As many of us now know, it appears that EA has indeed heard our cries for some sort of revival for the Dead Space franchise and they are finally giving us just that in the form of a total remake of the original game. While that is perhaps playing it a bit on the safe side, and a more ambitious true 4th game in the storyline would have perhaps been preferable – especially seeing how well the original game still holds up – at this point, any form of a return to the series is welcome. But given that it is a remake and not just a remaster, and thus, able to take advantage of all of the lessons learned and advancements in game development that we’ve seen over the 14 years since the game’s release, here’s hoping that EA Motive are given the time and resources needed to do the game justice, and maintain what is needed to ensure a successful remake while smoothing over the game’s few rough edges and keeping what Visceral Games got right intact. It’s certainly true that most things about Dead Space hold up just fine today – especially if you don’t get hung up on dated graphics too easily, but the truth is there is nothing from that long ago that couldn’t be smoothed over today, so for now, let’s talk about a few of those things that hopefully EA Motive has the foresight to address in the upcoming remake.
Few things about the original Dead Space game could be considered a true flaw, even by today’s standards, but one thing that even the original developers admitted was the result of technical constraints – rather than their actual vision – was the game’s relentless linearity. Other than the occasional diverting hallway that only goes a handful of feet before it rewards you with an item and forces you to turn back around, Dead Space is pretty much the epitome of the linear corridor shooter when it comes to its level design. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it can lead to some samey-ness and boredom in the later sections of some games. Thankfully Visceral was wise enough to mix in some larger, more open-looking areas, and a handful of light puzzles and minigames to mix up the gameplay, but the design itself rarely changes from a simple A to B linear path structure. This wasn’t really a huge problem then, nor would it be now, but I could absolutely see modern gamers who expect a bit more exportability in their games today having a bone to pick with that if it is maintained in a modern remake. I certainly don’t think we need to see anything that would make the game open-world, but surely some more rewarding diversions, alternate pathways, and side objectives couldn’t hurt if peppered into the game to a conservative degree.
Another thing about the original game that probably wouldn’t hold up quite as well today is the original game’s enemy variety. It’s true, the Necromorphs’ various forms are all still horrifying and should absolutely return for the remake, but it’s also true that you saw most of them about half-way through it, and you probably weren’t nearly as taken aback by them by the final few levels. A good way to avoid this is to just introduce more enemy types in a more consistent way throughout the game. Dead Space 2 and even 3 seemed to get the memo on that a little better than the original, so hopefully between that and the much better enemy variety we’ve seen in horror/action games since, like in The Evil Within 2, EA Motive will take those extra few steps and design some more Necromorphs with different shapes, sizes, and behaviors for us to dismember, impale, and torch. Given the nature of the Necromorphs, and how they can take so many forms, I think I’d be more than fine with the developers taking some liberties with the concepts laid out in the original game and coming up with some of their own ideas. If this was a remaster, obviously I wouldn’t worry about that, but if they are going to give this the “remake” moniker, they should really take it seriously and fill in the enemy roster with some new Necromorphs.
Better melee combat
While Dead Space mostly did a good job of always making sure you had just enough ammo to get through any given situation, it didn’t always work out that way. Sometimes, usually because of my own buffoonery, I would run out of ammo right before I needed to take on some baddies that were blocking my path. Sometimes I could finagle my way through them with Isaac’s wild arm-swinging, but even then, I got the feeling that this wasn’t really what the developers intended and it drew me out of the experience. As a result, I think Isaac would benefit from a slight improvement in the melee department. This could come in the form of better punches that have a higher probability of knocking enemies down so I can run past them, or perhaps including some environmental items here and there like chairs, fire extinguishers, etc, that can be used as temporary melee weapons that last just long enough to get the player through a sticky situation. Either, both, or some other solution would be fine. While the result of bad ammo management should ultimately be punished (after all, if it wasn’t, there would be no tension) I don’t think it should necessarily result in the player getting stuck. So some sort of last resort melee option that isn’t a total crapshoot would be much appreciated.
A competent PC port
Console players might not have caught wind of this, but PC players were not exactly treated to the superior version of Dead Space that they were used to getting with most games upon the PC version’s launch. The performance was shoddy, the physics were a mess, and the V-sync would often be required if you wanted the game to run even remotely well, despite that often resulting in more input lag for the player. Even today, many PC players report running into odd bugs and issues that are not present on the PS3 and 360 versions of the game, and that is even less excusable now than it was then. Given that this is a ground up remake, it’s probably safe to assume that we won’t have this issue again, but just in case, I think it’s worth underlining that PC players deserve just as good a version of the game as anybody else.
Graphics and atmosphere
While this one might seem obvious, and it is basically a certainty that graphics will be improved for this remake in terms of polygon count, shaders, reflections and all of that, there is more to Dead Space’s graphics than just impressive metrics like that. Dead Space has a certain je ne sais quoi that is hard to describe and, I imagine, hard to remake. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that the lighting is only coming from small sources most of the time, or if it’s the strobing effect that many of the flickering lights give off, or if it’s the balance between those lights and the shadows and darkness that are just as prevalent in the environments as anything else, or perhaps a combination of all of that, but whatever it is, it must absolutely be maintained. It’s one thing for a developer to recreate the look of an old game, but it’s another thing entirely to know why that look was so effective and bring it into a new experience in just as effective a manner. Given that this remake will be on the frostbite engine and only focusing on current gen-hardware, the team at EA Motive should really have nothing holding them back, so let’s hope at the very least the tone of Dead Space’s visuals are handled with the dexterity and care they deserve.
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