How Do You Remaster Perfection?
It’s October 2008, and keeping with traditions, companies love to pedal off of the spooky season with their own iterations of classic thrillers. In that year, it was no different. EA launched the wildly successful Dead Space (2008) franchise, a single-player, survival-horror game that won the BAFTA games award and sold over a million copies. To many, Dead Space is a tender part of their core memories as an astonishing 15 years have gone by. Remakes in themselves are touted to be either “different” or “innovative” which end up much to the disappointment of die-hard fans.
If playing by the rules with Dead Space’s maturity rating, you’d have to be at least 17 or older to play the game. That leaves the supposed minimum audience age that played the original game to 32. Will the remake be such that it makes the game tantalizing for the new generation? Or is EA banking on those that wish to delve into the past and relive a bygone age? Can this remastering quench the thirst of those wanting the upcoming remake? A long line of predecessor games, such as those from the Resident Evil franchise, have seen huge profits so it’s no surprise that EA also wants a piece of this proverbial pie.
Can Graphics be “Too Good”?
In the remaster of Dead Space, it is advertised that players will be able to see frame rates at “max” settings of 60 frames per second at 4k resolution. This is impressive as the 2008 version of the game was on dated consoles and PC’s, which output around 30fps. Yet, is this a necessity? Much of the game’s core idea was that you were, well, in space. So, fast twitchy movements were expected to take time whilst having no gravity. Now, with such fluidity, the game begins to take new life. This may come to the dismay of players as their comfort with such movement will be hindered by the iconical space movement, which leaves them feeling like they’re wading through mud. This may cause frustration and detract from the studio’s advertised slogan of “a deeper and more immersive experience”.
Dead Space’s landing page on EA’s website includes a slider that shows the difference between the new engine and the predecessor. Scrubbing through, it seems that the older version has more emphasis on everything but the graphics. Not to disparage the graphics of the time, it’s still a beautiful game. But the graphics in the 2008 version don’t necessarily feel distracting. In a chase scene or while fighting, the last thing you need is for foliage being rendered to detract from the overall performance. The new imagery feels like a mall peddler forcing players to try this “innovative aphrodisiac smelling water” – or simply cologne after the facade has been removed.
Half The Puzzle
Much to Dead Space’s detriment, a part of the original developing studio Visceral Games was defunct and merged with EA Vancouver and EA Montreal. What this says about the remake, as the old adage goes, is that too many cooks spoil the broth. Although, that still left Motive Studios, the other part of the whole of Dead Space’s original development team.
One of the forbearing saving graces of the game is that the studio has hired fan developers who were in love with the original product, including Roman Campos-Oriola, the new creative director, and Mike Yazijian, art director who also worked on Dead Space 2. So, with literal skin in the game and a large shadow looming over this new endeavor, many boxes will have to be checked off to make this a “successful” launch. An important factor that curries favor from the fans is that the studio takes input from selected gamers for the new artistic vision.
Cash Grab or Sensible Remake?
With new intrinsic terms such as “jaw-dropping, visual fidelity, suspenseful atmospheric audio, intensifying the atmosphere” brandishing the Dead Space website, it seems that Motive is layering new kinds of AD techniques. They are employing buzzwords that, with the desired effect, will trigger fancy and pull at the sensibilities of generational players. Much of this fancy diction may perhaps sway the would-be purchaser, but the bigger the words and claims, the harder it may be to swallow later.
The website is also laden with promises of not changing the “core of the story” and only “enhancing gameplay”. Yet the studio’s vision might fall short if such visions of grandeur don’t match up to the already successful predecessor. After all of this innovation, the base of the game is still going to cost players upwards of $70, which is more expensive than the original.
It remains to be seen how the new development team will overcome their monumental task of improving an already amazing game. Gamers will be hopeful for a remaster worth their money and perhaps their fondness of the franchise. As the gaming industry is momentarily stagnated, perhaps refreshers are the way to move the business forward while new ideas come to fruition.
We can get all of our questions answered on January 23rd, 2023, when Dead Space releases on Xbox series X/S, PlayStation 5, and Windows platforms.
Dead Space (2023) Official Motive Studios Trailer