Dead Space Remake Review

Converging onto current-gen consoles and PC

By Paul Hunter

Back in 2008, my all-time favourite horror game franchises had remained remarkably consistent for years: Resident Evil for its thrilling gameplay and lore, Silent Hill for its unsettling psychological terror, and Fatal Frame for its excellent use of Japanese supernatural horror elements. The came along came Dead Space from EA Redwood Shores (later renamed Visceral Studios) and it immediately earned a spot on my 'greatest of all time' list.

Dead Space hooked me with its incredible mix of atmosphere on the dying USG Ishimura, intriguing and disturbing lore, terrifying Necromorphs and my favourite weapon arsenal ever in a horror game. And now, with the release of the highly anticipated Dead Space remake for PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC, it's time to re-experience the spine-chilling terror and heart-pounding action with a fresh coat of paint and numerous enhancements. Strap in and let's get this horror show underway, here are four things I liked about the game...and one I didn't.

Liked: Expanded Lore

A few years ago, the remakes of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 brilliantly proved that classic horror games could be brought to modern consoles with the right adjustments. Given the high quality of EA Motive's Dead Space remake, I can easily see this game being used as another prime example of how to correctly revive older titles.

To be clear, Dead Space is not a reboot, but a straight remake that sticks mainly to the winning formula of the previous game, albeit with some excellent tweaks to improve the experience. I was genuinely impressed with how faithful the story is to the original while simultaneously adding subtle elements to draw you even deeper into the game's lore.

Like before, we step into the space boots of ship engineer Isaac Clarke who, as part of a small reconnaissance team, heads out to the huge mining spaceship USG Ishimura to discover why communications aren't being returned. Just minutes on the ship and all hell breaks loose as bloodthirsty Necromorphs—hideous creatures comprised of dead matter—attack the team. Separated and alone, Isaac's goal becomes clear: Do whatever it takes to get the heck off this death trap ship. But before his escape, Isaac is compelled to locate his girlfriend Nicole, a respected doctor on the Ishimura.

I was pleased to see that the game's story has not only been accurately recreated but arguably improved as Gunner Wright reprises his role as Isaac Clark and this time is fully voiced. Isaac's appearance has been altered to more closely resemble Wright and you now get to see his face quite a few times in cutscenes where he removes his iconic engineer helmet. In the original game, Isaac was a silent hero, which was common at the time and worked, but I found the remake's talkative reimagining of Isaac to be more believable and layered, ultimately enriching his harrowing story.

The remake also features new content that expands upon the world and story of the game. For example, you can now explore a few previously inaccessible areas of the USG Ishimura, and there are new audio logs and items to discover that add depth to the game's lore. There are also three completely new side quests, mostly having Isaac move around the ship locating audio logs, that shed new insight into key crew members. For the courageous souls out there, if you beat Dead Space for a second time on the harder New Game+ mode, you can even find Marker Fragments that unlock an alternative secret ending that clearly sets the sequel's events in motion.

Liked: Excellent Graphics and Audio Design

If the original game was graphically stunning for its time, this remake tops it in every respect. The remake takes full advantage of current-gen hardware capabilities to deliver an incredibly detailed and realistic experience. From the dark and eerie atmosphere of the USG Ishimura to the grotesque and terrifying Necromorphs, the game's visuals are far more detailed. I was particularly impressed with the improved lighting and shadows that make areas in the Ishimura really pop while also ratcheting up the game's tension.

The revamped enemy designs look amazing, whether that's the common Slashers with their bone blade hands or the fearsome monstrosities like the limb-regenerating Hunter. Dead Space's signature limb-severing gameplay returns, but this time you get to see your gun blast tear apart the flesh, muscles and bones of the creature in all its disgusting glory. Speaking of enemies, this remake introduces a new 'Intensity Director' similar to the one in Left 4 Dead that creates dynamic events, such as having enemies pop in areas you've already cleared out to keep you on your toes.

One disappointment though is the game's resolution mode, which features 4K fidelity with ray-tracing capped at 30 frames per second. The performance mode targets 2K graphics (QHD) with no ray-tracing and 60 frames per second. I tested out both modes and the doubling of the FPS in performance mode made a huge improvement to the gameplay. As such, it's hard to recommend the resolution mode, despite the game looking a fair bit better.

