The worst kept secret in gaming is out of the bag – Dead Space is coming back. Despite all the rumours, leaks, and winks, it was never entirely clear what form this new Dead Space would take. A direct sequel was unlikely, given that Dead Space 3 literally scorched the Earth, but was it to be a reboot within the ‘cut off their limbs’ mythos? A non-Isaac Clarke sequel dealing with the Necromorphs? A remaster, either of the first game or the entire trilogy a la Mass Effect? Nope, nope, and double nope. It’s a full, ground up remake of the first game. Um, okay.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I enjoyed Dead Space, and I’ll enjoy this remake. I’m just not sure why it exists. Leaving aside the ghoulishness of killing off Visceral Games just to remake its best work when all of your ideas run dry, a remake feels like the worst possible outcome. The first Dead Space launched more recently than Mass Effect (2008 vs 2007), yet despite being considerably more popular, Mass Effect just got a straightforward remaster. While the two Dead Space sequels leave a lot to be desired after the switch to action-heavy gameplay over horror, the first game needs no alterations – so why give it them?
Dead Space is still one of the best sci-fi horror games ever made. Most other horror titles are either more supernatural in their leanings, or like the Dead Space sequels, put too much emphasis on action. Alien: Isolation is the only major contender to Dead Space’s throne, and even then, they’re very different. Isolation is a survival game, where the objective is to hide and flee. Dead Space lets you take the fight to the alien menace. ‘Cut off their limbs’ has always felt a little silly – it’s a tactic that would kill basically any life form – but it perfectly captures what Dead Space is about. You can fight back, but prepare for things to get messy.
This doesn’t need to be changed. That’s perhaps the worst thing about the remake – it’s coming with gameplay tweaks on top of all the visual upgrades. Sure, some things were a little fiddly in the first game, but they were part of the charm and anxiety. Plus, it’s a horror game – things aren’t always supposed to go your way.
‘We’re changing the Dead Space gameplay’ just sets off alarm bells. It was a bad idea in Dead Space 2 and especially Dead Space 3. Surely EA has learned from that, right? But then if that’s the case, why change the gameplay at all, and why advertise that without clarity on exactly what’s being changed?
This isn’t just about Dead Space. It’s just tiring to see so many games dipping into remakes and remasters instead of trusting the games they already have or trying something new. In recent years, Crash Bandicoot: The N.Sane Trilogy, Spyro: Reignited, Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, and Mass Effect: Legendary Edition have been amongst my favourite gaming experiences. I would trade them all in for bona fide new experiences in each series, of which only Crash has delivered so far. Mass Effect 4 (or is it 5?) is coming, and Spyro 4 has been heavily rumoured, while the future of THPS is less clear with Vicarious Visions now focused on Call of Duty.
Crash 4 wasn’t even made by the same team behind N.Sane, although it did come from the team behind Crash Team Racing and Spyro: Reignited, so there’s some familiarity to be found. Still, it’s not a particularly cohesive approach. It’s just dangling a slightly improved version of a game we love in front of our faces, and then if we shell out for it – despite the original still being relatively cheap and readily available – we finally get a new game. With Dead Space 2 and 3 being far less popular and eventually writing the series into a hole, we may see this remake head in a completely different direction for its sequels, keeping its horror vibes close to the heart of the overall design.
All those great remakes and remasters I listed earlier have something in common, something Dead Space does not share – they’re all multiple games in one single package. Crash, Spyro, and Mass Effect are all trilogies, while Tony Hawk’s is the first two games bundled together. Crash Team Racing is a little more complicated, using the driving style and narrative mode of the original CTR, but adding the roster of drivers, tracks, and karts from Nitro Kart. It was also supported for a year with monthly Grand Prix events that added content from Tag Team Racing, as well as bringing new characters such as those who never previously made it out of concept art, entirely new creations, and even letting you drive around as the classic Crash Crate.
This doesn’t give them a pass – in each case I’d rather have had something new – but it does put them in a different context, value-wise. ‘We know this is an old game, so here’s three for the price of one’. EA is offering us one for the price of one, which feels like a raw deal.
Dead Space is just Dead Space. Just the same game we all played in 2008. Being rebuilt in Frostbite, it will look better. The shadows will be more threatening, the game will likely come with haptics to enhance the experience, and most people will forget any qualms they may have had once they see ‘Cut off their limbs’ in new-gen blood. But the idea of gameplay tweaks seems out of place, and I don’t see the point in remaking a game from the ground up while messing with the thing that made it great, instead of just making something completely new set in the same universe. It’s Dead Space Jim, but exactly as we know it. Maybe that’s the problem.
Can it run Crysis?
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