After skipping out on The Callisto Protocol once it became clear it wasn’t going to become the next sci-fi horror classic, my eyes became fixed on the rapidly approaching Dead Space remake. While not made by the 2008 version’s original team, developer Motive had been extremely transparent about how it was approaching the project through the entirety of its development. This was going to be a faithful remake, sticking true to what the original was, and only modernizing the look and making key changes here and there. This was meant to be a replacement for the original, not a companion piece.
Perhaps my expectations of Dead Space being closer to a spiritual successor came from the sort of marketing cold war going on with The Callisto Protocol. Both were heavily advertised and had high expectations; Callisto because it had Dead Space‘s original creators working on it, and Dead Space for being, well, a remake of Dead Space. While the former game turned out to be a major departure from what I was looking for in the genre, I decided instead to bide my time waiting for Dead Space by going back and replaying the old version one last time.
And boy, do I regret it.
How to rob a remake
The 2008 version of Dead Space is still a rock-solid game. There are a few annoyances and moments where it shows its age in terms of design and technical limitations, but they are quite few and far between. The same is true for Dead Space (2023). We were all well aware that this was going to be on the more faithful side of the remake spectrum, as opposed to something like Final Fantasy 7 Remake, with the core experience staying largely untouched.
Within the first few hours of playing the remake, I began to realize my mistake. As I stalked (or rather was stalked) through the halls of the USG Ishimura, I constantly found myself looking for moments I recognized. Or worse, I was waiting for moments that I didn’t recognize. “Wait, is this the part where you see the guy bashing his head against the wall? Yup, there it is!” or “Oh, here comes that moment! Unless they take it out … they wouldn’t do that, right?”
What I regret most is that I robbed myself of what the new version of Dead Space sets out to do: create newfound fear and tension. By replaying the first, I not only refreshed my memory on where every scare happens, but also became too comfortable with its systems from the jump. I began the remake intimately familiar with all of Isaac Clarke’s strengths and weaknesses. In the early hours, when I was supposed to be fumbling my aim to target vulnerable limbs, I instead was able to predict every enemy’s move and expertly sever their weak points. Isaac isn’t meant to be in control that way, at least not initially. Having full control of the situation early on takes away from that opening tension.
By the time I reached the credits, I felt torn. On one hand, I knew Dead Space (2023) was exceptional. All of the small changes to the original, from visuals to tonal shifts, were outstanding. On the other hand, I knew I had robbed myself of fully enjoying all aspects of the game by experiencing a nearly identical product right before it.
Enter with clear eyes
My replay plan backfired as I found myself competing with biases while trying to maintain a clear judgment. I had preconceived ideas and expectations going in, and even though the remake met them all, it still kept me from enjoying it for what it was; I could only see it in relation to the original.
My mistake here was treating the new Dead Space like more of a sequel, reboot, or reimagining than a mostly faithful remake. For those other examples, playing the original in close proximity could be beneficial in showing you how it has or hasn’t improved. In this case, Dead Space (2023) isn’t made for people who just played the original.
A common accolade this and many other highly regarded remakes get is that it is “as good as you remember the original being.” That is to say, it lives up to the exaggerated way nostalgia can trick you into believing older games look, control, and hold up to today’s standards when they most likely don’t. The original Dead Space doesn’t feel all that dated, which is partially why the improvements of the remake don’t hit as hard when the games are played side by side.
As disappointed with myself as I am for dampening how effective the remake could’ve been, I’m at least left with a valuable takeaway. I’m glad to be able to put this into practice before Resident Evil 4 launches next month. It seems to be following a similar remake style to Dead Space, and I’m excited to go in not knowing my way through that game backwards and forwards, preserving all of its horror glory.
If you’re considering playing 2008’s Dead Space before diving into the remake, I caution you to reconsider. It won’t ruin your experience, but allowing your memory to remain foggy will help keep its scares intact.
Dead Space is out now for Xbox Series X/S, PS5, and PC.