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The Dead Space remake is a grisly cut of classic horror

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a:hover]:text-black text-gray-13 dark:text-gray-e9 dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-e9 [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-13 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray-63″>Isaac Clarke goes back to the USG Ishimura.

a:hover]:text-gray-63 text-gray-63 dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray”>Image: EA

In October 2017, publisher Electronic Arts unceremoniously shut down its studio Visceral Games, best known for shooter series Dead Space. Visceral was part of a dwindling breed at EA, devoted to linear high-budget games instead of a profitable “live service” model. One former employee noted that even the popular Dead Space 2 had been considered a financial failure, and the odds of a new one appearing in the near future seemed small. Yet tomorrow, EA will do just that, releasing a remake of the original 2008 Dead Space developed by its Canadian team Motive Studio. The Dead Space remake isn’t the path I’d have chosen for a resurrection of one of my favorite series. It also happens to be great.

Dead Space (2023) is most obviously a better-looking version of Dead Space (2008). Debuting on next-generation consoles and PC, it’s the kind of game where everything glistens, from the slimy explosive tentacles wreathing its futuristic spaceship to the ornate brassy ridges on protagonist Isaac Clarke’s suit. But beneath that surface, Motive has polished the foundations of Dead Space with changes drawn from its 2011 sequel as well as some simple yet effective new ideas. Rather than an elaborate reimagining in the vein of the Resident Evil 2 remake, a metanarrative experiment like the Final Fantasy VII Remake, or a user-friendly transformation of a tough-to-play classic like the yet-unreleased System Shock remake, it’s just an immensely solid update to an already excellent game — and one that couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Dead Space franchise is a third-person shooter series defined by a clever twist: you’re in a disaster zone overrun by grotesque zombie-like monstrosities dubbed “necromorphs,” but instead of a bullet to the head, the creatures go down when you sever their blade- or bomb-like limbs. While horror games have explored just about every permutation of the hideously twisted human form, Dead Space forces you to confront it with combat that feels like gruesome surgery — aided by weapons based on power tools like plasma cutters and radial arm saws as well as telekinetic powers and a time-slowing ability called stasis.

The Dead Space remake — like the original — sets this action on a mining spaceship called the USG Ishimura, which has gone unexpectedly silent after cracking open a planet in the depths of space. Engineer Isaac Clarke boards the Ishimura hoping to repair it and track down his girlfriend, a doctor named Nicole Brennan. Instead, he and his team find themselves thwarted at every turn, not only by the necromorph outbreak but also by a mysterious sabotage operation and their own increasingly unstable mental states. Isaac learns the outbreak stems from an apparently madness-inducing alien artifact brought on board the Ishimura. And a powerful religious cult called the Church of Unitology, which is, of course, absolutely nothing like the Church of Scientology, may be helping it spread.

Dead Space was initially conceived as a sequel to the exploration-heavy immersive sim System Shock 2, and although that plan was abandoned early in development, the influence feels evident in the original and carries over to the remake. The Ishimura is a fairly small and self-contained location, full of looping shortcuts and a tram backbone that lets you move easily between levels. (It’s unsurprisingly reminiscent of Arkane’s 2017 Prey, another indirect System Shock successor.) Both iterations of the game involve fixing problems by backtracking through flickering corridors and cavernous common areas, blasting the monsters that burst out of vents or play dead in plain sight. It’s a structure that Dead Space’s two direct sequels would downplay, moving toward comparatively linear level design.

A spaceship trench with asteroids.

A spaceship trench with asteroids.

 

a:hover]:text-black text-gray-13 dark:text-gray-e9 dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-e9 [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-13 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray-63″>Frustrating sections like an asteroid-shooting run have been heavily overhauled.

But while the original Dead Space established the basic combat system, some of the series’ best elements came later. Dead Space 2 turned telekinesis into a full-fledged secondary combat option — letting you do things like freeze an enemy with stasis, chop its arm off with a plasma cutter, and pin it to a wall with its own severed limb. It’s so intuitive that the original game feels incomplete without it, and the same goes for some other features, like free-floating zero-gravity sections that let you jet through the vacuum of space rather than just hopping between walls with magnetic boots.

The Dead Space remake is the best that playing a Dead Space game has ever felt. (I ran through it on a PC with a controller and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card, the game’s recommended spec.) On top of combining the first and second game’s best elements, Motive has overhauled a few undeniably bad encounters, particularly a couple of interminable cannon-blasting set pieces that now feel far snappier and less repetitive. It maintains the methodical but not artificially slow pace of the original, creating suspense with shameless sudden blackouts and enemy jump scares but mostly avoiding the heavily scripted sensory assaults and quicktime sequences that Dead Space 2 became known for. Isaac will certainly take his share of physical and mental punishment, but Dead Space is emphatically a horror game — something to play with and master, not simply be subjected to.

