Dead Space Remake Hands-On Preview, Gameplay Comparison

Remake announcements seem to always be met with a sense of anxious excitement; those who loved the originals of course want to play them again, but what if the new versions don't handle the source material with respect? Or worse, what if they prove that the original wasn't that great after all? Those were reactions I'd never really experienced until the Dead Space remake was announced.

For myself and many others, Dead Space is the space-set horror game to play (if not the horror game in general). The desolate atmosphere, the Necromorphs, the creative limb-focused combat – all of it amounts to an experience which is disturbing and unsettling at the least even if you don't typically find games to be scary in a traditional sense. After playing the Dead Space remake for a couple of hours, it's evident EA Motive has doubled down on what made the original so impressive while making efforts to alleviate some of its frustrations or shortcomings.

The Dead Space remake preview consisted of a playthrough of Chapter 1, 2, and 3, so I can't comment on what comes after those segments, but what was in those chapters amounted to a solid, faithful remake. Some moments play out exactly as you'd expect while others are far different from before, but never are they any less unsettling. The opening moments of Dead Space where Isaac Clarke accesses the damage report to see what went down on the U.S.G. Ishimura only for his team to be besieged by Necromorphs is a prime example of that. Even if you know exactly what to expect, the darkened room (and the Dead Space remake is much, much darker in terms of lighting) and the sirens blaring immediately throw you off your game when you're scrambling to remember which door opens and where Necromorphs spawn.


Even if you do remember parts of the original game and think you have things figured out, I found that the "Intensity Director" at play in the remake looks to usurp those expectations. I was wondering how EA Motive would manage to surprise players who knew the original Dead Space inside and out, and it seems the Intensity Director is the answer to that conundrum. Roman Campos-Oriola, the creative director working on the remake, said in our interview that the Intensity Director will make some parts like the first quarantine fight play out as expected "because it was so unique and key to the original," but other parts aren't guaranteed to be the same.

"But the next big fight when you get into the ER and medical, well if you die here, maybe the next time you come back, they're not going to spawn from the same place," he said. "You're like, 'Okay, it's definitely going to go ... Oh wait, oh shit.' And we play a bit with that."

That phrase was definitely one that ran through my mind once or twice when playing the remake. Dead Space is chaotic enough as it is, but the Intensity Director adds another layer of unpredictability to the formula the puts players on edge once more.

The new Necromorph designs contribute greatly to that uneasiness as well. Their slender frames are iconic at this point as far as horror games go, but their animations in the original sometimes broke the immersion. Necromorphs would run by players accompanied by a screeching sound effect as they took to a vent to reappear later, but their quickened pace honestly made them a bit goofy at times. There's considerably less goofing around in the remake, however, flesh and bones and tendons exposed with every shot, and with the Necromorph's smoother attacks and ways of skulking you can keep focused on the icky, stressful task at hand.


The majority other changes made from the original to the remake seemed pretty agreeable. The Pulse Rifle's underwhelming alt-fire was replaced with a grenade-like ability that served its clear-the-room purpose much better and inspired hope for any other weapon changes EA Motive sees fit to add. Isaac Clarke isn't a chatterbox and only spoke at understandable times, and since the big face reveal at the end was already known given that this is a remake, he actually removes his helmet in the first few chapters which makes sense.

Even among all those changes, the standout for improvement was the zero gravity segments in the remake. It wasn't until I played the remake and then went back to play the first three chapters of the original did I realize how tedious the latter's zero gravity gameplay felt by comparison. Instead of smashing a button to hop to the right angle of a platform, Isaac now has jets on his RIG. You move forward, back, up, and down, and you don't have to worry about fuel or any other resource besides your ammo and health. It's the perfect example of what a remake should look to accomplish when remediating frustrations.

Some parts could've been better, but not to a degree that they negatively impacted the overall experience. Spitter Necromorphs which were much more prominent in Dead Space 2 have a greater presence in the remake, but it's perhaps too great a presence. Projectile-based enemies simply seem out of place in Dead Space where everything seems to want to get in your face as much as possible, and the multiple ranged attacks were the closest I got to being frustrated with the preview even if you can deal with them much quicker than they can deal with you. Ragdoll physics were still present to a degree in the preview and sometimes revealed cracks in the immersion when a hefty Necromorph goes spinning out of control, but if that's the price to pay for the superb impalement system present in the remake, it's worthwhile.

I've still got some reservations about enemies after encountering so many spitting Necromorphs, and moments abysmal asteroid sequence stick out as ones that'll absolutely need improving if this is to be considered a successful remake. Three chapters amounts to one-fourth of the game, however, so if that slice of the Dead Space remake is any indication of what's to come, there's not much to worry about.

The Dead Space remake was played during a hands-on preview event hosted by Electronic Arts with travel expenses paid for by the publisher.