How the Dead Space remake became prettier to become scarier

How the Dead Space remake became prettier to become scarier

Dead Space’s remake treatment has produced a piece of gory greatness, some Steam Deck wobbles notwithstanding. Vid bud Liam touched on the visual upgrades in his review, but since it’s been shaking my bones even harder than the original did, I wanted to dive even deeper into the mottled flesh of the modernized Dead Space to examine how all those new polygons and effects aren’t just there to please nerds. They do, in fact, make the remake scarier.

This is the Dead Space you remember but with a brilliant new sheen, luxuriously improved in small but considered ways. Comfortably familiar, but excellent nonetheless.

And what better way to conduct this investigation than with a before-and-after comparison with 2008’s Dead Space, which I’m presenting in the distant hope that everyone who’s interested in such a thing won’t have already watched three of them on YouTube ?

First up, those reanimated rapscallions themselves, the necromorphs. The originals are gross, but their true ickiness potential is held back by circa 2008 visuals: the broken, torn, sticky bits lack in texture and often even stark color differences to their bland gray skin. What a glow up for the remake, then: these things are properly revolting, with visibly spilling guts, sharper fangs and arm blades, and just generally more detailed and readable debasements of the human body. Not that the originals seem like friendly sorts but I really, really don’t want one of the remake’s necormorphs running at me.

Also, yes this is a graphics comparison, but the remake’s new ‘morph screams are miles more unsettling than the original’s purely bestial growls. There’s a lot more human in them, serving both to overtly remind you that there’s a corrupted person (or several) in there, and to present some nasty implications as to just how dead the host bodies really are.

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With the body horror quota more than filled, it’s the Ishimura that delivers the quieter brand of spookiness. To the original’s credit, its presentation of a spacebound, late stage capitalist hellhole still stands up today – but the remake makes excellent use of modern lighting and effects to really up the sense that this mechanical leviathan wants you dead as much as the necromorphs do. See the above: I love (or, given the circumstances, hate) the more urgent red lighting and ghostly steam added to the medical deck, the site of a particularly stressy chapter about halfway in. Isaac is no longer inexplicably lit brighter than his surroundings , too.

Speaking of, “make stuff darker” sounds like the laziest tension-building tactic imaginable, but it works in the remake because the shadows contrast better with what light is available. It’s not just a bit dingy; very often, you simply cannot see without the mounted torch on Isaac’s tools, a weakness the Dead Space remake almost gleefully exploits when it repeatedly asks you to kill the lights in a room to reroute their power to a lift or door. Goodbye, glowing sanctuary against encroaching dread. Hello, murder monsters in the blackness.

It’s not like the darkness is used to hide half-arsed textures and modeling work, either. The remake’s Ishimura is more densely detailed than ever, right down to (what I can assume are ironic) hazard markings on the vent covers that your foes are so keen on bursting through.

Also, when I said the Ishimura still stands up, that’s mainly in the atmospheric sense. If you can get the original Dead Space running today, you will see some advanced graphical aging in places. Like these sickly green (and, again, oddly bright) specimen tanks, which make for more subtle scene dressing in the 2023 version. Yeah, sorry mate, I’ll help you in a sec. Just admiring the tanks.

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The Dead Space remake has a lot more going for it besides: the combat is weightier, the characters are more nuanced and developed, and you spend far less of what time Isaac has left waiting around for trams to arrive. It’s just extra-impressive that it’s all presented with as much of an eye for effective horror as it is for simple GPU-straining shininess. Fantastic stuff.

then again, this never happens in the remake, so clearly the original is better: