Dead Space remake Intensity Director EA Motive Studio replayable new horror Necromorph replayability

The most exciting thing about the Dead Space remake is that, if developer Motive Studio delivers, it will never be the same game twice. No, EA hasn’t forced Motive Studios to suddenly switch genre, despite their history with the series-ending Dead Space 3. Instead, it’s the sci-fi-sounding Intensity Director that could give the replayability of Dead Space a real shot in the arm.

If you’re wondering what the hell an “Intensity Director” is, I don’t blame you. It was featured in EA’s recent press release but doesn’t get a mention on the official Dead Space website. It looks as if EA and Motive are chunking their reveals, so a future “Inside Dead Space” may offer more information. But this is something to be excited for right now.

The Dead Space Intensity Director, according to EA, “dynamically adjusts what shows up in Isaac’s path, from Necromorph spawns and how they choose to attack them, to environmental effects such as light, smoke, particles and sound.”

Sound familiar? It should, if you’ve played Left 4 Dead, which had its own system simply labeled “The Director.” Left 4 Dead’s Director was obviously still a bunch of code, but it had a convincingly human way of maintaining tension.

Sometimes, it would let you pause for breath, just long enough to think something was wrong. Then it’d wait a little longer and unleash a horde of the infected. It would likewise manage the special infected, though it wasn’t ever just trying to kill you. Its mission was to ensure that Left 4 Dead remained terrifying, unpredictable, and, most importantly of all, fun.

As anyone who’s played the game can tell you, it performed those functions magnificently, unlike Back 4 Blood. Now, imagine those principles applied to Dead Space, because that’s what the Intensity Director has the potential to offer. And unlike Left 4 Dead, a multiplayer title, Dead Space’s Intensity Director will be dedicated to keeping you, and you alone, on edge.

Dead Space remake Intensity Director EA Motive Studio replayable new horror Necromorph replayability

Not knowing when Necromorphs will put in an appearance — scripted sequences and bosses aside — could do wonders for Dead Space. That’s not to say the original game was sub-par; it’s a fantastic survival horror, though I still resent its making Isaac a dogsbody.

But the more survival horror games you play, the more you get a sense for where the designers will likely have placed the next enemy. And if you’re replaying a game, no matter how long it’s been since you last tackled it, you’ll recall the position of at least a few monsters.

Now, imagine enemy placement isn’t down to the designers. Depending on the difficulty, they may have dictated how many Necromorphs you’re going to encounter in an area. But the actual placement of those enemies, their timing, and perhaps even the type is down to the Intensity Director.

So, whether it’s the first time you’re playing the Dead Space remake or the fifteenth, every corridor, every room could spawn a Necromorph. Dead Space’s undead foes can sneak through ventilation shafts, so it wouldn’t exactly be unfair for one to appear in a room you’ve just cleared.

But the Necromorphs wouldn’t be the only things to worry about. On paper, the use of “light, smoke, particles and sound” might sound tame. But when you’re already on edge, having a corridor fill up with smoke is the last thing you need.

Dead Space remake Intensity Director EA Motive Studio replayable new horror Necromorph replayability

What will you find when you gather up the courage to walk through it? Will you be set upon by a lurking Necromorph, ready to recycle your corpse into one of its own? Maybe you’ll inch forward through the smoke, weapon at the ready, breathing a sigh of relief when you reach the other side, taking in clean(ish) air.

Perhaps, just as you’re checking your ammo, that’ll be the moment when the Intensity Director will unleash a pair of undead horrors on you. And thanks to your inattention, your assumption you were in the clear, that’s when they divorce your head from your neck. Even if there’s no actual threat, something as otherwise innocuous as a clank can, in your head, morph into some looming nightmare.

While Dead Space is probably the highest-profile single-player game to use an AI director, it’s not the only one. Song of Horror, an initially episodic game released in 2019, adopted a similar approach and proved its value. It employed various director-managed effects to create an atmosphere of dread. At times, I ended up praying for an encounter, just so I’d have some breathing room after, though I quickly learned the director would occasionally mix things up in that regard. And every so often I go back to it because I know I’ll have a different but still deeply unsettling experience.

So, if Motive can capitalize on the promise of the Intensity Director, Dead Space could be both terrifying and hugely replayable. Yes, it’s going to be prettier than the original. Yes, you’ll be able to complete it without loading screens. But it’s the prospect of every visit to the USG Ishimura delivering a different but still harrowing experience that’s left me craving this remake.

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