight horror experience, with plenty of scares and tense decisions throughout - Clearly made with love for the original, and changes expand rather than detract


- Enemy encounters can get repetitive, as the 'Intensity Director' seems to just like to spawn enemies behind you every time you meet one ahead

Overall Score: