Dead Space Has Aged Far Better Than It Had Any Right To

I replayed the entire Dead Space trilogy during the pandemic. This was before the remake was announced, and EA had done a pretty killer job making them look and play brilliantly on modern Xbox consoles. Even before a revival became a reality, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the series to anyone, especially those who’d never jumped into Isaac Clarke’s boots before.

So many survival horror shooters from the Xbox 360 and PS3 era have aged terribly, having proven to be inconsistent grey slabs of overdone set pieces and toxic masculinity in 2023. Gears of War remains a treat to play, but is achingly of its time like many games are. Dead Space is a different beast, even now looking, playing, and commanding a presence in the gaming landscape few can muster.

This is partially due to the timeless influences it liberally draws from. Dead Space is Resident Evil 4 on a spaceship filled with aliens, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that description was put on a whiteboard somewhere during development. It is similarly paced, equally isolated, and mixes together tight shootouts with explosive set pieces. It kicks ass. Visceral Games strived to create a simple yet familiar slice of survival horror, and in doing so gave the medium something it badly needed and had never seen before. It remains a stone-cold banger, remake or not. Of course, I have come off the back of the 2023 release, so maybe going back in time will sour my memories a smidge.

The remake is a testament to that timeliness because not once does it alter the foundations of what came before. Isaac talks now, and Motive made a big song and dance about rebuilding things from the ground-up using Frostbite, but it’s the same core experience. You can dress up the language all you like, but this remake wouldn’t be such an achievement if it didn’t have a flawless base to build on in the first place. From the moment I booted things up it felt like I was transported back in time, yet just enough small changes had been made for it all to feel fresh again. I predicted certain moments, only to have my expectations subverted as things ended up shaking out in a very different way. But the remake was never unrecognisable, still clinging to the vestiges of the past to avoid alienating returning engineers.

For a game that mostly riffs on Event Horizon and Aliens instead of having any original ideas of its own beyond ultra-violent gimmicks and weapon types, we have still formed a warm appreciation for it over the years. I know Dead Space stans who take this universe and its characters very seriously, even defending the lukewarm third entry and spin-off materials that try much too hard to make us care. It’s no worse than people who defend Sonic I guess, and to see Isaac Clarke and his Geography teacher vibes come back in vogue with so much potential for further remakes and sequels moving forward is damn exciting, and might give blockbuster survival horror the kick up the ass it needs to start innovating again.

I’m convinced that this remake isn’t just a one and done affair. After the success of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and its revived commitment to single-player with more than a few Marvel games in the works, EA wants to put Dead Space back on the map. It has done the legwork in terms of technology, and given the level design remains identical and the cast is now on board, pushing forward with a revival of 2 (and maybe 3) is not off the table. Gunner Wright even told us as much recently. Those haven’t aged nearly as well, although I wouldn’t say no to them getting the same treatment. Maybe just have us murder fewer reanimated alien children in a nursery this time around.

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