Remakes and remasters continue to be all the rage as we move into 2023 and beyond, and the sheer amount of excitement and hype around the upcoming Dead Space remake is a strong testament to that fact. Of course, that hype is for good reason because it looks incredibly sharp and has the potential to end up as one of the most popular games of the year. As we approach its imminent release, the time seems ripe to stack the EA Motive developed remake and the original to see how things have changed. Please note that we will not be discussing gameplay changes in this feature, so be sure to check out our review for that. With that out of the way, let’s begin:
The original Dead Space released in 2008 to rave reviews, and judging by the graphical standards of the time. It was one of the most atmospheric and technically competent games on the market. But the most surprising thing about it is the fact that it was made using a highly modified version of the Tiger Woods Engine which would then go on to be used for Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3.
Now though, EA has switched over to its in-house Frostbite Engine for most of its projects. So, it’s not surprising that the remake is also being powered by this engine. It’s a really powerful engine capable of rendering immaculately detailed worlds as seen in Need For Speed, but it’s also notorious for its complexity of usage in certain scenarios as well.
Dead Space is a rather unique ground for this specific engine, since Frostbite hasn’t been used for a linear game of this ilk in a long time. And this presents some interesting opportunities for the developers, since they can focus on maximizing the micro-level detail in the environments without having to worry about streaming issues and scale. The developers can also rely on pre-calculated lighting data for many light sources, which should also help in saving compute resources for other tasks.
Assets And Level Design
In an interview with IGN, the developers behind Dead Space detailed how they remade assets for this project. Since the original’s assets are so deeply rooted in seventh-generation console traditions, it was absolutely vital to rebuild them from scratch for current-gen machines. EA Motive was able to get a hold of all development prototypes for the original release, and the team used the best editions of that data to make changes to the original assets. So if a particular design in the original release was scrapped due to technological constraints of the hardware, those assets were rebuilt in all their glory this time around and that’s evident all around from Isaac’s armor designs to subtle changes in textures of corridor walls, just to name a few.
Level design also follows a similar philosophy, but because changing the designs would require a lot of rebalancing on the gameplay alongside other issues. The level geometry itself has remained mostly identical in the remake. But we do get to see better realized environments in the remake, complete with new props and set dressing that wasn’t present in the original release.
Lighting, Animations, and Atmosphere
When you view the original Dead Space release through the rose-tinted goggles of nostalgia, it becomes easy to forget the many flaws in its lighting department. Sure, it was scary for its time but that presentation looks really bland by modern standards. The lighting looks flat most of the time, and the anti-aliasing pass on the presentation can also cause shimmering artifacts around the edges.
For the remake however, we get a new lighting implementation, complete with all the modern tech that one would want for a current-gen release. EA Motive has already confirmed that Dead Space remake will feature ray-traced lighting and reflections, and suffice to say, it looks absolutely gorgeous with pristine reflections and lifelike lighting conditions through and through. Just a head-to-head comparison between the two versions of the game is all that’s needed to verify it.
As for the animations, the original featured rather heavy movement animations which was a direct result of the influence of other horror games of that era on the design of the game. You had to be really methodical with your movements since that could easily become the difference between life and death. Combine that with the nimble Necromorphs, and you get the brutal combat system that we all grew to love so dearly. The remake seems to be using identical animation data, but the actual movements seem to have been smoothed out a bit though that doesn’t seem to be that big of a change in the grand scheme of things.
Pitting the original Dead Space and its remake head to head, you can immediately notice how big of a leap EA Motive has made in terms of atmosphere. For instance, the original used a lot of fog to mask certain areas which was seemingly implemented by attaching a fog texture to a transparent plane which looks pretty rudimentary by modern standards. The remake changes it up with volumetric fog which looks dense and realistic. As mentioned previously as well, the changes in asset quality with respect to the environment assets also really make a ton of difference. These updated corridors of the USG Ishimura look more believable than before while retaining the same ominous vibe as before.
The Peeling System, Intensity Director and Changes To Sound
Dead Space remake is also introducing a new Peeling system, which basically simulates the impact of your shots on Necromorphs and this is meant to serve as an extension to the Dismemberment system. Enemies will basically have layers of flesh, tendons, and bones that will break with every fired shot. So, while it would usually take a couple of shots to dismember an enemy’s limb in the original, players will have to fire off more focused shots to expose the inner layers after which the limbs will come off. This makes the combat in the remake more brutal than before, which sounds really promising. In addition to this, you will also be able to use the severed limbs to attack back on enemies which could prove vital when you are short on ammo or resources.
On the same note, we should also mention the changes in the sound department. Unlike the original, protagonist Isaac Clark is now fully voiced and is being played by Gunner Wright who has previously voiced the character in Dead Space 2 and 3. Finally, a new Intensity Director system will also monitor intensity levels for the player and its judgment will govern the hazards that you will face throughout your journey. For instance, an enemy could jump out from an unlikely spot to scare you, or perhaps the lights may suddenly go off in a room, or a pipe may burst out of nowhere to catch you by surprise. According to the developer, this system can turn its dials to generate over 1200 unique events. So, you can expect to have a dynamic experience as you trudge through the corridors of USG Ishimura for the umpteenth time.
Over on the sound department, EA Motive is also bringing some substantial changes to sound effects for the remake. Weapon sounds have been recreated with punchier tones as per fan feedback, and sounds of guns like the Plasma Cutter and Pulse Rifles have been redone to give them the weight and intensity that they deserve. Isaac will also reflect any increased levels of stress with altered speech and heavy breathing as an extension of the Intensity System. Sure, this change doesn’t directly impact the gameplay in any meaningful way but it should help players feel a lot closer to the protagonist than before.
Also, Unlike the original Dead Space where the map was sectioned off by loading screens, the remake will be one contiguous experience from start to end. This means that there are no loading screens, and you will be able to get through the campaign in a seamless manner.
In conclusion, Dead Space is a faithful recreation of this iconic horror classic. While it mostly sticks close to the original script in terms of design, it still remains a horrifying experience to this date and new features like the Intensity Director and Peeling System just add so much more to this experience. Here’s hoping Dead Space returns soon with a new entry, or perhaps we can now hope for a Dead Space 2 remake?