Video Game Review: “Dead Space”

   All in all, there was a lot to love about the Dead Space series. Originally developed by Visceral Games, Dead Space was a new strand of something very familiar, amounting to something memorable and distinct, yet scratching the same itch as other horror video-games on the market. Dead Space brought an over-the-shoulder gun-play akin to the Resident Evil franchise, but leaned more heavily into action and atmosphere than survival horror and puzzle-solving game-play. This isn’t to suggest Dead Space doesn’t have any puzzles throughout, or instances where ammunition can feel scarce, but, rather that it isn’t a hallmark of what it actually is. Dead Space has you going through a major catalog of weaponry and, more often than not, you have the goods to fire them off at will.

    Imagine if, after Resident Evil 4, when Capcom wanted to continue leaning into action, but yet everything clicked with Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6, in a lot of ways, that’s Dead Space. 

   A student of the game, Dead Space also calls to mind popular cinema like John Carpenter’s The Thing (at one time, John Carpenter was actually in talks to direct a Dead Space film) and James Cameron’s Aliens (the more balls-to-the-wall sequel to the original classic).

   In 2023, Motive Studios has found itself tasked with continuing the legacy started by the now-defunct Visceral Games. It was a mighty challenge indeed, and although the results aren’t as night-and-day as comparing the original PlayStation game Resident Evil 2 and its latest more-modern remake counterpart, I believe they deserve a lot of credit for their effort. The original Xbox 360 version of Dead Space looks far from archaic, but the quality-of-life additions and heightening of its graphical aesthetic helps to keep Dead Space as relevant as ever.

   The story is straightforward (once more an aspect of Dead Space that feels both unique and yet familiar), Dead Space sees an engineer named Isaac arrive at a interplanetary mining ship that has went silence on planet Aegis VII. Upon landing, Isaac soon discovers that mutated corpses, called Necromorphs, now wander the ship and are wreaking havoc. Now, with a Plasma Cutter and whatever other weapons he can find throughout the ship, Isaac must navigate the USG Ishimura in search of answers and his own survival. Again, think vaguely Alien, or a lot of other classic science-fiction horror films from the same time period.

   I will be upfront and honest, although I did like the original Dead Space when it was released, I didn’t necessarily love Dead Space. As a fan of horror videogames, I respected it and recognized it as being of a higher standard. I appreciated its realized visual world and the unique way all weapons have ways that can be manipulated and modified for added variation. It felt like a natural evolution of anything I’d ever seen for a third-person horror by then. However, I had always much preferred its sequel Dead Space 2. 

   With the 2023 remake, I would not say anything has changed with the current incarnation. However, the new developments help make the new Dead Space the quintessential way to experience the series’ original classic. Although they are modest (elevating an Xbox 360 videogame to an Xbox Series S experience isn’t that drastic – it plays like Dead Space and looks like Dead Space cleaned up), the new developments help make the original Dead Space the absolute best version of itself.

   The aesthetic looks fantastic, highlighting the tight-corridors and bleak atmosphere, whereas the sound-design is possibly the best I have ever seen in a videogame. The way the music heightens in dramatic moments or screeches in others, it is a primary example of how music and an effective score can instill an immersive sense of atmosphere into a world.

   The game-play is often fun and sometimes incredibly immersive, instances when you are navigating the space-station and using your various means for advancement.

  Isaac has an arrangement of abilities and powers, however, that once you become acclimated with, and diversify game-play, allowing you to engage enemies in unique fashion. At times, however, I will admit it can feel more than a little bit repetitive with enemy combat. I won’t claim Dead Space is the first offender nor is it at all among the worst, but the amount of bullet-sponge enemies peppered through levels can fall victim to the law of diminishing returns. Maneuvering through anti-gravity levels were among the more awkward moments also. 

   Likewise, the story line is simple, straightforward and can largely be described as average at a high-quality (and sometimes, that’s for the best).

   I dug the new Dead Space.

   I was excited enough for it that I dropped the full retail cost on-launch, which isn’t something I do very often (and something a little part of me is still kicking himself for). It doesn’t feel like a new experience, per se. It feels like Dead Space, brought up to code, and while I don’t think it makes a good game great, it keeps a good game good by today’s standard.

Rating: – 3.6 out of 5.0