31 Days of Horror, Day 17: Dead Space (Remake)
Dead Space series creator Glen Schofield’s Callisto Protocol was overshadowed by a remake of his own creation–and there’s a reason for that: Dead Space managed to capture the feeling of sci-fi horror in a way no game did before it. And while the original manages to hold up, the Dead Space remake is pitch perfect and graphically gorgeous. I’m really appreciating this trend of horror game remakes, and Dead Space definitely raises the bar.
When Dead Space released earlier this year, I knew I would have to write about it eventually. I was a huge fan of the Dead Space series–and I even tolerated Dead Space 3 more than a lot more than other fans did (I know, I know. I’ve heard it all.) This Dead Space remake was more than just a new coat of paint over old geometry: it was made from the ground up in the style of Capcom’s Resident Evil remakes–and as a result, it’s one of the best sci-fi horror games I’ve ever played.
Dead Space is a third person survival horror game. I'm throwing “action” in there because the original Dead Space was made right before the trend of making you run away from monsters that you can’t kill. Instead, it makes its necromorphs difficult to kill, and throws you into desperate situations in an effort to dispatch them. And aiming center mass won’t do it, you have to cut off their limbs–something you are taught not through a tutorial or tooltip, but by blood scrawled across the wall where you retrieve your first weapon.
While some games struggle to skirt the line between terror and schlock, Dead Space navigates this hurdle with ease. It also doesn’t just throw terror in your face the entire time -- the developers knew to slow the action down to build the tension back up. There’s also a tendency for the necromorph enemies to show up in areas you have already cleared out, making sure that you’re always on the lookout for potential dangers.
Dead Space does an excellent job with its weapon design. The original came right around the time developers stopped getting creative with their guns–and I’m glad that we got some more “engineering” type devices to fight the necromorphs. There are some redundant feelings between the weapons, however, like the Line Gun feeling like a giant Plasma Cutter. And while there is a more traditional firearm with the Assault Rifle, it’s never quite as satisfying as the various engineering tools Isaac wields
The stasis ability in Dead Space is also something that sets it apart from other games, and makes the action sequences not only more bearable, but also more dynamic. Introduced as a way to slow down doors and solve other such puzzles, it also has the ability to slow down necromorphs. This makes it an incredibly useful tool against an enemy that moves quickly and has erratic behavior.
There’s even a “gravity gun” in Dead Space in the Handheld Graviton Accelerator. This is another item with puzzle solving abilities that also allows its usage in combat. If you’re out of ammo, and if you can find something to hurl at the enemies you’re not helpless.
Most of the praise I’m giving Dead Space is for things that the original game did. The remake, however, not only makes some changes–but brings up the graphical fidelity to an impressive level. It’s hard to find a game that looks better than Dead Space.
The remake did make some other notable changes, too. For one, Isaac’s face is revealed at the end, something player’s wouldn’t see until Dead Space 2 originally. There’s also the ability to fly in zero gravity in the remake–something that was, again, relegated to the sequel. You’re also spared having to man the defense turrets in a strange sequence that felt completely out of place in the rest of the game.
Dead Space is almost a perfect horror game. It walks a fine line between making you feel vulnerable and giving you the ability to fight back. It’s a game that other have tried to emulate–even its original creator–but nothing has topped Dead Space in terms of sci-fi survival horror.