Isaac Clarke tapped into a deep well of courage and engineering skill to survive the horrors that awaited him aboard the Ishimura. Likewise, the talented team at Motive presents a daring and technically impressive approach with their remake of Clarke’s heavy-handed mission aboard the doomed spaceship in sci-fi horror masterpiece Dead Space. In addition to visual and performance improvements, Motive incorporates subtly expanded gameplay elements to draw players deeper into the nightmare.
Even exploring the halls of the Ishimura in depth during the original outing, my recent hands-on experience of the remake – incorporating Chapters 1-3 as Isaac attempts to reactivate the tram system and repair the ship’s engines – was full of unexpected discoveries. Reconfigured gameplay shocks, tough choices, new locations. Let’s dig.
New game features
Isaac is fully voiced: Isaac speaks up this time around, such as shouting his teammates’ names when they’re in trouble or explaining his plans to fix Ishimura’s centrifuge and fuel lines. Hearing him take an active role in the team’s mission makes the whole experience more cinematic and authentic.
Interconnected Immersion: There are no loading sequences when Isaac hops aboard Ishimura’s tram to quickly travel between destinations like Cargo and medical areas. It’s all part of Motive’s goal for an immersive and connected setting.
Freedom Zero G: In the original Dead Space, the weightless sections allowed Isaac to jump onto platforms using special boots. In the remake, you have the freedom to float 360 degrees, lending to the spacewalk fantasy. Isaac also now has a propulsion boost, which comes in handy for dodging space-striking necromorphs.
New Intense Moments: During Chapter 2, Isaac has to get a higher security clearance on the dead Captain’s Rig. The captain’s corpse is attacked by an infector, causing him to turn into a necromorph. In the 2008 sequence, players watch the change from the safety of glass. In the remake, Isaac experiences this gruesome transformation up close and personal, reminiscent of the spectacular real-time necromorph transformation at the start of Dead Space 2.
Circuit breakers: The new junction boxes force Isaac to redirect power between Ishimura’s various functions. In one scenario, I needed to redirect power to a refueling station, and I could choose between turning off the lights or the oxygen supply to accomplish this. Situations like this allow players to choose their poison when needed – I chose to play in the dark rather than risk suffocation.
Big moments feel bigger: Vivid lighting and visual effects make dramatic moments even more impressive. Later in Chapter 3, Isaac restarts Ishimura’s centrifuge. A combination of effects explodes into action as the giant machinery kicks into gear – giant machine parts rumble violently, sparks fly as metal creaks, the huge swinging arm casts large shadows against the power lights orange auxiliaries. It is a feast for the senses and immerses you deeper in the experience.
Incentive exploration: Locked doors and loot containers have been added to the Ishimura, which Isaac can access after gaining enhanced security clearance. This encourages players to return to previously cleared areas to discover resources and upgrade materials. A locked door even involves a new side quest revealing a bit more about Isaac’s missing partner, Nicole.
Intensity Director: But don’t let your guard down just because you’re going back to familiar territory. Motive keeps players on their toes with the Intensity Director, which will heighten the suspense with spooky noises like cracking vents, startling sounds like bursting pipes, and unexpected necromorph attacks.
Expanded weapon upgrade paths: What’s the point of hunting bonus resources without a place to invest them? New weapon upgrade items can be attached to Plasma Cutter, Pulse Rifle, etc. to add additional upgrade paths to spend nodes. Whether this incorporates new weapon mechanics, or just additional improvements to damage, reload speed, ammo capacity, etc., is yet to be determined.
Familiar, but improved
Improved visuals: A rich layer of visual polish has been applied to the entire experience. Small details set the mood, including floating dust particles, an eerie fog hanging above the ground, dripping bloodstains, and lackluster lighting.
Small details enhance the story: Isaac builds his plasma cutter from composite parts on a workbench instead of just picking it up, signaling his engineering background. Similarly, when Isaac picks up his stats module, he first picks up the severed limb it’s attached to, its previous owner having likely been dismembered by a malfunctioning door nearby. These micro moments of storytelling attracted me.
Gameplay tested: Combat offers the same satisfying familiarity, but with an added smoothness. Switching the Plasma Cutter to vertical and horizontal aiming modes while blasting necromorph limbs feels smooth and fast.
Stasis strategy: Isaac’s handy idle terrain is still a charm with crowd control. In an encounter, I used stasis to freeze an enemy near an explosive canister, then waited for another enemy to approach before shooting them and blasting both monsters to pieces .
Improve your path: The bench remains a fun way to customize Isaac to suit your playstyle using valuable nodes hidden around the Ishimura. This time I invested in costume upgrades which increased the area of effect of my Statis Mod to help coral more enemies at once. You can also improve your weapon’s damage, ammo capacity, and reload speed.
In-universe user interface: Back in 2008, Dead Space’s projected UI was ahead of its time, and today it still looks futuristic. Bringing up Isaac’s projected menu in real time preserves immersion and immediacy. Plus, menu text and icons look even sharper and crisper in 4K.
Resources matter: I’m familiar with Dead Space 2008 and I admit I felt a little cocky during my playthrough. I sold a few stacks of ammo early on for credits and to make inventory space. I paid the price for this later in Chapter 2 when I ran out of ammo during an intense sequence in the morgue, with a crawling infector spawning new necromorphs. The streak required me to make careful use of stasis and melee to survive. I finally managed to use stasis to slow the spread of the infector and crush the threat before it got out of control. My respect for ammo preservation was renewed throughout my game.
Bloody details: Each blast from Isaac’s weapons rips flesh, muscle, and eventually shatters bone. More than a gnarly visual effect, detailed damage offers insight into how close players are to breaking a limb and downing a Necro.
Your survival mission aboard the Ishimura begins when Dead Space launches January 27, 2023 on PS5.