RELEASED OUT NOW! Reviewed on Playstation 5
Also on Xbox Series X|S, PC
Publisher Electronic Arts
Not many games nailed the sci-fi-horror vibe of films like Ridley Scott’s Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing as well as 2009’s Dead Space did. Fifteen years later, this near peerless remake proves just how well the original got the source material it so wanted to ape – now rebuilt from the ground up, its oily metal corridors, relentless claustrophobia and body horror alien threat can still easily sit alongside the movies it shamelessly homages.
The set up is pure space horror: you’re an engineer responding to a distress call from a planetcracking mining ship, USG Ishimura, only to find that it’s been overrun by an alien intelligence that reanimates dead tissue to create “Necromorphs”. These gibbering flesh puppets – looking like they’ve been badly assembled from human roadkill – scuttle through vents, ready to burst out at any moment and claw at your face with bone-shard arms. It’s a perfect organism: Necromorphs kill people, the dead people become Necromorphs… see point one.
Making things even harder, all this reanimated tissue can only be “killed” by slicing it into enough parts. So fighting involves hacking off limbs and, despite the absolute screaming horror thrown in your face, survival requires trying to keep calm and taking careful aim as you fight back.
Where this really dials into that ’80s movie vibe is that while space zombies are undoubtedly the star of the show, with some hideously fleshy configurations to literally unravel, the focus is just on getting the hell out of there alive.
With your shuttle destroyed and the mining ship slowly falling out of orbit, there’s a very escaping-aliens’-hadley’s-hope feel as objectives chase one problem after another: trying to get the engines online, activating asteroid defences, getting a distress call out and so on. The “not dying” to-do list is extensive, and the Necromorphs are rarely at the top of it as you flounder from one life-threatening systems failure to the next, cursing the ship’s designers.
From its dank, industrial, claustrophobic weight to its gory, visceral fights for survival, few games have ever recreated their cinematic inspirations as well as this.
The main character’s name, Isaac Clarke, is a dual nod to sci-fi authors Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov.