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Dead Space’s remake misses a major storytelling opportunity

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dead Space is an eerie game about venturing through an abandoned industrial space ship, all to the tune of suffocating isolation. Isaac Clarke isn’t completely alone, though — his ship, the USG Kellion, arrived with a small crew of support staff. dead Space The remake portrays Isaac and his allies in much more depth than the original – but the same can’t be said for the other poor souls on the USG Ishimura.

The two most prominent characters alongside Isaac are Zach Hammond and Kendra Daniels, a security officer and a computer specialist. Isaac is separated from his team almost immediately, and is forced to communicate with them via a space Skype call.

In the original game, Daniels and Hammond face each other before Kilian even reaches his destination. Daniels comes across as aggressive, questioning every decision of Hammond’s without any context or clue as to why. It’s an odd set up, especially because Isaac is a silent protagonist, and unable to intervene. From the player’s perspective, it’s like watching mom and dad fight.

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Dead Space (2023) - Isaac Clarke battles a Necromorph.  He is on his back in a defensive position, while the Necromorph is on top of him ready to strike.

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Image: Motive Studio/Electronic Arts

The remake addresses this inconvenience in two elegant ways. First, Isaac is now an outspoken protagonist, and he regularly acts on the team’s plans. He is calm, confident and capable like a trained engineer. He quickly saves his comrades’ lives with a clever suggestion, and he can tell what the next quest is aimed at just by glancing at some schematic or damage report. Rather than obeying the orders of the other two, he feels an important part of the team.

Secondly, Hammond and Daniels also feel like a rare safe respite from the horror. Isaac finds that there are only a few souls left alive on the Ishimura, and most of them exist only to die and increase the tension. I came to appreciate my calls with my Kilian shipmates. And when the plot progresses and everyone is at each other’s throats, it gets even more delicious after a friendly start and a slow burn of animosity.

It’s a shame that everyone on the USG Ishimura is a cardboard cutout, existing only to go insane and/or die. The notes and audio logs that Isaac finds around the ship may mention things like a regular poker night or an uneasy relationship with a co-worker, but it’s all just window dressing, which I get from Hammond’s compliments.

A man might write a diary entry about the ship’s weekly poker game: “Went to poker night. Poorly played… because of all those ominous visions I’ve been having!” Meanwhile, I’m feeling like a sucker here because I was hoping for a detailed description of pre-outbreak poker.

One piece of graffiti was so absurd it made me laugh (seemingly unintentionally). Someone wrote on the bathroom wall: “I can’t die here. not here Not like this.” It seems a second author replied: “Eat me” to which the original author wrote: “They ate my boy.” The absurdity temporarily broke my immersion. It’s like left 4 Dead Graffiti argument, but too short and silly.

Dead Space - Isaac looks at graffiti written on the walls of USG Ishimura, which reads:

Image: Motive Studio / Electronic Arts via Play Gamez

There’s very little indication of who the Ishimura’s people actually were, you know, as people before the crisis, and the clues that do exist are a bit shaky. An activist read “Fuck this ship, it’s a lousy capitalist organization,” near a cheery poster that’s a bit on the nose. It’s a missed opportunity, especially when compared to a game Prey (2017), where players can find little glue snowmen and corporate whiteboards left in the middle of the meeting.

While the Ishimura is still an eerie, rusty maze to navigate, it feels a bit like I was born to sign up for this gig and later die. It’s not so much a failure as a missed opportunity. However, the game improves greatly when it comes to the interactions between its main cast. Some of the graffiti pieces are goofy, and I would have loved to know more about the Ishimura days before everything went haywire – but none of that is enough to spoil Isaac’s terrifying journey through the shipwreck. Not there.

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