Dead Space review: "A sublime mix of fresh, familiar, and freaking terrifying"

Dead Space
(Image: © EA)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Dead Space sets new standards in modern day remakes with new tricks and terrors.


  • +

    It looks terrifyingly gorgeous

  • +

    Loads more depth than the original

  • +

    It's effortlessly confident in what it does


  • -

    Map backtracking can sometimes feel restrictive

  • -

    Nods to source material can occasionally feel dated

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In Dead Space, I don't run, I walk. Almost exclusively. I ease my way down the dimly-lit corridors of the USG Ishimura space vessel with care, hugging the aluminum walls like a drunk after a day in the pub. I peer round corners like a child playing hide and seek, and then move slowly, pivoting back and forth as I go, as if trying to lose my shadow. I walk, not because I'm a tough guy, but because I'm fucking terrified. One step. Pivot. Two steps. Pivot. I hear a crashing sound from somewhere in the distance. A muted explosion, the screech of metal being sheared with force, then a bang and I'm plunged into darkness. And that's when I run.   

FAST FACTS: Dead Space

Dead Space

(Image credit: EA)

Release date: January 27, 2023
Platform(s): PS5, Xbox Series X, PC
Developer: Motive Studio
Publisher: EA

I run because I've learned that my life depends on it. The Dead Space remake has taught me that, just like its source material, the hostile necromorphs that've forcefully taken over the ship I'm now stranded on will tear me limb from limb in a moment's notice. And so I dash into a corner where I can't be flanked by the hideous natives. I raise my military-grade Pulse Rifle in anticipation, while my index finger hovers over the R1 and R2 buttons of my DualSense control pad – the choice between unloading primary fire or a proximity mine is one I'll make in the heat of the moment. I hold my breath, steady my hand, and… And nothing. The ship's power source hums to life, the lights flicker on, and it's back to business.

Don't get me wrong: Motive Studio's Dead Space remake absolutely shines in its gun-toting, alien-blasting blockbuster showdowns. But the ways in which it toys with your mind, keeps you on edge, and masterfully recalls the 2008 original while delivering something entirely fresh is pretty incredible. We rightly hail horror games elsewhere for their ability to scare us with what we cannot see – design choices often accentuated by a steady flow of high and low-tension moments. Dead Space, on the other hand, filled me with dread from start to finish. And it takes a pretty special game to pull that off. Especially one that I was sure I was familiar with already.

Old dog, new tricks

Dead Space

(Image credit: EA)

The survival horror genre has been well-served for modern day remakes in recent years, kick-started by Resident Evil 2 in 2019. Capcom's reimagining set a high bar, reworking just about every aspect of its 21-year-old source material to create an entirely different beast to the one that first graced the PSOne. With Dead Space, however, Motive Studios has faced a different challenge – simply because the technical jump from PS3 and Xbox 360, while notable, isn't quite as big. Even approaching 15 years old, Dead Space still looks good today. Its over-the-shoulder view point is still popular, especially in the survival horror space, and, mechanically, the multi-checklist mission structure of the first game is still present in many games in 2023. 

Making this point is important to dispel any notion, then, that the Dead Space remake is simply the same game with a modern makeover. Sure, today's Dead Space looks brilliant, oozing atmosphere and painting a more credible version of the ill-fated USG Ishimura – but that's because it's been rebuilt from the ground up in the Frostbite engine, with lighting, textures, character animations and enemy move patterns all dialed up and brought in-line with PS5 and Xbox Series X standards. The game follows the same narrative arc as the original, but it interweaves new story offshoots and more sophisticated dialogue throughout; while also replacing the once-silent protagonist Issac Clarke with voice acting from Gunner Wright, who brought the character to life in Dead Space 2 and 3. 

Out on the field, enemy placement has been drastically altered, as have the transitions between some levels and the bosses which gate them. Without spoiling too much here, there is one end-of-chapter enemy who's been entirely reworked to great, sanity-saving effect; which in turn totally transforms the build-up to and aftermath of the encounter. Elsewhere, environmental puzzles have been completely overhauled in places – including a new take on Zero G sections, where players can now fly freely around internal and external locations powered by a booster – posing new challenges that left me scratching my head on more than one occasion. Through all of this, Dead Space has been granted new levels of depth – to the point where I'd argue being in any way familiar with the original is as much a hurdle to be overcome as the game's tangible obstacles themselves.

Panic at the UFO

Dead Space

(Image credit: EA)

Take me in the above scenario, slouching down a hallway I'd already cleared of several foes previously, doubling back on myself to reach a tram station. The original Dead Space pulled very few punches to this end – explosions and power cuts invariably preceded trouble – but toying with your nervous disposition in these moments works on two core levels. Firstly, it makes backtracking more exciting. The USG Ishimura is an expertly interlinked playground, but, like the first game, you'll do a lot of shuttling around the same claustrophobic locations as you progress the story. Being unsure of what might lie around corners you've already uncovered is a sure-fire way of keeping things fresh, and it works. Secondly, by making it seem like trouble's coming, but not actually executing the threat, the game messes with your head. It invites you to doubt yourself, your skills, your nerve, while simultaneously allowing the devs to vault the fourth wall with a nod and a wink, as if to say: "nice try, think again." 

A new 'Intensity Director' powers much of these variable outcomes, said to be capable of 1,200 unique events that appear to occur at random. Similar to the aforementioned power cut, incidental screams or unseen surviving crew members sobbing plague many-a-journey from A to B, which, combined with Dead Space's penchant for break-neck, blood-boiling battles against scores of angry necromorphs at any given time helps maintain its sense of omnipresent alarm. Add all of this to the game's more subtle tweaks, such as essential stasis stations appearing on different walls during boss fights, firearms operating slightly different from their OG counterparts, and certain level layouts now being unrecognizable, and Dead Space will keep you glued to the edge of your seat for the duration.

Sure, there are still some post-BioShock era set-pieces left in – getting our first glimpse of a new enemy type decimating an NPC on the opposite side of safety glass is no longer scary whatsoever – but these moments, I reckon, exist as a homage to the original's place in time.

Dead Space

(Image credit: EA)

Under the hood, the Dead Space remake comes with a suite of accessibility options missing from the original game that cover everything from 'Color Blind Mode' to aim assistance, a 'Story' difficulty setting (that sees Isaac's health continuously regenerate), HUD options, subtitle options, and graphic content warnings that allow players to hide the game's more disturbing or more graphic scenes. 

The Dead Space remake also follows the likes of GTA 5's PS5 iteration by offering console players the choice of a 'Quality' or a 'Performance' mode. In essence, the former portrays the game at its best-looking, in 4K UHD resolution with ray-tracing, but with a 30fps capped framerate. The latter, on the other hand, maintains a steady 60fps framerate, but with 2K QHD resolution and no ray-tracing. How you play is up to you, of course, but I will say that if you can overlook the negligible difference between 30fps and 60fps, Dead Space looks gorgeous running on Quality mode. 

Again, it feels like we're well-served for horror game remakes at the moment, but Motive Studio's Dead Space is a horror remake done right. It really is a sublime mix of fresh and familiar, and it's freaking terrifying in its loud and quieter moments. Its reworked visuals and stunning dynamic lighting totally transform certain areas, while the remake's new dismemberment animations mean hacking off enemy limbs with the Plasma Cutter, uncovering bone and muscle tissue as you do, is now gorier than ever. I know this first hand, because I was too scared to run.
Reviewed on PS5 with a code provided by the publisher.  

Love some scares? Check out the best horror games worth losing sleep over right now! 

More info

Available platformsPC, PS5, Xbox Series X
GenreSurvival Horror
Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.