“Dead Space” (2023) modernizes a survival horror classic


“Dead Space” (2023) is a remake of “Dead Space” (2008). The remake takes everything that worked in the original and updates it to create the best version of the survival horror classic. (Photo courtesy of Electronic Arts)

Ian Young, Staff Writer

It’s been nearly 15 years since the original “Dead Space” was released. During that time, other survival horror landmarks were released, such as “Resident Evil 7: Biohazard,” “Left 4 Dead 2” and “Outlast.” With the genre evolving so much, I wondered if this “remake” would be enough to compete with other staples in the genre.

“Dead Space” (2023) takes everything great about the original game, keeps it and improves everything that needs to be improved.

“Dead Space )” (2023), released Jan. 27, is the remake of the horror classic “Dead Space” (2008). “Dead Space” takes place in the far future of 2508. You play as Isaac Clarke, an engineer sent with a rescue team to the USG Ishimura, a massive mining ship meant to break up planets. The ship has gone radio silent, and it’s the team’s job to figure out why. As the rescue team explores the ship, the team encounters terrifying creatures called Necromorphs. The rescue team needs to defend themselves, escape the ship and figure out what caused these creatures to appear.

I played the original game in preparation for this remake. I was surprised at how well it held up. The gameplay was innovative for survival horror games, and the setting in a dark decrepit spaceship really added to the dread you felt while playing. As well as it held up, there were a few gameplay elements that did not hold up well, such as controls and puzzles being very annoying to complete. However, it was still a solid video game. I was hesitant about going into “Dead Space” (2023) because the original was so good. There wouldn’t be a point to play this remake as most remasters or remakes don’t change up the game much.

This updated iteration of “Dead Space” is now the best version of this classic.

Isaac Clarke fights a Necromorph. Necromorphs are the main enemies in “Dead Space” that force players to think about how to defeat them. (Photo courtesy of Electronic Arts)

The gameplay is the same as the first game. You use various weapons to defend yourself against the Necromorphs. Where “Dead Space” sets itself apart from other games is that Necromorphs don’t die with headshots, so you have to cut off their limbs to defeat them. It makes the player think more when choosing their fights. Instead of staying perfectly still and shooting a creature in the head like in other games, you now choose to shoot the creature in the leg to slow it down or shoot it in the arm to disarm it.

What changed from the original game to the remake is that the controls are a lot more responsive and coherent. My biggest issue with the original game is the controls were a jumbled mess, especially the PC port. In the remake, the controls are all mapped out, and the game now tells you what buttons do what in the tutorial. It’s a small thing, but fundamental in helping players stay engaged by not being confused about how to use the controls.

Another small, but notable change is the art design. In “Dead Space” (2008), the USG Ishimura is a large labyrinth of a ship. It is big with dark, winding corridors linking each section together. Add on that the setting is in space, and it all comes together to a constant feeling of dread, the realization no one is coming and you are on your own. It worked so well back in 2008 and works so well in the remake.

The improvements lie with the change to the lighting. The original game, while scary and tense, was very bright. Even in dark areas, you can see where you are going without a flashlight. “Dead Space” (2023) is much darker. Some areas are pitch black, forcing the player to use their flashlight to see anything. It’s small but adds so much to the horror aspect of the game. The darkness elevates the stress and terror to another level.

A large improvement the remake does to the original is the puzzles. The original game had some good puzzles, but they were spoiled by a lot of tedious and frustrating sections that bogged the pacing of the game. “Dead Space” (2023) does not have this issue as the level design was updated depending on certain sections.

Isaac Clarke flies in a zero-gravity section of the USG Ishimura. The zero-gravity mechanics in “Dead Space” (2023) is a new mechanic in the remake and is a highlight in gameplay and puzzle solving. (Photo courtesy of Electronic Arts)

There was a section from “Dead Space” (2008) where you had to align space turrets to shoot down asteroids, and it was the most frustrating experience in the game. “Dead Space” (2023) takes that section and improves on it massively, taking a section I loathed playing and turning it into one of the most fun puzzles in the game. It’s not an abstract, observing-your-surrounding type puzzle found in “Resident Evil” games, but mechanical, logic puzzles that test you on common sense rather than how aware you are of your surroundings.

I think what I like the most about “Dead Space” as a whole is the main character you play as, Isaac Clarke. He’s not some in-depth character who goes through major character development or is a cool space warrior, he’s just an engineer who gets the job done.

The choice of Isaac as the main character allows the plot, setting, characters and gameplay to mix together and work well. You never question the logistics of what you are doing because, as established in the first few moments of the game, you know what Isaac’s goals are and what he is capable of. He may not know his way around a weapon, but the tools he uses on a daily basis for his job work better than any weapon of war he is handed.

This allows the player to feel as if they are Isaac Clarke. On this broken-down planet cracker of a ship, you are the only man for the job. It takes immersion to a whole new level as you play as someone who is essentially a hammer and the whole world around you is a nail.

“Dead Space” (2023) may not be high art, but is the perfected version of a horror classic that has stood the test of time and held up against its competition. This is one of the best remakes I’ve experienced as it keeps the soul of the original game but improves it so much that it stands apart from its predecessor. The graphics updates are nice and substantial, but pales in comparison to the gameplay, story and setting updates that really push this remake above others. With that, I give “Dead Space” (2023) eight stars out of 10.