Despite excellent critical reception in 2008, the survival horror game dead space never appealed to a large audience. It is this injustice that two lovers of the franchise, Philippe Ducharme and Roman Campos-Oriolo, want to correct.
That’s good, the two men were hired in 2020 for this mandate by the Montreal studio Motive, belonging to EA. They are respectively senior producer and creative director of dead space version 2023, eagerly awaited by insiders and which will be released this Friday.
“ dead space helped revolutionize the survival horror genre, believes Philippe Ducharme. But he didn’t have the success he should have had, he never broke into the market. That’s one of the reasons EA shelved it at the time. »
For Roman Campos-Oriolo, times have changed since 2008, when horror films were appreciated by a minority of enthusiasts who had to go to the cinema or rent their favorite works.
“Nowadays most horror movies have national releases, the big streamers have their flagship series, there’s a more popular aspect to it than genre cinema. It’s a very interesting time to bring back dead space : today, he has the ability to touch people. »
It’s practically an archaeologist’s job that the Motive team had to do to bring the 2008 game back to life. EA, which published the first game developed by Visceral Games, opened its archives, gave access to hard drives containing programming, graphics and audio. Virtually everything except the music used at the time had to be redone and integrated with a new game engine, Frostbite. And if we have respected the original scenario, additions giving greater depth have been inserted.
To soak up the original philosophy, the team multiplied the game sessions to dissect it. “The ultimate goal is to make a game that pays homage to the original, that fairly represents not what the original was, but how a player remembers it,” explains the director. creative.
“Gore” and puzzles
The media that played Dead Space version 2023, including The Press, are bound by an embargo until Thursday morning. It is therefore impossible to divulge too many details or to give an appreciation, except that this is an adventure taking place at 26e century in a huge ship, the USG Ishimura, “infested with reanimated and grotesquely deformed humans whose sole purpose is to chase you”, can we read on the EA site.
This is not a classic shooting game: the fights are far from representing the whole adventure, which includes many quests, puzzles, testimonies and secondary axes. The “gore” side of 2008 with its generous spurts of blood has been preserved.
“It remains a theme for the older ones, my children cannot play it, specifies Philippe Ducharme. But it’s not just “‘gore’, it’s a story with a narrative thread and emotion.”
Praise of slowness
The anxiety-provoking, claustrophobic atmosphere of the original game is also one of the ingredients that we kept. The main character, Isaac Clarke, is desperately slow, and that’s on purpose. “One of the elements is to manage to give the impression that you are vulnerable, and yet you have a big armor, explains the creative director. If it’s too easy to run away, it doesn’t work. »
Nothing to do here with an action game where you can twirl around and multiply the blows. Ammo is scarce, enemies vicious and slimy. “It’s rare that a game asks you to go slowly, to walk, notes Philippe Ducharme. The tension, the fact that you don’t know what to expect, it’s intentional: the rhythm (“pacing”) is one of the great strengths of the original, to get this curve of tension, to make sure to keep the player in the frenzy of the moment. »
dead space, believes Roman Campos-Oriola, is “a rather unique mixture” of science fiction, cosmic horror, monsters and psychology. “It’s part of the appeal of Dead Space. »