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News Opinions 24 October 2022, 11:13

author: Darius Matusiak

Dead Space Remake Fixes Ills of Original. I Know, Because I Played

Dead Space Remake may be a rehash, but it certainly won't be for everyone. The game looks so good that even a repeat visit to the USG Ishimura ship should provide a strong experience.

2008 Dead Space and the upcoming remake are like a fourteen-year-old car and its newest model. The former is probably still functional and will get us anywhere, but you only have to sit in the new one for a minute to never want to return to the old one. I know, because I drive a car from that year and I get an idea of what new cars offer now. Besides, I recently played the original Dead Space, and I had a chance to pass the first three chapters of the remake, then replayed them again in the original to have a fresh and complete comparison.

And it's a bit of a shame that whenever the subject of Dead Space remake comes up, it's more about discussing the legitimacy of its creation or price, rather than about the fantastic differences between two generations. Because such a direct confrontation allows us to fully appreciate the way we've come in terms of hardware capabilities since PlayStation 3. The remake is a brand new game created from scratch, only that it tells a familiar – to some, at least – story. And even if you remember it quite well, experiencing it in revamped quality promises to be an amazing experience.

Our first steps in the dev process was that me, and everyone who joined the project, lanuched and played through the original. It was mandatory for everyone joining the team to understood where we come from. Our fist pillar of the game was to honor the legacy of DS. Because it would have been easy for us to fall in the trap and say "We can make it better, we can improve on it," and then start to go completely out of feel and make mistakes along with it. So, we replayed the game and broke it down bit by bit – what’s happening, why is it happening, what’s the pacing, what encounters the players are facing, what are the enemies in there.

So, we understood what was the basic feel and from there, what were the changes that we wanted to make. All the assets were recreated, they’re new, everything is rebuilt inside Frostbite but things like the enviromment, for instance, we took what we considered the final shell of the original game and used it as a grey box inside our game, so the geometry was used as our base collision mesh, so that we could easily start prototyping the environment, and then we made everything with the new meshes and the new assets.

Philippe Ducharme, senior producer at EA Motive Studios

Dead Space Remake Fixes Ills of Original. I Know, Because I Played - picture #1

Dead Space, EA, 2023

USG Ishimura's atmosphere slays

The first thing that you're likely to notice are, of course, the visuals. You might argue that they don't matter so much in a good game and that the old Dead Space still looks pretty solid, but it's enough to play the remake for a while to never want to return to low-res textures and flat lighting of the original. The USG Ishimura recreated in modern details looks amazing, with palpable space staleness and, above all, the play of light and shadow.

I got the impression that some spaces, such as those with the tram, had become noticeably larger – as if the limitations of the game engine no longer existed. Materials that used to be simply matte now look appropriately metallic, with water droplets gushing out during the decontamination sequence along with clouds of steam, which rebound and disperse light from multiple sources. While the claustrophobic atmosphere of an extinct space station was delighting in the Dead Spaceoriginal, now, it's simply crushing!

Lots of small improvements

But it's easy to evaluate the graphics just from screenshots or videos alone. During my session with the game, other things also caught my attention, confirming that there was a focus on something more, not just the visuals. And while we're on the subject of graphics, it's worth mentioning its use in constructing the story. Indeed, some scenes have been completely reworked, enriched with new narrative tools. This is the case, for example, during the finale of the search for the Captain's RIG exoskeleton in the morgue. In the original, Isaac only sees a brawl through the glass, and then has to fight a slightly stronger opponent.

In the remake, we have a smooth transition to the cutscenes without any cuts. Isaac enters the room with the body, watches the normal-looking Captain and begins to take his RIG off. Only in the middle of this activity does the infector suddenly appear, catch the body, which after a moment turns into a miniboss right before our eyes, with the camera returning to FPP, so that we can enter the duel. There's bound to be more such subtle tweaks.

Dead Space Remake Fixes Ills of Original. I Know, Because I Played - picture #2

Dead Space, EA, 2023

What in my opinion was the biggest flaw of the original has also been eliminated. Namely, the strange controls and rigid camera operation. I always felt some discomfort from the fact that the camera was, in a way, badly "attached" to Isaac. The pad controls on the PC also seemed a bit laggy. Nothing like that happens in the new version – the camera works perfectly, and the joypad is responsive and precise. It also seems to me that the balance of the game has been improved in terms of the number of money found and the distribution of blueprints – in the original, after three chapters, I was much richer than in the remake.