Moving over to the game's audio design, it's another success story here. Playing the game at night with headphones on is a truly terrifying experience thanks to the amazing 3D sound. Hearing Necromorphs scurrying through the corridors and vents of the Ishimura constantly kept me on edge, as did the numerous jump scares as the creatures burst out to attack. There are lots of great atmospheric sounds as well, whether that's the metallic creaks of the giant ship or deafening sounds from its many loud machines. I also really liked how the audio drops in zero gravity, while Isaac's breathing gets much louder, which really makes you feel like you're in a vacuum and need to act quickly.

Liked: Satisfying Gameplay

Ah, tactical dismemberment. The violent and satisfying limb amputation gameplay makes a satisfying return in the Dead Space remake, and it's even better than before. While in most shooters the aim is to blast enemies in the head, in this game it's often a better tactic to shoot for their legs, arms or tentacle growths to slow down their onslaught.

There are seven different weapons to collect across the game's 12 chapters, most of them being mining tools cleverly disguised as guns. The most famous is the default Plasma Cutter, which remains the best starting weapon in any horror game. As long as you search the Ishimura carefully, you'll also discover a military-grade Plasma Rifle, an industrial Flamethrower, a remote Ripper saw, plus the high-powered Contact Beam, Line Gun and Force Gun. Telekinesis and Stasis return as well, which enables you to levitate and propel objects at high speed or slow down time within a small area, respectively. And both of them are essential to survival, particularly in the punishing Hard and Impossible difficulty settings.

Many of the weapons have been altered or improved from the original, another welcome change in this remake. For instance, the Pulse Rifle has a more powerful alt fire that shoots proximity mines, while the Flamethrower adds a wall of fire alt. The Force Gun has received a straight power boost and can now blow the Necromorph limbs clean off, instead of just stunning them. Turning our attention to the weapon upgrades at the Bench, there are mercifully no empty notes on the upgrade trees. Even better, there are new weapon perks you can unlock, such as adding a burning effect to the Plasma Cutter shots. EA Motive even swapped the punch and kick buttons for more intuitive combat.

Beyond the weapons, there are other notable improvements that do wonders to modernize the gameplay. For example, the game employs new free flight zero-gravity controls versus the original that had you awkwardly fly point to point. As well, during the turret section, the fight now takes place outside of the turret to give you more control and eliminate one of the most frustrating segments of the original. Finally, the map is way more user-friendly now, showing the full layout of the Ishimura and adding a blue line showing the path to your objective. You can also freely revisit any area of the ship to unlock previously inaccessible rooms using the game's new Security Clearance system.

Liked: Replayability

It took me about 12 hours to beat Dead Space, a respectable amount of time and even longer than the original's roughly 10-hour campaign. But even better, I found this remake to be highly replayable—in fact, as of writing, I've just beat the game for a third time. And that's because of the excellent New Game+ mode that amps up the difficulty, plus introduces new ultra-hard Phantom Necromorphs. These darker, shadowy versions of the Necromorphs have a ridiculous amount of health and appear at random, so you never know if the next room will have a regular enemy or the supercharged version.

I also really appreciated the game's platinum run, which requires you to beat the game using just the Plasma Cutter, beating it on New Game+ and clearing Impossible mode. All three of these trophies I did on separate runs, making my total playtime so far over 30 hours. All of your acquired credits, guns, items and logs are retained with each NG+ run, so the only key items you're missing are Telekinesis and Statis, plus you have to re-acquire your Security Clearance levels. All in all, it's one of the better NG+ modes in recent years and easily extends the gameplay through multiple thrilling runs.

Didn't Like: Poor PS5 DualSense Integration

Dead Space is so close to being a flawless remake. Aside from the lower resolution in performance mode, my main gripe with this game is the lack of PS5 DualSense integration. While EA Motive claims that each weapon has its own distinct haptic feedback, it was hard to feel this in practice. Simply put, there was hardly any difference in the 'feel' of each weapon, which is a disappointment. If the rumble effects were anywhere near the greatness seen in Returnal or Forspoken, it would have elevated this remake tremendously. Even Isaac's heavy foot stomp, which you'd think would have a massive crunching rumble effect, fails to capture the force and brutality seen on screen.

The Verdict

Dead Space remake pays full tribute to the original game and adds exciting new features and improvements, making it a brilliant and terrifying survival horror experience. EA Motive clearly saw what Capcom was doing with their Resident Evil remakes and managed to hit a quality bar on par with those efforts. With its improved graphics, gameplay, and replayability, this is the definitive edition of one of the greatest horror experiences ever created.

Final Score: 9.5/10 - Amazing

Dead Space details

Platform: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Developer: Motive Studio
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Survival Horror
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

A key was provided by the publisher.