Don’t get me wrong — the Resi remake is a stunner, a fantastic thrill ride that pares away some of the campier moments from the original and hones it into a leaner and tighter affair.
Still, as 2023 trickles away I’ve been left feeling mighty sorry for the team at Motive Studio, because Dead Space has been overlooked by way too many awards shows and publications — thankfully the Push Square Game of the Year list did the smart thing and included it.
It’s not just overall honours that I think Dead Space merits — this was a crazy year for gaming releases, so it’s no disgrace for it to fall lower in some people’s estimations, but from a presentation point of view I’m surprised by its snubs.
The game’s audio is superlative, for one thing. I play pretty much every PS5 game I touch with a headset, and I can’t think of many gaming atmospheres this year that chilled me more or were more consistently evocative than Dead Space’s hulking, echoing, and clanking USG Ishimura.
Before its release Motive shared behind-the-scenes looks at how it was working on audio so that doors and corridors authentically bent sound so that you could just hear scratching and stumbling enemies early enough to ratchet up the tension. I can attest to their success — I was scared witless at multiple points.
It’s not just sound, though; this is a stunner of a current-gen title in a year that has finally seen the PS4 drop out of the running on most releases. Its updated Ishimura is full of detail and horrific gore, but it’s the lighting that truly shines.
From the lone blue-green sheen of Isaac Clarke’s helmet lights to the yawning and spinning yellow beams of emergency lights, every time you enter a new part of the ship you’ll be greeted by a new wave of dread over what awaits you. That might mean yawning hangars full of floating tools or tight crew quarters, each bunk threatening a Necromorph.
It might have stuck a lot closer to the source material than Resident Evil 4, but Dead Space also made at least one major, bold choice, by giving a voice to Isaac Clarke and having him far more actively participate in the story.
It paid off, too, with a more human anchor in the middle of the maelstrom of blood and bone that starts to overcome you as the game goes on, and actor Gunner Wright putting in some sterling performance work to make Isaac less of a blank space than in the original game.
With shooting that feels at its heart the same as it did when the original came out (that is to say, chunky and memorable), it’s a hell of a package, so it’s been a little sad to see it run out of oxygen in such a packed year.
Widespread awards recognition isn’t everything, though — Dead Space’s 2023 remake has effectively resuscitated a series that was on life support before. The team at Motive Studio has made it clear it'd like to work on a similar update to Dead Space 2, and everything about its effort this year suggests it should absolutely get that chance.
There’s no shame in being just a hair’s breadth less beloved than a game as wildly successful and iconic as Resident Evil 4 — so if you’re looking for another horror fix to round out the year, don’t sleep on Dead Space, whatever you do.
Are you too disappointed to see Dead Space be a little forgotten about when it comes to Game of the Year accolades? Let us know in the comments below.