And the remake introduces a few welcome tweaks of its own. The game largely keeps Dead Space’s original array of weapons, but it buffs some of the less popular ones with fresh alternate fire modes — the flamethrower, for instance, can now produce a protective wall of fire. As you attack enemies, you’ll see chunks of their flesh visibly erode, letting you know how close you are to severing a limb. One weapon takes things further with a fire mode that strips off entire layers of skin and muscle, leaving brittle animate skeletons that you can knock out with another weapon. It’s gory and over the top, and I can’t get enough of it.

Dead Space still happily embraces the shooter genre’s artificial yet satisfying shorthands. Enemies have familiar glowing weak spots to aim for, and you’ll stomp gigantic supply crates to release the futuristic equivalent of a single $100 bill, carefully collecting money for supplemental ammo and dopamine-drip upgrades like new suits. On top of being glossy and dramatically lit compared to their 2008 counterparts, the levels are now full of clearly marked stuff to smash and throw at enemies; I have never been so aware of furniture’s potential impalement value. Some doors and lockers are gated behind a new “clearance” system that lets you open them later, when you’ve collected credentials off the bodies of dead crew officers, giving you an organic way to learn about the people on the Ishimura.

The upgrades encourage exploration, too. Like before, you collect power nodes that you can weld to your weapons and suit at benches scattered through the levels. But this time, some of those welding points are unlocked by items that enable specific special functions, like setting enemies on fire with plasma shots. While the powers aren’t necessarily new, the items add an extra incentive to poke around the ship. And they’re far simpler than the confusing modular weapons in Dead Space 3, an okay-at-best game whose influence is nearly undetectable in the remake.

The riskiest moves Motive makes aren’t mechanical but narrative. Dead Space began as a relatively simple space-horror story that evoked Event Horizon, but its plot became more lore heavy and tortured with each game and supplemental tie-in bookDead Space 3’s climax is as baroquely incoherent as a fever dream, culminating in the decision to (spoilers) make players physically fight a moon. And between the first two games, Isaac underwent a dramatic shift from a silent masked protagonist to a character voiced by actor Gunner Wright, who plays the man as a combination of weary, snarky, and horrifically traumatized.

Wright came on board for the Dead Space remake, giving Isaac a voice in conversations that have been extended, centering characters’ motivations and backstories more clearly. You’re no longer playing a silent figure constantly ordered around by snippy superiors doing the bare minimum to convey where you’re supposed to go but, instead, a competent technician who has a tense but collegial relationship with his team. A series of side missions, which are basically just encouragements to explore specific optional rooms, also give a little extra background on his relationship with Nicole and what she’s been doing on the ship.

Games writer Tom Bissell once laid out a passionate argument against Dead Space 2’s expanded plot and Wright’s voice acting, arguing that a horror game protagonist’s vulnerability “annuls any need for ‘character’ or ‘personality’” to make players care. “Isaac is not relaying an experience. He is, rather, the relay we carry and protect during our experience,” Bissell declared. “The Isaac of the first Dead Space was so moving precisely because you had no idea what was inside his head.”

But I always found Isaac’s inexpressiveness in Dead Space distracting because it was so ostentatiously stiff in a story about ordinary people having a brush with madness and tragedy. A first-person control system lets the protagonist simply disappear, but a third-person avatar makes it impossible to ignore all of the moments that someone would normally react and doesn’t. (A lot of these reactions were buried in the original game’s menu text, which is written from Isaac’s perspective.) Wright imbues the character with an endearing charm that makes him fun not only to protect but also to be around for 15 or 16 hours. It’s enough to make me forget that Motive has made Isaac a generic brunet in his rare unmasked scenes, rather than keeping his distinctive salt-and-pepper hair.

Isaac Clarke and Zach Hammond staring at a screen in Dead Space

Isaac Clarke and Zach Hammond staring at a screen in Dead Space

 

a:hover]:text-black text-gray-13 dark:text-gray-e9 dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-e9 [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-13 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray-63″>We no longer stan a gray king.

Isaac’s companions, including Nicole, have been rewritten to feel more engaging and human. We’re thankfully past the period where blockbuster shooters have to pretend to be nuanced high art, but the remake is simply better at pragmatic genre storytelling: the underappreciated craft of giving characters enough personality and relatable motivation that I want to listen to them talk. The remake is weakest toward the end, where it feels either rushed or hemmed in by the original script. But it still pulls a little twist that’s compellingly creepy, even if it doesn’t change the story’s ultimate trajectory.

