Dead Space hands-on details – Upgraded and expanded horror gameplay

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Dead Space hands-on details – Upgraded and expanded horror gameplay

Isaac’s return brings new twists to exploration, enhanced zero-gravity gameplay, expanded upgrade options, and more.

Isaac Clarke tapped into a deep well of courage and engineering skill to survive the waiting horrors aboard the Ishimura. Similarly, the talented team at Motive are showcasing a bold and technically impressive approach with its remake of Clarke’s fraught mission aboard the doomed spaceship in sci-fi horror masterpiece Dead Space. In addition to visual and performance enhancements, Motive is incorporating subtly expanded gameplay elements to draw players deeper into the nightmare.

Even with thoroughly exploring the corridors of the Ishimura on original release, my recent hands-on with the remake – incorporating Chapters 1 through 3 as Isaac attempts to reactivate the tram system and repair the ship’s engines – was full of unexpected discoveries. Reconfigured gameplay shocks, difficult choices, new locations. Let’s dig in. 

New gameplay features

Isaac is fully voiced: Isaac speaks up this time around, like yelling his teammates’ names when they’re in trouble or explaining his plans to fix the Ishimura’s Centrifuge and fuel lines. Hearing him take an active role in the team’s mission makes the entire experience feel more filmlike and authentic.  

Interconnected immersion: There are no loading sequences when Isaac hops aboard the Ishimura’s tram to quickly travel between destinations like Cargo and the Medical areas. This is all part of Motive’s goal for an immersive, connected setting.

Zero G freedom: In the original Dead Space, zero-gravity sections let Isaac leap across platforms using special boots. In the remake, you have the freedom to float in 360 degrees, lending to the spacewalk fantasy. Isaac also now has a propulsion boost, which is handy for dodging necromorphs lunging through space.

Intense new moments: During chapter 2 Isaac must obtain higher security clearance off 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 safely behind glass. In the remake, Isaac experiences this horrifying transformation up close and personal, harkening back to the dramatic real-time necromorph transformation at the beginning of Dead Space 2.

Circuit breakers: New junction boxes require Isaac to reroute power between different Ishimura functions. In one scenario, I needed to reroute power to a refueling station, and I could choose between cutting the lights or oxygen supply to make this happen. Situations like this allow players to pick their poison when need be – I chose to play in the dark rather than risk suffocation.

Big moments feel bigger: The vivid lighting and visual effects make dramatic moments feel even more impressive. Later in chapter 3 Isaac restarts the Ishimura’s centrifuge. A combination of effects explode into action as the giant machinery kicks online – giant pieces of the machine rumble violently, sparks fly as metal grinds, the huge swinging arm casts large shadows against the orange auxiliary power lights. It’s a feast for the senses and draws you in deeper to the experience. 

Incentivized exploration: Locked doors and loot containers have been added to the Ishimura, which Isaac can access after acquiring upgraded security clearance. This incentivizes players to return to previously cleared areas to uncover resources and upgrade materials. One 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 returning to known territory. Motive keeps players on their toes with the Intensity Director, which will ratchet up suspense with creepy noises like creaking vents, surprised like bursting pipes, and unexpected necromorph attacks.

Expanded weapon upgrade paths: What good is hunting for bonus resources without a place to invest them? New weapon upgrade items can be attached to the Plasma Cutter, Pulse Rifle, and more to add extra upgrade paths to spend nodes. It’s to be determined if this incorporates new weapon mechanics, or simply additional enhancements to damage, reload speed, ammo capacity, etc.

Familiar, yet enhanced

Enhanced visuals: A rich layer of visual polish has been applied to the entire experience. Small details set the mood, including floating dust particles, ominous fog hanging above the floor, dripping blood stains, and dingy lighting. 

Small details enhance narrative: Isaac builds his Plasma Cutter out of composite parts at a workbench instead of simply picking it up, signaling his engineering background. Similarly, when Isaac collects his Statis Module, he first picks up the severed limb it’s attached to, its previous owner likely having been dismembered by a nearby malfunctioning door. These micro storytelling moments drew me in.

Tested gameplay: Combat packs the same satisfying familiarity, but with added smoothness. Flicking the Plasma Cutter to vertical and horizontal aim modes while blasting off necromorph limbs is fluid and fast.

Stasis strategy: Isaac’s handy slo-mo field is still a charm with crowd control. In one encounter, I used stasis to freeze an enemy near an explosive cannister, then waited until another enemy approached before shooting it and blowing both monsters to bits.

Upgrade your way: The Bench remains a fun way to customize Isaac to fit your playstyle using precious nodes hidden around the Ishimura. This time, I invested in suit upgrades that boosted my Statis Module’s area of effect to help coral more enemies at once. You can also upgrade your weapon’s damage, ammo capacity, and reload speed.

In-universe UI: Back in 2008 Dead Space’s projected user interface was ahead of its time, and today it still feels futuristic. Bringing up Isaac’s projected menu in real-time preserves the immersion and immediacy. Plus, the menu text and icons look even more crisp and clean in 4K.

Resources matter: I know the 2008 Dead Space well and admit I was feeling a bit cocky during my playthrough. I sold a few ammo stacks early on for credits and to make inventory space. I paid the price later in chapter 2 when I ran dry on ammo during an intense sequence in the morgue, with an Infector running rampant generating fresh necromorphs. The sequence forced me to make careful use of stasis and melee to survive. I eventually succeeded using stasis to slow the Infector’s spread and stomp out the threat before it got out of hand. My reverence for preserving ammo was renewed throughout the rest of my playthrough. 

Gory details: Every blast of Isaac’s weapons tears away flesh, muscle, and eventually shatters bone. More than a gnarly visual effect, the detailed damage offers feedback about how close players are to snapping off a limb and downing a necro.

Your survival mission aboard the Ishimura begins when Dead Space launches January 27, 2023 on PS5.

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