The engineer has a voice

Well, and there is one more important thing – in this part, Isaac finally got his own voice. He didn't become a big talker all of the sudden, and fortunately the game wasn't filled with monologues of a character talking to himself. But finally, he isn't just a silent boy running errands for Kendra and Hammond, but can help solve Ishimura's puzzles with his engineering mind. One of the developers from EA Motive's team, Philippe Ducharme, will tell us best about the behind-the-scenes of adding Isaac's voice.

I think the challange for us was at first “should we give him a voice;” that was the first question for us. And that’s something that we talked with our community council about. It was the first topic that we addressed with them. When we read reviews of the game, read comments on boards by fans, it was not necessarily overwhelmingly appreiacted. It was something like "ok hes mute, it's normal." But there were concerns such as lack of agency – Issac keeps being told by Hammond and Kendra "go do this, go do that," and you almost feel like a space janitor sometime – go and clean up the stuff.

What we tried to do with our writer Joe Barry was to review those scenes and try to give Issac more agency inside problem-solving of these things. So the barricade is there – what can we do? I could take a hydrazine tank and I should find these materials. Previously, Issac was told by Hammond "Do this!" Now, if there’s a problem, Issac is going to figure out a solution. But the risk was always about how do we prevent breaking the isolation? The reason why he didn’t have a voice in DS1 was that they wanted the player to feel alone all the time. And so we put a rule in place that we rarely broke that mood, only one or two times, but Issac is never going to speak until he's spoken to – and then he answers. When we rewrote all of our scenes, it was with this in mind; we wanted to be able to provide additional narrative without breaking the isolation that was so essential.

Philippe Ducharme, senior producer at EA Motive Studios

Dead Space Remake Fixes Ills of Original. I Know, Because I Played - picture #3

Dead Space, EA, 2023

I'd rather have the remake than part four

The only thing I didn't like about the Dead Space remake at the moment is the technical condition, but we know that it was an early build of the game and there is still plenty of time for optimization and fixes. Nevertheless, I think that if something has the potential to sink this game in reviews, it can only be the bugs and fairly high system requirements. I have no concerns about the atmosphere and gameplay. It seems to me that the decision to create a remake after 14 years was an excellent one.. That's enough time for a whole bunch of new players with no previous exposure to the game to join the gaming community, and those who have played the original, have probably already forgotten what this whole affair on Ishimura was about, and fans will certainly welcome such a powerful redo of their favorite game.

Besides, I'm trying to remember when the last time Electronic Arts delivered something with a decent, memorable storyline, and save for somewhat more independent activity of Josef Fares, I only came up with... maybe 2016 Titanfall 2? With part four, I would have been concerned about the online co-op of four Isaacs in the first season of fighting the xenomorph scourge. With the remake, I can be sure about an atmospheric, claustrophobic space survival horror adventure in a stunning, immersive audiovisual setting. A brand new story in similar style should be provided by The Callisto Protocol – I certainly look forward to this experience. Developers of Dead Space Remake are looking forward to it as well.

I am thrilled to be able to play that game. Who wouldn’t? If you are a fan of that genre, you will have two games, so no one is going to complain, I think. It's more experiences for people to enjoy. So, on my side, it is something I am looking forward to play as a player. I'm looking forward to see what they did as developers. I don’t think it's an issue, it's good for survival horror games because for a while, there were just few titles released, now there are some more, so it's good.

For us our focus is to make the best game possible and be proud of it, what we deliver for fans. Hopefully people are able to enjoy both games. What about Dead Space 4? I hope the market will respond positively and there will be a demand for this type of production so that we can create more. We have a great team, which is a pleasure to work with. When we've put the final touches on everything in the current project, there will be time to sit down and think about what's next.

Philippe Ducharme, senior producer at EA Motive Studios

Darius Matusiak

Darius Matusiak

A wannabe fighter pilot, racing driver, and a spec-op; an adventurer and a space marine – hence, a gamer. I’ve been playing games since Wing Commander, and writing since Destiny.


Dead Space

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