Dead Space’s remake improves its main cast, but not the Ishimura’s crew

Dead SpaceIt’s a frightening game that involves venturing into an abandoned spaceship, while being isolated in suffocating terror. Isaac Clarke isn’t entirely alone, however — his ship, the USG Kellion, arrived with a small crew of support staff. There are many other ways to help the crew. Dead Space remake characterizes Isaac and his allies much more deeply than the original did — but the same can’t be said for the other poor souls on the USG Ishimura.

Kendra Daniels and Zach Hammond, both a security guard and computer specialist are two of Isaac’s most important characters. Isaac, who is almost immediately separated from his group, must communicate with them via Skype.

In the original game, Daniels and Hammond are at each other’s throats before the Kellion even arrives at its destination. Daniels comes off as aggressive, questioning Hammond’s every decision, without any context or clues as to why. It’s an awkward set up, especially because Isaac is a silent protagonist, and unable to interject. From the player’s perspective, it’s like watching mom and dad fight.

Dead Space (2023) - Isaac Clarke fights off a Necromorph. He is on his back in a defensive position, while the Necromorph is poised to strike from above him.

Image: Motive Studios/Electronic Arts

This is how the remake addresses it in two ways. First, Isaac is now a voiced protagonist, and he regularly chips in on the team’s plans. He’s cool, confident, and competent, like the trained engineer he’s supposed to be. He saves his teammates’ lives early on with a clever suggestion, and he can tell what the next quest objective is by glancing at some schematics or a damage report. He is not content to follow the orders of his two colleagues, but feels like an integral part of the team.

Second, Hammonds and Daniels feel like rare safety from horror. Isaac discovers that there are only a handful of survivors on the Ishimura. Most people only exist to increase tension and die. It was easy to understand my fellow Kellion shipsmates and my conversations with them. And when the plot escalates and everyone’s at each other’s throats, it’s all the more delicious after the friendly beginnings and slow burn to hostility.

It’s a shame that everyone else on the USG Ishimura is a cardboard cutout, existing only to go mad and/or die. The notes and audio logs that Isaac finds around the ship may mention things like a regular poker night or uncomfortable relations with a coworker, but it’s all just window dressing, a stark contrast from the warm fuzzies I get from a compliment from Hammond.

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

I laughed out loud at one bit of graffiti that was so ridiculous it seemed almost unintentional. Someone had scrawled on a bathroom wall: “I can’t die here. It’s not here. Not like this.” It seems a second writer replied with: “EAT ME” to which the original author wrote: “They ate my boy.” The absurdity temporarily broke my immersion. It’s like the Left 4 DeadGraffiti argument is smaller and more sillier.

Dead Space - Isaac looks at graffiti written on the walls of the USG Ishimura, which reads: “I can’t die. Not here. Not like this.” someone has replied “EAT ME” in larger, sloppier font, to which the original writer replies “They ate my boy.”

Image: Motive Studios / Electronic Arts via Polygon

You don’t have any clues as to the identity of those on Ishimura. as peopleThe clues to the crisis were not there before it, so they aren’t very clear. One worker scrawled “Fuck this ship, it’s a shitty capitalist organization,” near a cheerful poster, which is a little on the nose. It’s a missed opportunity, especially when compared to a game like Prey2017: Where the player may find small glue snowmen, corporate whiteboards and other miscellaneous items that have been forgotten mid-meeting.

Although the Ishimura remains a maze of rusted, dangerous labyrinths to navigate, many people feel like they were born for this job and then die. It’s not so much a failure as a missed opportunity. It is much more enjoyable when you consider the interaction between its cast. A few pieces of graffiti are goofy, and I’d love to learn more about the Ishimura’s days before everything went to shit — but none of this is enough to spoil Isaac’s terrifying journey through a very scary ship.

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