The Dead Space remake feels clean and good in a way that few big-budget Western titles do right now. In 2008, Dead Space seemed like a variation on any number of story-based horror shooters. It was directly inspired by Resident Evil 4 (which itself is getting a remake this year) but also shared DNA with first-person games like BioShock and Half-Life 2, which beat it by a few years to telekinesis and weaponized industrial tools. But in 2023’s world of modest indie narrative games and sprawling open-world AAA slogs, it stands nearly alone. The closest equivalent, Dead Space creator Glen Schofield’s The Callisto Protocol, seemed almost embarrassed to be a game instead of an unforgiving interactive movie.

Sadly, I’m not sure what Motive’s success here means. I’ve seen the game compared to a director’s cut, but none of Dead Space’s original primary creators are involved, and the term suggests a level of deference toward designers that EA simply hasn’t shown. Dead Space remains a relic from an age of self-contained prestige shooters that almost certainly isn’t coming back; I’m not even sure Motive’s approach would work for remaking the series’ other games. But none of that diminishes the sheer ridiculous pleasure of ripping up a zombie with a sawblade and stomping it for loot.

Dead Space will release on January 27th for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and S, and PC.

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New photos reveal more details about Google’s Pixel 9 Pro Fold

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Google’s secret new line of Pixel 9 phones isn’t that big of a secret anymore. Taiwan’s National Communications Commission (NCC) released new photos of the phones including the Pixel 9 Pro Fold from almost every conceivable angle.

Android Authority found the photos in the NCC archives and uploaded galleries of each of the four phones including the Pixel 9, 9 Pro, 9 Pro XL and 9 Pro Fold. They reveal some interesting details about the new Pixel phones.

The charging rates will be a little faster than the last generation of Pixel phones: Taiwanese authorities measured 24.12W for the base model, 25.20W for the Pro and 32.67W for the 9 Pro XL. The Pixel 9 Pro Fold, however, was the slowest of all of them at 20.25W. These numbers don’t often match up perfectly with the advertised ratings, so expect Google to be promoting higher numbers at its event.

Speaking of chargers, it looks like Google needed a bigger charger to power its new phones. Photos included in the NCC leak show each phone will come with a wall charger that’s around 45W depending on which model you purchase. The charger’s plug moved from the middle to the top of the brick.

The Google Pixel 9 Pro Fold can fully unfold.
NCC/Android Authority

The latest photo dump also shows the 9 Pro Fold unfolded for the first time. Google has moved the selfie camera to the inside screen for a wider field of view. The 9 Pro Fold also has a slimmer top and bottom, a reduced fold crease on the display and a full 180 degree unfolding angle to make a screen that’s just over 250mm or just under 10 inches.

These photos are the latest in a very long list of leaks of Google Pixel 9 photos. The last Pixel 9 leak came down yesterday showing two prototype models of the base and XL models. Google might look into buying a new combination lock for the high school locker where they apparently keep all their unreleased gear.

 

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Apple Wallet now supports Canada’s Presto card, with Express Transit

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Apple Wallet now supports the Presto transit card used in Ontario, Canada. The card can be used for travel in Toronto, Hamilton, and Ottawa.

The digital version of the card includes the Express Transit Pass feature, meaning that you can tap in and out without having to authenticate …

 

Ontario’s Presto card

The Presto contactless smart card system was first trialled back in 2007, and started the full rollout in 2009. The card can be used across 11 different transit systems in the areas covered.

Apple Wallet support was first promised many years ago, but things went quiet until a “coming soon” announcement back in May of this year.

Although the contactless terminals allow the use of credit and debit cards for regular fares, a Presto card is needed for monthly passes and discounted travel.

Apple Wallet support now available

The company made the announcement today.

Tap to ride with PRESTO on iPhone and Apple Watch.

Traveling around town just got easy with your PRESTO in Apple Wallet. With Express Mode, you don’t need to wake or unlock your iPhone or Apple Watch or open any apps to use PRESTO in Apple Wallet. Just hold your device near the reader to pay and go.

Ride, even when your iPhone needs a charge

If your iPhone needs a charge, PRESTO Card in Apple Wallet will still work. Power Reserve provides up to five hours of support, so you can still ride.

Reload on the go. 

With your PRESTO card on your iPhone and Apple Watch, you can easily load funds, right from Apple Wallet or PRESTO App. No need to visit a customer service outlet.

Extra security. Built right in 

PRESTO in Apple Wallet can take full advantage of the privacy and security features built into iPhone and Apple Watch. Your PRESTO card is stored on the device, which means Apple does not see when you use it—helping keep your data private and secure.

