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Dead Space Remake

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Motive Studios
Release Date: Jan. 27, 2023

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'Dead Space' Remake Devs Detail How They Stay True To The Original Story, Yet Adding A Twist - Screens & Trailer

by Rainier on Jan. 11, 2023 @ 3:56 p.m. PST

The sci-fi survival horror classic Dead Space returns, completely rebuilt from the ground up to offer a deeper and more immersive experience.

Dead Space is being developed exclusively for next generation consoles and PC, raising the level of horror and immersion to unprecedented heights for the franchise through stunning visuals, audio and controls powered by the Frostbite game engine while staying true to the original.

Fans will experience an improved story, characters, gameplay mechanics and more as they fight to survive a living nightmare aboard the desolate mining starship, the USG Ishimura, all while uncovering the dreadful mystery of what happened to the slaughtered crew and ship

In Dead Space, Isaac Clarke is an everyman engineer on a mission to repair a vast, sprawling starship, the USG Ishimura, only to discover something has gone horribly wrong. The ship's crew has been slaughtered and infected by some alien scourge...and Isaac’s beloved partner, Nicole, is lost somewhere on board. Now Isaac is alone with only his tools and engineering skills as he attempts to uncover the nightmarish mystery of what happened aboard the Ishimura. Trapped with hostile creatures called “necromorphs”, Isaac faces a battle for survival, not only against the escalating terrors of the ship, but his own crumbling sanity.


In the last Inside Dead Space blog, EA Motive talked about how important atmosphere and tension are in making a great horror game. But of course, that’s only part of the equation. A great game also needs a strong thread to tie those moment-to-moment experiences together, something to draw the player forward and motivate them to uncover the next mystery. A great game, in other words, needs a great story.

Fortunately, in remaking Dead Space, the team at Motive had the benefit of working from a story that was already pretty great, one based in recognizable and near-universal themes. “You’re descending into Hell to save your beloved,” says Senior Game Writer Jo Berry. “That’s one of the oldest stories there is. But the Dead Space interpretation of that is also very relevant, because it talks about corporate corruption, about spirituality going awry, about division versus reconnection....”

“And it plays on fears that we all share,” says Realization Director Joel MacMillan. “The fear of the unknown, of isolation, paranoia, dehumanization—these fears are common in all cultures, communities, and generations. They’re ingrained in us at a genetic level.”

“But it’s also a really personal story,” says Lead Level Designer Catherine Stewart. “Despite the monsters and the sci-fi nature of it, you’re still very anchored in something that’s a personal journey, and that keeps it relatable.”

SURGICAL PRECISION

And so, when the team behind the remake got the opportunity to put their own spin on this iconic story, they knew that a big part of the project would be knowing when not to. “All the departments approached it with the same philosophy,” Catherine says: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For the most part, it was all about leaving alone the beats that made the game so great, and improving the ones that were problematic, where we thought we could do better. Walking that line was often difficult, but I think we struck a really good balance.”

As a result, many of the changes were done primarily for the sake of consistency and continuity. “There have been a lot of stories told inside the Dead Space universe,” says Creative Director Roman Campos-Oriola, “with the later games, the books, the comics, the movie…. So what we tried to do in this game is add a bit more lore, or make some adjustments to the lore, to have better continuity with the broader universe.”

Other changes involved fleshing out what was already there. “We also gave a bit more screen time and agency and overall personality to some secondary characters,” Roman continues. “Some were really important ones, like Nicole and Mercer. But even characters like Jacob Temple and Elizabeth Cross, who were only really in audio logs in the original game, now actually have some screen time, and they have a role to play.”

“Right, it was important to give them more background, depth, and motivation so the personal connections feel more meaningful,” Joel says. “So there are some very compelling threads the players can follow through these new side quests.”

“And the side quests also allow us to look at the ship’s descent into chaos a little bit more,” says Catherine, ”kind of going backward and investigating that.”

“So the bones of the story are very close,” adds Jo, “but what you do and who you interact with may have different context. A lot of the changes live in the characters, and they ripple through the story. It’s sort of like going on your favorite road trip again, but this time with some interesting detours. And the people you’re with are old friends, but they may have a little more to say.”

A NEW VOICE

One of the biggest changes that players will notice is the fact that, as in Dead Space™ 2 and onward, Isaac now has a voice of his own. “I remember a podcast,” Catherine says, “that pointed out that in the original Dead Space Isaac was like the most overworked superintendent, just being told to go fix a bunch of stuff. And that feels really weird when he’s an expert in the stuff he should be doing.”

“So he’s now a bit more involved in events and solving problems,” Roman says. “He’s part of the conversation. And that gives more depth to the character; it gives him more agency.”

“We wanted to show him thinking through the problem, and ‘engineering’ a solution,” adds Joel.  “Plus, with all the drama playing out around Isaac, to not respond or acknowledge that leaves him feeling a bit disconnected from reality.”

“But we didn’t want the player to feel like what they’re feeling and what Isaac is feeling are disconnected,” Catherine notes. “So it was really important that we didn’t give him too much of a voice.”

“Well, that’s the holy grail of game writing,” says Jo, “to make the player and the character as in-sync as possible. You’re always walking this line where you want a character’s voice to feel authentic, but it also has to be entertaining, because otherwise why are you here? But it doesn’t have to necessarily be funny; sometimes it’s enough of a tension release to just be human, rather than making a joke.”

All this being the case, it was a no-brainer who would be the voice of Isaac. “We know who that guy is,” says Roman. “That guy is Gunner Wright. He’s Isaac Clarke in Dead Space 2, he’s Isaac Clarke in Dead Space™ 3; it’s his face, it’s his voice. So, in a certain way this is the first time Isaac will really be in the first Dead Space story. And that’s kind of exciting.”

ALWAYS A TWIST

It’s telling that each team member gives a different example when asked about their favorite character and story elements. “I think Dr. Mercer was my favorite to write,” Jo says. “He was probably one of the hardest characters to work on, because we took him in a slightly different direction; I think I rewrote all of his lines five times. But I really like where it landed, and his actor is so good.”

“Oh yes, I really like who we have to play him,” Roman says. “I think he really, really nailed the character. But I think my favorite moment is at the end of a side quest that leads to a confrontation with Mercer and Nicole. That moment is really interesting, because there’s a lot of tension between them, and the way they resolve that moment is really interesting.”

“And I like that we were able to build up Nicole to show why she was so important to Isaac,” says Joel, “and what makes her such a strong, capable character. She’s Isaac’s motivation for pushing through the insanity, so we needed the player to understand why she was so important to him.”

“I also really like Kendra,” Catherine says. “Some of her lines are just excellent. She’s obviously in distress as everything keeps falling apart and going…wrong.”

“Oh!” Jo says. “And one death scene, we did a first iteration, and I think it was Roman who gave the feedback of, ‘This isn’t really gory enough for Dead Space.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I can help you with that!’ So it’s now one of my favorite deaths in the game. This is how you know a writer loves a character, when they give them the really fun death scene. ” 

“There’s always something new,” laughs Roman. “There’s always something different. There’s always something happening—and there’s always a twist.”

Dead Space Remake will be available on PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC on January 27, 2023.


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