Dead Space Review: A sci-fi horror epic returns for a new generation

The original Dead Space, released in 2008, still holds up as one of the greatest sci-fi horror games of all time. But 2008 also feels like a long time ago in gaming terms. As a result, Dead Space’s remake feels like that same relevant experience, made all the more satisfying thanks to minor gameplay choices that simply make it more satisfying to play. While the already sturdy narrative takes certain liberties to bolster protagonist Isaac Clarke, small deviations and creative decisions refresh the franchise for the modern age, making for a more robust world that feels expansive and lived in. While it might not sway those who weren’t necessarily fans of the 2008 classic, this remake is without a doubt one of the best in its class, and well worth revisiting.

Another Happy Landing

Dead Space puts players in the boots of Isaac Clarke, an engineer en route to the USG Ishimura, otherwise known as a gigantic ship with the ability to mine resources from planets. With the initial intentions to answer a distress call, Isaac and accompanying crew Senior Security Officer Zach Hammond, Computer Specialist Kendra Daniels, Corporal Johnston and Corporal Aiden Chen soon crash land on the USG Ishimura, only to find everything is not as it seems. Isaac and the crew soon encounter grotesque, infected creatures that roam the halls and have seemingly killed everyone on board. In a bid to escape the USG Ishimura, Isaac and crew must dig deep into the heart of the distress call, to uncover the dark secrets that hide behind the cause of the infection. To make matters worse, Isaac’s wife Nicole is stationed on the ship and working on a mysterious project. Without spoiling any of the story, Isaac’s journey treads on many of the same plot points and memorable moments that it did in 2008, with a few neat diversions that clarify the context of previously unexplored events.

While the 12-14 hour story rarely stops to take a break, atmosphere still reigns supreme. Corridors are tight and claustrophobic, while delicately illuminated just enough to keep most creepy-crawlies hidden in the dark until the very last second. Textures look fantastic, as the fabrics and metals on Isaac’s suit shine one minute and drip with the blood of dismembered enemies the very next. Lighting also plays a major part, while general environments stun with both detail and variety, rarely making two areas every feel the same, which is admittedly impressive when you’re dealing with a big, rusty mining ship that melds mazes of steel walls and intricate piping.

Aim for the Limbs

From a gameplay perspective, Dead Space feels like it did in 2008; but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was arguably Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space respectively that pioneered the now classic over-the-shoulder gunplay we know and love today, a testament to the relevance of the original. In 2023, the gunplay feels just as solid, with hefty sense of weight added to weapons, manoeuvrability and general encounters. Once again, you’ll need to aim to the limbs of the infected enemies, cutting them down to their very torso with various mining tools and military weapons at your disposal. You’ll encounter the basic slasher necromorph in most situations, but there are multiple enemies and bosses you’ll meet along the way, including the acid spitting necromorph, and tougher armour clad brutes comprised of multiple mutilated corpses.

You’ll also get the chance to wield a number of returning weapons like the Pulse Rifle, Ripper and iconic Plasma Cutter, each with their own effectiveness in certain situations. Along the way, Isaac can also stop at work benches to upgrade his suit and weapons and kit them out with certain parts and abilities, of which you’ll find in certain areas, be it in plain side or hidden behind rooms which you cannot yet access. As a result, encounters feel evenly paced and consistently tense, adding a layer of depth and variety to combat. Isaac can also punch enemies when ammo is scarce, but I wouldn’t recommend this if you want to keep your head. Isaac’s stomp ability can also be used to confirm enemies won’t get back up again, while leaving goodies behind like extra ammo and med kits.

In With the New

Dead Space holds onto many of its iconic themes, moments and general mechanics, but it’s not without its own fresh ideas. Exploration now feels all the more expansive thanks to the lack of loading times. Once activated, Isaac will need to travel back and forth throughout the USG Ishimura via train. In the 2008 original, this once accounted for loading times between new environments. The lack of loading times now allows the world to feel connected and as a result, larger. Environmental puzzles also add another layer of tension thanks to the introduction of circuit breakers, which force you to deactivate one facility in order to activate another. For example, early on Isaac must find a way to activate an elevator on the lower levels of the USG Ishimura, but must deactivate the lights to do so, in turn relying on his trusty flashlight to navigate his way around. As you can imagine, this makes for some great jump scares and later encourages informed decision making as you decide between what’s convenient and what’s necessary.

Unlike the 2008 original, in which weapons could be brought from the store, weapons are now found out in the surrounding environments. This makes each discovery feel more natural in terms progression. This time around however, Isaac Clarke talks. It’s admittedly something I had forgotten from the original, as Isaac navigates dark hallways completing tasks like an iron-clad robot, as opposed to a human being with an emotional connection to the situation at hand. It’s also worth noting that his input is both reserved and timely, usually speaking when spoken to, as opposed to highlighting environmental cues and areas of interest for the sake of informing the player.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, Dead Space feels both incredibly faithful to the 2008 original, while remining relevant in relation to modern mechanics and deeper, nuanced storytelling. Its incredibly gorgeous and gruesome visuals meld effortlessly with a consistent and foreboding atmosphere. It’s also super satisfying in terms of both gameplay and general progression, while Isaac’s development as a protagonist is heightened thanks to his new found voice and personality. Newer additions like environmental puzzles and small narrative-based deviations broaden the existing world and propel the story forward with emotional clarity and context. Even though it rarely forgets its roots, it also feels like a purposeful remake; one that is confident enough to spread its wings and a reminder that this old dog is more than willing to learn a few new tricks.


Highlights: Gorgeous visuals; Tense atmosphere; Satisfying gameplay; Isaac feels more developed thanks to dialogue; Changes to narrative deepen both characters and world
Lowlights: Very much the same experience at its core, which may not win over those who were not fans of the 2008 original version
Developer: Motive Studio
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows PC
Available: Now

Review conducted on PlayStation 5 with a pre-release code provided by the publisher.

Matthew Arcari

Matthew Arcari is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. You can find him on Twitter at @sirchunkee, or at the Dagobah System, chilling with Luke and Yoda.