A star rating of 4 out of 5.

Reviewing a remake is never an easy task in gaming circles. In almost every case where a remake is made, you already know that the original game was widely beloved. It probably still holds up quite well on its own. But judging the worth of the remake itself is a bit of a murkier proposition.


Take EA's Dead Space remake, for example, which is launching onto PS5, PC and Xbox Series X/S this week. Here at RadioTimes.com, we got our copy nice and early and we were excited to load it up and start playing, the nostalgia for the original burning bright in our hearts.

We kicked off the first level and, well, the game felt scarily familiar from the start. This is a remake that knows what worked in the original and doesn't want to veer too far away from that. The level design, the story, the music, it feels at first like a replay rather than a reimagining.

The first comparison point that comes to mind is the Mass Effect Legendary Edition from 2021. Another EA sci-fi property that got a new lick of paint for modern systems, it didn't exactly go out of its way to surprise you. Here, in a similar way, you get the sense that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" was a mantra during production.

Part of the problem, of course, is that the way you remember a game is not always accurate. The original Dead Space that launched in 2008 felt like a cutting-edge product at the time, so when you picture the game in your mind's eye, you imagine it having the cutting-edge graphics that you're used to in the modern day.

When we first started playing the Dead Space remake, that's exactly how we felt. Isn't this the exact same game as before? What is this, some sort of cynical cash grab? It's only when we went back and looked at the original game again that we realised how wrong we were. We took a look at the video below and that really put things into perspective.

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It doesn't feel like a spoiler to say that the Dead Space remake opens in the exact same way as the one above. Isaac Clarke is sitting in his spaceship chair, crewmates around him, watching an old video message as his ship approaches its destination. On what should be a routine repair job to a mining vessel, things go wrong immediately.

The ship crashes and Isaac wanders off to find help. Instead of finding a willing crew of colleagues, he finds space zombies known as Necromorphs. He quickly learns that the only way to stop them is to cut off their limbs, which still feels like an ingenious idea - the fact that a simple headshot won't do the job, that you need to take off all four limbs or the thing will keep coming for you, makes for really tense moments.

Use laser weapons to dismember your foes in Dead Space.
Use laser weapons to dismember your foes in Dead Space. EA Motive

So yes, everything is the same as it was in some regards, including identical plot beats and painfully faithful stagings of the classic scenes and levels. But what's truly impressive, on the other hand, is that the game looks, feels and sounds totally new. All of the environments, character models and enemies have been rebuilt in EA's Frostbite engine to match modern standards, with the graphics taking a huge leap forward towards realism.

This helps the atmosphere get even more intense, with the scares ramped up with help from new fangled lighting effects and deeper detail in the gore. There are some new rooms and puzzles as well, although they're seamlessly integrated. And even if you know where some of the jump scares will be, we suspect that they'll hit you a lot harder this time out. On the flipside of that, if you've never had the pleasure of playing this game before, you're in for a blood-splattered treat.

It's also worth pointing out that there are some significant changes that you might not even notice. It's easy to forget that Isaac was a silent protagonist in the first game, due to the fact he was voiced by Gunner Wright in the sequels, but here in the remake he is fully voiced with all-new dialogue lines (and yes, Wright reprises the role to round out a trilogy of cracking performances).

Wright's understated but effective performance gives the game a bit more heart than before, and the supporting characters all feel a bit more real as well. With mostly new voices reading a well-written redraft of the script, the overall vibe feels less like a hammy B-movie and more like serious affair a la Ridley Scott's Alien. Again, this feeds into the overall melting pot to make the scary moments more effective than before.

Some old-school elements did take us out of the action, though - checking maps in menus, searching for save points on the walls, and constantly having to 'press this button to see a clunky line pointing towards your objective on the floor' just feels dated, especially when contrasted to the highly modern graphics.

It's an interesting combination, then. This is a totally faithful recreation in some regards (we're not kidding when we say a lot of the level design is literally identical), but the changes that have been made really make a difference and make the game better.

Dead Space is still a great game, with lots of fun action moments as well as frequent frights, and now this is by far the best way to experience it. It's not quite the total reinvention that we saw with the Resident Evil 2 remake, but on closer inspection, the changes here are far more meaningful than the Mass Effect ones.

Zero-G levels return in the Dead Space remake.
Zero-G levels return in the Dead Space remake. EA Motive

Another interesting comparison is The Callisto Protocol, the spiritual sequel to Dead Space that was released by some of its original developers last year. Playing Dead Space again after experiencing Callisto reminds you of how much the latter copied from the former, from its crash-landing opening scene to making you stomp on corpses to pick up resources.

Luckily for fans of this franchise, there's room in the world for both projects to thrive. For a brand new story with similar elements, try Callisto. Or to revisit the original magic in a whole new way, to feel the scares anew, check out the Dead Space remake if you dare. If you're a fan of sci-fi horror, we really don't think you'll regret it.

The Dead Space remake launches on 27th February for PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. We reviewed on Xbox Series X, and you can order your copy from Amazon or CD Keys.

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