EA Play Live dropped a quick teaser trailer but for us, the Dead Space remake shows us how short our memories are. Whaaat? You aren’t keen. Well, hear us out. For this author, Dead Space is one of the seminal horror games ever produced. If you remove it from the wacky lore (which was painfully stretched into anime movies and comic books), this game truly recreated the atmosphere of sci fi horror classics like Alien and Event Horizon. For those not in the know – or heaven forbid, too young, Dead Space follows lone engineer Isaac Clarke as he explores a derelict starship the Ishimura, searching for his partner Nicole. The only issue is that it is crawling with horrific alien creatures – creatures that emerge from the flesh of the starships ill-fated crew.
There were some things that really made Dead Space a winner. Firstly, the atmosphere. The Ishimura is huge, but also cold and uninviting. Dark corridors, gloomy rooms, glimpses of the dark space outside. At any moment a nasty could smash out at you. You really do have to inch around every corner, weapon in hand. Which leads us to the wonderful combat. Just blasting a Necromorph (the name for the zombie mutant thingies) won’t do much. Instead, you have to carefully dismember it using an array of weaponry with adjustable angles and sights. When you combine this with mobs, limited ammo and jump scares, combat adds to the suspense.
New pair of trousers needed
The game is very linear, but it leads to some amazing set pieces and design. The game maintains tension right to the very end. You are at once a badass AND vulnerable. This is survival horror done right. When it come out, I lapped it up. I even bought the DVD anime spin off. I’ve played it end to end several times. Surely the announcement of a full current gen, ground up remake, would make me weak at the knees?
Truthfully though, I find it hard to get excited. The studio, Motive, did a great job with Star Wars: Squadrons imo. I have no worries it won’t be a good adaptation. I also don’t have a problem with a really good remake. Resident Evil 2 was a joy to play. The issue is that a shiny new remake and the resultant hype really emphasises how short our collective gaming memories are and what Electronic Arts did with the IP in the first place.
You see Dead Space cost a lot of money. EA were intent on turning a single player survival horror into some sort of franchise phenomena. The first game had a comic, an animated prequel as well as web experience alongside it. Did it need these? Well, not really. The quality of these were variable and ultimately, as we mentioned the lore is.. OK? Honestly, it’s a bit of a mess and serves really as an excuse to invent lots of really quite original adversaries. EA wanted to go big with Dead Space and, well it sold well for an 18 rated survival horror game of the time. Ultimately, EA felt that the million copies sold was not enough and labelled it a sales disappointment.
Undeterred, they tried again with Dead Space 2, another great instalment. More animated tie ins and over £120 million in Development and marketing. Wow. Again it sold well with 2 million in sales but in EA terms, still a financial disappointment. On to round 3 where this time, the horror was ditched for a more action formula and was stuffed full of incredibly intrusive micro transactions. Sales were worse this time around and the franchise was effectively dead. The developer, Visceral Games, a studio with a history of great single player experiences were shunted onto Battlefield Hardline before eventually being shuttered completely by EA.
Dead Space became a cautionary tale of what happens when a publisher mishandles a franchise. Horror games have always been on the niche end of things. Dead Space is a hard R when it comes to its horror. It is a grown up story. It won’t have mass appeal or be as readily acceptable. That isn’t a bad thing. Such games can sell well but they rarely match other popular genres in the blockbuster stakes. Putting so much cash and promotion into a game like Dead Space was never going to bring the level of investment as something like Battlefield. So instead we have two initial entries that sold very well for a genre game of that era but didn’t make as much as EA wanted. As a result, the shark was well and truly jumped for Dead Space 3, losing the essence of the first two games and ushering in a new era of predatory monetary cliches.
EA – studio killer
Visceral Games crafted two classic games but fell victim to the demands of a AAA studio that wanted more than the titles could provide. They paid that price by being shuttered. Now though, EA has been through the wringer with regards to reputation and nostalgia is big business. Other major remakes by the like of Activision, Capcom and Sony have sold well – or at least, sold well when reasonable expectations have been placed on them.
EA is coming to the gaming community and saying hey, you really liked that ace game we released in 2008 right? Well, here is it is. Lap it up. When the truth of the matter is we could have got more instalments far sooner if they hadn’t ballsed it up. It reminds us of a scene in ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’. Eli Wallach’s Tuco purposefully tries to kill Clint Eastwood’s Blondie through dehydration until he realises he needs him alive. He then saves his life before commenting ‘it’s a good thing I was there right?’.
The Dead Space remake shows us how short our memories are
In this case, EA killed a franchise and an entire studio because they didn’t see the money in what they were doing. Now they can see some money and want in. The frustrating thing? The gaming community is lapping it up. Social media is awash with the buzz of people getting to play a classic all over again on new tech. Very few are wondering why EA has done this after killing the original studio. Well we remember. Pepperidge Farm remembers.
The remake may be great, and perhaps we are just being grumpy old men/women but at the end of the day, we shouldn’t forget the past when looking at the future. Besides, the game is still available on PC and Xbox!
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