Dead Space 2023 improves upon a modern horror classic
The remake arrives 15 years after the original game first landed.
Released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 way back in 2008, Dead Space kind of took the world by surprise thanks to its innovative and unsettling mix of action, horror and sci-fi. Until Alien: Isolation arrived in 2014, it felt like the best (but unauthorised) game based on the Alien universe to date, as we controlled mute protagonist Isaac Clarke through the blood-splattered innards of the space mining ship Ishimura.
By the time Dead Space 3 had arrived in 2013, the horror franchise had almost entirely devoted itself to being an action game (with some mild horror elements), and introduced micro-transactions, which completely turned off its own core audience.
Jump forward to December 2022, and one of the head honchos behind the original Dead Space tried to bottle the lightning for The Callisto Protocol, which ... didn't turn out so great. Simultaneously, EA worked in-house to reboot the Dead Space franchise for the next generation of consoles, and seemed to have passed along the most basic of rules to follow: if it ain't broke, don't fix it, just give it a bit of a polish.
So with Dead Space 2023, there are some updates, both in terms of presentation and in-game, but for the most part this is simply reintroduction a modern classic horror to a new audience of players.
The seamless mix of frenetic action and incredibly tense horror is still nearly unparalleled. Unlike most horror, such as Alien: Isolation, which requires A LOT of stealth in order to survive, Dead Space revels in the splatter and jump scares in order to keep the player on edge. The spacing out of the horror seems a lot more balanced, a less obvious graph of building tension and more an erratic BPM-causing ebb and flow of creepy music and imagery, interspersed with OH HOLY FUCKING HELL scenes of fear.
With the action, the fact that the monstrous necromorphs require precision aim to rid them of their limbs - headshots won't help you here - remains a stroke of genius, asking the player to be their most focused at a time when every instinct is demanding they freak out in fright.
The updated presentation isn't quite as pretty as The Callisto Protocol, but still looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous (or at least as gorgeous as gore and industrial groans can be), and some basic changes - Isaac talks now, for one - are uniformly for the better. Additionally, some changes to the innards of the Ishimura lends itself to more valuable exploration, so the whole thing doesn't feel quite so linear as it did originally. Sure, some of those changes can be little more than a new room with some extra ammunition, but others lead the way to wholly new side missions, assisting in giving even more creepy shading to the history of this world we're playing in.
All in all, if you've played Dead Space 2008, there is PLENTY here to provide good reason to replay this updated version. And if you've never played the original, prepare yourself for the best possible version of one of the greatest scary games ever made.
Dead Space 2023 is available on PS5, Xbox Series X and PC from Friday, 27 January.