2023's first GOTY contender revives a horror masterpiece
Inverse Score: 10/10
The wide-open Hydroponics section of the USG Ishimura is deeply familiar, and yet, I’m frozen in terror.
I’m almost overwhelmed as the eerie, piercing sound of Necromorphs flood in, one after another. Thankfully, my trusty Plasma Cutter is enough to fend them off … at first. Then, a repulsive Pregnant Necromorph approaches, and my worst fear is realized: I’m completely out of ammo, and my health is low.
In the midst of running to safety, I quickly open two supply boxes, yielding ammo for the Plasma Cutter and Flamethrower – exactly what I needed. The Pregnant gets uncomfortably close, but just as it starts to swipe, I reload my Plasma Cutter, and unload on the Necromorph at the last possible second. It goes down, explodes, and Swarmers pour out, but are no match for my Flamethrower. Burnt to a crisp. Despite playing the original Dead Space countless times, the 2023 remake still managed to frighten me beyond belief.
EA’s Motive Studio, best known for Star Wars: Squadrons, brings enhanced visuals, better performance, and a slew of quality-of-life improvements to this iconic space survival horror experience. Dead Space is a shot-for-shot recreation of the original that manages to recapture the 2008 game as you want to remember it — meaning it’s actually better than ever.
This is far and away the best way to experience Dead Space, leaving few reasons to go back to the original.
On the back of your neck
In 2008, Dead Space was a survival-horror powerhouse. And Motive somehow manages to crank up the scares in every way possible. Visuals are a highlight, thanks to the power of the team’s Frostbite engine for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and modern PCs. What you get is a much more immersive experience, with realistic lighting, improved particle effects, volumetric fog, and lifelike character models. These improvements make each and every encounter more tense — and feel far closer to the vision of the original game.
The deadly Necromorphs are the stars of the show, as each one has been completely rebuilt for the remake. They look more horrific than ever, and get turned to mulch even more realistically thanks to Movtive’s new “Peeling System,” which allows you to quite literally peel the skin and tissue away from bone with your attacks. This functions as a gruesome way to tell just how damaged a Necromorph is.
Dead Space might just be the most grotesque and brutal horror game ever made. There are some animations that are almost unwatchable because of how barbaric they are, which is a high compliment in this genre. (Even if it’s a dealbreaker for squeamish players.) The Necromorphs fall apart as you dismember them, yet they continue to crawl towards you. It’s an image that will stick in your brain long after finishing the main story and is enough to make you feel badly for them. Almost.
Never a dull moment
Dead Space doesn’t just look the part — it plays incredibly well, with an emphasis on pacing and fair challenge. The original was a masterclass in pacing, and Motive Studio knocked it out of the park with the remake, building more tension without frustration.
This is thanks, in part, to the Intensity Director, a dynamic difficulty system that scales on the fly. This allows enemy spawns to change, as well as audio and lighting, giving even veteran players a fresh experience. The game seems to adapt to your performance, adjusting to keep things enjoyable throughout. After a particularly grueling section, I just “happened to” stumble upon the ammo and supplies I sorely needed, allowing me to just barely survive.
Similarly, if you’re mowing through enemies with ease, the game might change up the placement of spawns, or the kind of resources that appear — all in an effort to bump up the thrills. This is a clever way to ensure no two runs are the same, which is especially welcome in a remake.
I never felt like there was too much combat, or vice versa. Just as you’re lulled into a sense of comfort, you’ll encounter Necropmorphs to fight — but not too many. After that, you might encounter a puzzle, or some fresh story bits to keep things moving along. Each and every segment feels just the right length, with a satisfying degree of challenge.
The audio design is nuanced and impactful, adding to the intensity of the experience. Even when you’re not in combat, you can hear the ambient creaks of the Ishimura, disembodied human moans, and the distant shrieks of Necromorphs — a reminder you’re never truly safe. Definitely play with headphones to make the most out of your experience.
The improvements on offer here are substantial, but no remake could succeed to this extent without a rock-solid foundation. When it comes to the overall layout of the Ishimura, the story, art direction, and gameplay design, Motive doesn’t stray far from the 2008 version, and it doesn’t need to. Controls, visuals, performance, and the clunky 3D map have all been improved this time around.
The result is not just a standout survival-horror game — but one of the best games of all time. Even if you’ve played the original many times over, I cannot recommend the remake enough.
Dead Space launches on January 27 for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. Inverse reviewed the PC version.
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