Aug 28, 2023 - Technology

Dead Space remake creators kept changes subtle

Illustration of opening screenshots from Dead Space surrounded by abstract rectangles and text.

The eyes that introduce the original Dead Space and its 2023 remake. Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The first shot of this year's remake of Electronic Arts' classic 2008 sci-fi horror game Dead Space is a subtle hint the game will slightly differ from the original. While the original starts with the camera zooming out from a character's right eye, the remake's intro zooms out from her left.

Why it matters: As remakes become more abundant in the video game industry, developers are having to decide how much to adhere to the original work and when to tweak it.

  • To zero in on that, Axios spoke to two of the lead creators of that Dead Space remake, released in January to critical acclaim, about just the first five minutes of the remade game. (Watch the old version and new version.)

What they're saying: "We wanted to make sure whatever we were doing was with a very gentle hand, because we all had a lot of reverence for the originals," the game's realization director, Joel McMillan, tells Axios.

Both versions of the game begin in the cockpit of a small spaceship called the Kellion that is flying toward a massive mining vessel, a "planet-cracker" in the game's parlance, called the USG Ishimura.

  • In both, chief security officer Zach Hammond and computer specialist Kendra Daniels banter while two fellow crew members pilot the shuttle. The player's character, engineer Isaac Clarke, sits behind them, in the game's foreground.
  • The crew tries to hail the Ishimura, gets no response and soon crashes into its hangar, setting up Clarke's treacherous adventures inside the larger, monster-filled ship.

Between the lines: The developers tried to keep the new intro at the same running time as the original, to swiftly establish the main cast before giving the player control of the action.

Video game screenshot view inside the cockpit of a spaceship
Dead Space (2008). Screenshot: Electronic Arts
Video game screenshot view inside the cockpit of a spaceship; similar to the preceding image but with more advanced graphics
Dead Space (2023). Screenshot: Electronic Arts

The biggest difference in the new version of the intro is that Clarke now speaks. "We essentially have a new character in the scene with the same amount of real estate," says lead writer Jo Berry.

  • Berry rewrote some lines for Clarke that had been spoken by others to establish his character: his worry about his girlfriend on the Ishimura, his camaraderie with Daniels and his expertise with machinery.
  • In a rewritten moment as the Kellion in crashing, Clarke "gets to have a moment of agency and engineering smartness," Berry says.

Dialogue in the 2008 version, during the crash:

Hammond: Hit the blast shields. The guidance system is damaged. Switch to manual. Now!
Daniels: Inside the magnetic field? Are you insane? Abort!
Hammond: No! We can make it inside. Corporal! I gave you an order.

Same scene, 2023 version:

Daniels: Guidance system override isn't responding.
Kellion crew member Aiden Chen: S--t, s--t! We're coming in too hot. It's gonna smash us into the hull!
Clarke: Aim for the emergency stabilizer. There, the blue light. It might slow us down!
Chen: Got it!
Hammond: Drop the blast shields. Everyone, brace yourselves!

Smaller but significant changes include:

  • Slightly more flavorful lines for Chen, who is soon killed off in both versions but proves to be significant later in the story (Chen's original post-crash repairs assessment: "It'll take some time." New version: "Could be worse, but not by much.")
  • More seats in the shuttle's cockpit, since the original didn't have enough chairs for everyone. With better graphics, players are more likely to notice things like that, Berry says.

The bottom line: "We challenged ourselves constantly, like this doesn't need to be changed," McMillan said. "Or is that just changing it for the sake of changing it?"

  • "It's a scene that works well. So, you know, we're not going to flip the table on it," Berry said.

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