If you lose your iPhone or Apple Watch, you can use the Find My app to lock and help locate the device and suspend your PRESTO card or remotely erase the device and its cards.

Mobile Syrup reports that you can choose between adding your existing card to your Wallet, or creating a new one.

There are two ways to add a Presto card to Apple Wallet. You can either buy a new card or move your old one over using the Presto app.

That being said, for simplicity’s sake, unless you have a discounted Presto agreement like a student or senior plan, I think most riders will be happy just making a new card in Apple Wallet and loading funds from that app.

As with any digital card or pass, you can use either your iPhone or Apple Watch, but because each generates a unique virtual card number, you need to use the same device at both ends of your journey.

Express Transit feature

To minimize delays, Presto offers Express Transit support. This means that you don’t need to authenticate using Face ID or Touch ID on your iPhone, and you don’t need to double-tap the side button on your Apple Watch. Simply hold your device close to the pad and you’re good (a number of clues are used to detect fraudulent use).

Express Transit also has the advantage that it continues to work in Low Power mode, so you’ll still be able to complete your journey even if your phone or Watch is almost dead.

Image: Presto

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The OnePlus Pad 2 Wants to Be the iPad Air of Android Tablets

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The original OnePlus Pad was a decent all-around Android tablet, but it was not amazing in any one area. Now, OnePlus is back with a new tablet device that packs more power, has a better screen, more speakers, and a higher starting price. OnePlus offers an Android tablet alternative that costs less than the latest iPad Airs, though it seems like it’s hewing very close to the rendition from 2023. 

The OnePlus Pad 2 is a one-size-fits-all 12.1-inch 3K tablet. At $550 for 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, it’s $70 more than the first OnePlus Pad, though it starts with more memory and twice as much internal storage as the first go around’s paltry 128 GB. It’s bigger than the 11.6 LCD on last year’s Pad, though now it’s beefed its resolution to 3K (3000 x 2120) with a stated 600 nits typical and 900 nits peak brightness. It has a variable refresh rate between 30 and 144 Hz, though it’s still an LCD screen, the same as the 2023 OnePlus Pad.

Just like last year’s version, the new Pad supports Dolby Atmos, but it boasts a six-stereo speaker configuration on either side of the device. It may not be as specifically sound-tailored as the Lenovo Tab Plus, but what’s promised is a solid middle ground. 

Last year’s tablet used MediaTek Dimensity 9000 CPU, which was good enough for most applications but not exactly top of its class. The Pad 2 is now powered with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 mobile chip. Gizmodo has already experienced some of the chip’s capabilities in Samsung’s latest foldables, and already it’s very promising. We haven’t yet had the chance to compare a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 tablet to Apple’s latest iPad Air with M2, though on the whole, M2 usually performs better than Qualcomm’s mobile chips in bare benchmark tests. How much that matters depends on what programs you expect to use on your tablet. 

Image: OnePlus

Every device maker thinks they need AI to compete, and OnePlus isn’t an outlier here. There are promised “AI Toolbox” features like AI text-to-speech and recording summaries. The AI Eraser 2.0 will also work like Google’s Magic Eraser to remove unwanted photo elements. 

There’s a new $99 OnePlus Stylo 2 and a $150 Oneplus Smart Keyboard to accompany the new tablet. Despite the size and price difference, there will be many similarities between last year’s and the 2024 model. The Pad 2 has the same 9,510 mAh battery as last year’s, plus the 67W “SUPERVOOC” fast charging. It promises 43 days of standby time, though in our experience, the first Pad’s lifespan and promised “one-month standby life” was far more modest in practice, lasting most of the day before needing a recharge. 

With a bigger screen, the upcoming Pad 2 is slightly heavier than last year’s rendition. It weighs about 1.3 pounds, so it’s exactly between the 11- and 13-inch iPad Airs or slightly more than the base 11-inch Galaxy Tab S9 (and far less than the humongous Tab S9 Ultra). It will be relatively thin at 6.49 mm, but it’s not beating the iPad Air’s 6.1 mm or the iPad Pro 13-inch’s holy grail 5.1 mm.

The first OnePlus Pad didn’t exactly break new ground in any one category, though it did show Android tablets had legs. We’ve seen attempts from Goole and its Pixel Tablet, though that, too, wasn’t the pioneer of Android tablets. A better chip and more speakers do seem promising, though, in its effort to be everything to everyone, we’ll need to see if it manages to stand out in any area.

The OnePlus Pad 2 is now available for preorder. It should be available on the OnePlus website starting July 30 and on Amazon starting August.

 

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