With the release of the Resident Evil 2 remake in 2019, the horror game community got its first taste of what a great video game remake could be like. The game was met with universal acclaim and was followed up by a Resident Evil 3 remake that was met with equally favorable reviews. Both games were able to accomplish the tricky task of recapturing the feel of the originals while modernizing their graphics and game play. With both Resident Evil 2 and 3 originally coming out in the late ‘90s, they were obvious choices for a remake. Although the original Resident Evil 2 and 3 have both stood the test of time, there was no denying that they showed their age. Similarly, when the remake of 2001’s Silent Hill 2 was announced, not too many people were surprised.
However, when it was announced that Dead Space, the iconic horror-shooter that released in 2008 would be getting a remake, there was a decent amount of head scratching online. Was Dead Space old enough to get a remake? Did it really need a remake? While sure, the game is 15 years old at this point, it absolutely still holds up in terms of graphics, gameplay, and scares. Dead Space is considered by many to be one of the greatest video games of all time, even outside of the horror genre, so remaking it would certainly be a tall order. With that being said, I’m more than happy to report that Dead Space (2023) might just be the best video game remake thus far.
Dead Space Remake – The Good
The official gameplay trailer for the Dead Space remake came out on October 4th, 2022, and highlighted one of the biggest changes made to the game: Isaac Clarke, our protagonist and engineer extraordinaire, actually speaks. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Isaac speak, as he was very vocal throughout Dead Space 2, however it’s a very large departure from the first game where Isaac was the ultimate silent protagonist. Having Isaac speak does wonders for his character in the first game, and shows us a side of him that was really missing from the original. Firstly, we get a better idea of how skilled Isaac is as an engineer. As problems pop up across the USG Ishimura, we get to hear in real time as Isaac figures out what’s going on and what he, and and as an extension us the player, need to do to fix it. This gives him a great sense of agency that lacked back when we were largely being ordered around by Hammond.
On top of all this new dialogue, Isaac’s delivery on these lines actually dynamically changes depending on his health. His lines come out much grittier and pained the lower your health is, successfully grounding Isaac and Dead Space’s setting even further. Isaac’s character also comes through in unexpected moments, such as when you run out of ammo or repeatedly stomp an enemy. Likely mirroring the player, Isaac will shout expletives and curse people out when he discovers that he’s run out of ammo in the middle of the fight. He also has some choice words for the Necromorphs after a few heated stomps which not only add to his personality, but helps connect Isaac to the player.
Back when the original Dead Space released, one of the major factors that set it apart from the games releasing at the time was its unique combat and weapons. When it comes to combat, the Dead Space remake doesn’t change a ton. You’re still shooting off Necromorph limbs left and right, however the guns you’re shooting them off with are a bit different. The weapon upgrade featured in the original has been fully improved in the remake, with every single node providing you with some sort of improvement. This completely removes one of the biggest flaws with the original upgrade system, as you no longer have to feel bad about wasting resources on nodes that don’t actually get you any improvements.
The last major improvement to the game worth mentioning is, of course, the graphical update. As previously stated, the original Dead Space absolutely still holds up, but there’s nothing quite like seeing a Necromorph charge at you with all the grotesque details modern gaming provides. The gore and viscera of the Necromorphs has been rendered beautifully, and in many instances now more than ever looks like something straight out of The Thing (1982). In terms of environment, The USG Ishimura is dark, rank, and soaked in the carnage left behind by the Necromorphs. Every single room you enter oozes with an almost tangible fear, giving the remake an atmosphere that more than rivals the original.
Dead Space Remake – The Bad
Speaking of the game’s amazing graphics, this brings us to our first negative: performance. This is a problem that seems to be plaguing modern horror games (I’m looking at you The Callisto Protocol). Even when playing on the lowest graphic settings, many people have reported issues with stuttering and frame rate drops. While this isn’t the biggest deal in the world, it’s definitely something you should be aware of before buying the game, especially if you have a lower-end PC.
The second largest issue with the Dead Space remake is, once again, performance, but this time in terms of acting. Whether due to poor directing or acting choices, many hard-hitting and emotional lines from the original Dead Space just fall flat. The biggest example of this is Kendra, who has the potential to be one of the most dynamic and varied characters in the game, however she tends to just come across as suspicious and 1-dimensional from the jump.
One of the unexpected consequences of Isaac’s character being more involved with the story in terms of dialogue is that Hammond ends up getting somewhat sidelined as a character. While that wouldn’t necessarily be terrible, his otherwise lackluster performance leaves something to be desired for fans of Hammond. It’s worth noting that the performances featured in the Dead Space remake aren’t straight up bad, they’re just overall worse than those in the original.
Despite its few flaws, the Dead Space remake accomplishes the difficult task of perfectly recreating the feel and atmosphere of its predecessor while still successfully iterating and improving on the game. Overall, I would say that the Dead Space remake has surpassed the original, and is without question the definitive version of the game. The remake has been received very well, and it now seems like only a matter of time until we get an announcement for Dead Space 2, which brings us back to our original question. Do these games need remakes? Dead Space 2 is barely a decade old, and it still holds up against even the Dead Space remake. My hope is that a game as recent as Dead Space 2 is left alone, and some love and attention is given to older horror games in need of a revival, although I have a sneaking suspicion that won’t be the case.