The reanimated crew of the USG Ishimura is clawing its way back to your nightmares. EA Motive (Star Wars: Squadrons) is taking over from Visceral Games, which closed in 2017, and developing a ground-up reimagining of the first Dead Space. The Montreal-based developer is using DICE’s cross-platform engine Frostbite to rebuild the game, which is described as more immersive and unsettling, in ways the original couldn’t be, given the technological constraints of the time.
The teaser for the Dead Space remake is already up. Series protagonist Isaac Clarke can be seen recharging his engineer’s RIG suit. A door opens midway, revealing a Necromorph flexing its multiple limbs. A warning on a wall is written haphazardly in blood; it reads, “Cut off their limbs.” The ambience is weighted and wracks the nerves, reminiscent of the original Dead Space, but features 3D audio — a type of eighth-generation synthesis that allows surround-sound audio to feel more realistic. An “atmospheric benchmark” of what’s come in the remake. Check out the 1-minute trailer below:
Senior producer Phillipe Ducharme and creative director Roman Campos-Oriola spoke with IGN about the Motive team’s vision for the remake.
“As an objective that we gave early on to everyone, what we’re trying to achieve is an immersion where you never want to put your controller down,” Ducharme explains. “Dead Space is not a 60-100 hour game. Ideal scenario, you don’t actually want to get up to go to the bathroom because you’re so immersed within the universe and you want to play it through in one sit-down.” Campos-Orioles adds: “We want to make that immersion even deeper with a fully interactive experience, from the start screen to the end credits. We don’t want anything to pull you out of the experience and we don’t want any cuts. The faster SSDs of new consoles mean there’s not going to be any loading. There’s not going to be any moment where we’re going to cut your experience, where we’re going to cut your camera. You can play it from the start screen to the end credits seamlessly.” If the first Dead Space already terrified the bejeezus out of you, prepare for a brand-new horror experience where the scares never end.
The new Dead Space is not a port or textural uprezzing of the first game. It’s being designed as an entirely fresh entry, with new animations and volumetric effects, dynamic lighting, and level and character constructs. The aim of the project is simple: retain what makes Dead Space a horror icon for the digital age and introduce ninth-generation improvements. This is especially crucial for the structural flaws present in the first game that couldn’t be helped given the budget and tech barriers of the late 2000s, like the audio, which could only pinpoint events and Necromorphs directly ahead of Isaac Clarke. 3D audio is meant to make the experience more lifelike. “3D audio [will also add the] understanding of where the sound comes from,” Ducharme elaborates, “having the right propagation, in the corridors, making it come from the vents above you, or behind you. These are all things that we’ll be able to expand on to increase the level of immersion.”
The animation will also be much gorier; the animatronics of the Necromorph’s limbs being sliced off will feature more guts and blood, and won’t be as easy to pull off. Think Dead Space, but with the gameplay complexity of The Evil Within, where each shot (or flick of the knife) must be exactingly precise. The limbs must be individually spliced off, a feature inspired by the last two Dead Space games. Imagine all that with a virtual reality (VR) headset. You may want to shutter your vents the night you play the remake, to survive the same hallucinogenic horrors Clarke had to endure traversing the dying halls of the Ishimura.
The remake is also a logistics overhaul in so many other ways. For one thing, this is the first Dead Space since the original to not include any microtransactions. EA took note of the endless stream of user complaints, particularly over the last two installments. The company has since taken fire for coveting extra profit, extraneously driving the franchise to the ground. Dead Space suffered the corporate equivalent of a Necromorph’s severed legs when Visceral Games capitalized on money over artistry, which also led to the studio’s unfortunate shutdown. But the new Dead Space is a long-awaited return to form, a meticulous single-player with the processing power of a modern-day console.
The remake is also the first Dead Space to incorporate fan feedback during the production process. The Motive team meets with a select group of Dead Space superfans — a dedicated chunk of the bigger community — every two to three weeks, to update them about what’s going on, deliver incomplete betas for assessment, and request alternate takes, with the goal of creating a fan experience by the fans, for the fans. The developers, led by general manager Patrick Klaus, are all devoted fans of Dead Space themselves.
Dead Space is a third-person science-fiction survival horror set in the year 2508, when humanity has long colonized most of the known universe. The discovery of a Marker, an alien monolith, on Earth led to man-made copies called the Red Markers, which can decimate entire societies and infect corpses almost like a virus, turning humans into undead Necromorphs, horrific creatures with spider-like appendages.
The first Dead Space tells the story of Isaac Clarke, a starship systems engineer working with the Concordance Extraction Company (C. E. C.) to conduct repairs on a Planetcracker, a mining vessel tasked with harvesting resources from uninhabited planets, currently overrun by Necromorphs. The ship, dubbed the USG Ishimura, was sent to Aegis VII to illegally retrieve a Red Marker for the Church of Unitology, but the mission goes awry when the Marker decimates the crew and turns most of them into Necromorphs. Clarke joins the crew of the Kellion, a maintenance vessel, in search of his girlfriend Nicole Brennan, who went missing on the Ishimura. The remake will retell the very same events in the original, with some subtle modifications courtesy of later installments.
The Dead Space remake is presently in active development.