Late to the Party: Dead Space

We are currently in an era where remakes are everywhere. Sometimes they make sense, like with Yakuza Kiwami because the original’s gameplay needed some upgrades. Other times it does not make sense like with The Last of Us Part 1, which is a PS5 remake of a game that’s already available on the system. Other times it makes sense but didn’t turn out right because the developers wanted to make a homage to The Hobbit Trilogy like with Final Fantasy 7 Remake. We still have a couple of months until the remake of Dead Space comes out so I cannot comment on its quality, but after completing the original for the first time just recently I can tell you this: the game does not need a remake.

Let’s start with the least impressive part of the game, the combat. It’s solid. Issac moves smoothly enough, stomps have a satisfying crunch to them, and it’s fun to delimb necromorphs. But the game is somewhat lacking in difficulty. I played the entire game on normal and I think I’ve maybe died once aside from instakill traps/attacks. Even when fighting some big bosses, it’s mostly just standing there, moving slightly to avoid an attack, and shooting the shit out of a weak spot. Repeat until it dies. It especially hurts that only about half of the weapons actually felt good to use, but 1 of them (the flamerthrower) was only useful for a single type of enemy. Otherwise, it was just the plasma cutter and the line cutter. For the plasma rifle, it made sense why they were worthless since the game was trying to cut with a “cut the limbs off” type of zombie, but the Ripper and Contact Beam either felt too weak or awkward.

But even the best horror games are rarely known for their combat. What makes these games are the sense of fear. According to my fitbit, my resting BPM is 67. While I was making my way through the final 2 chapters, my heart ranged from 70 to 94, sticking mostly to the 80s. So it was just a bit scary. Closing my eyes and listening to every drip of water, clanking of a door, and ticking of an elevator in motion made me feel unsafe in my own home. The Shining-influenced soundtrack is what nightmares sound like. Whether it be in the safe zones or being swarmed, I always felt unsettled. Necromorphs are an incredibly stupid name for an enemy, but the designs make up for it. Whether it be the hulking Brutes, the tiny Lurkers, or some other monstrosity, the designs of distorted human flesh all are nauseating to look at.

The story is what you expect. A homage to sci-fi and zombie horror films in general with Alien being the most blatant influence, but how it and info in the game are presented is stunning. Instead of traditional ammo counts, maps, and health bars, all that gameplay information is diegetic. The health bar is on Issac’s back, ammo is displayed on the guns, and things like text logs, maps, and a majority of the cutscenes are presented via in-game holographic displays. It’s such a simple, but elegant design that’s better than any other UI I’ve seen in a game.

Even though the combat is lacking, I’d say its more than fair to say Dead Space is a timeless game. In an industry notorious for works of art aging badly within 2-3 years, this nightmare inducer holds up 14 years later. So of course EA is remaking it with less moody lighting, side quests, and a $70 price tag.