If you read the headline on this story and thought to yourself, “Why would I want to make the Dead Space remake less scary? The whole point is to be scared!” Just leave. Close the tab — this guide is not for you. Some of us love horror as a genre but also get a little too invested and stressed by it, or we get nightmares, or we just want it to be a little scary rather than super duper scary. If that describes you, read on for my list of tips and tricks to make the terror-packed Dead Space remake into a slightly spooky but bearable experience.
Leave the sound on — and the music, too
This may sound counterintuitive. After all, those screeching violins and wailing horns that play every time a Necromorph attacks are a big part of what make Dead Space into a high-stress thrill ride. Wouldn’t it be a more calming experience if you turned off the music? Absolutely not! Those music cues are the only thing that warns you about the presence of danger; when the siren-like shrieks of the soundtrack are in the air, get ready to shoot off some limbs. And when that music finally fades, that means you’re done fighting enemies — for now, anyway.
Turning off the game’s music is actually a great way to make Dead Space significantly scarier, if that’s your thing and you’re still reading this guide for some reason. If you leave the sound effects on but turn the music volume down to zero, all you’ll have are footsteps to guide you through the tense, partially lit hallways of the USG Ishimura. If you turn off the sound effects as well, the game gets even harder, since you’ll be relying entirely on visual cues — and Necromorphs simply love sneaking up behind you, meaning you’ll be caught off guard far more often.
All that said, I do recommend turning the sound and music down somewhat. You don’t need it to be blaring in order to hear the necessary cues that indicate a Necromorph is near. Listen to your heart rate and let that be your guide as to how loud you need the game’s volume to be.
Choose the correct difficulty setting
I do just fine at playing third-person shooters in general, but when I’m stressed out, my skill goes off a cliff. If a Necromorph sneaks up behind me, my aim is not gonna be great. For that reason, I’m playing Dead Space on “Easy,” as recommended by my colleague Jeff Parkin. Even if I miss the first shot (or several) due to panic, I still have plenty of time to get a kill before the Necromorph takes me down. I’m not at the point where I need to tick the difficulty down even further to the “Story” setting, but you know what? It’s nice to know that it’s there for me if I need it.
Adjust the game’s content warnings
The Dead Space remake includes the option to blur out some of the more graphic violence in the game, and I’ve opted to turn that on (here’s our guide on adjusting the content warnings). To be honest, gore doesn’t bother me much; blood-filled gross-out moments don’t make me particularly scared or stressed. The main reason I’ve turned on the blur effect for the more violent scenes is that I personally think it looks funny, which means it breaks the tension during those key, high-stress moments.
The Dead Space remake looks so realistic that it’s easy to get completely ensconced in its horrifying world — which means I appreciate the occasional times that there’s a big blurry box on the screen, reminding me that this is just a video game, for heck’s sake. (I also already played the original game back in 2008, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on important plot points or visually impactful scenes. I just don’t need to watch that one guy banging his head into a window again. I’ve seen it. I’m good.)
Call a friend — or several
Just like watching a scary movie or show becomes easier with a friend nearby, so too does playing a horror game. My preferred venue for inviting my friends to tag along is Discord, where I can stream Dead Space to them and hear their delightful commentary (and their quips about how often I get lost, which would be the actual most stressful part of Dead Space if not for the game’s Locator button).
Listen to a podcast
Sometimes, friends aren’t available for a hangout or a Discord call, but you still want to get your Dead Space on. I recommend putting on a comedy podcast in the background to add the sense that you’ve got some friends nearby, keeping you company. I also like to imagine that the game’s protagonist Isaac Clarke is listening to a podcast himself as he wanders those abandoned corridors. Of course, he still needs to be able to hear if a Necromorph is nearby, and you do, too — so keep the music and the game volume on while the podcast plays.
The reason I recommend a comedy podcast for this, rather than an audiobook or news program, is that you’re not going to be paying much attention to the content of the show. You’ll be pretty focused on the actual game, noticing visual and audio cues and fighting off Necromorphs. But having that friendly banter in the background will help keep your head a little clearer and less freaked out, which is (again) why I assume that Isaac Clarke would be listening to a podcast himself. Just think of it as more diegetic game audio.
Take a break… maybe forever?
I love Dead Space, and I’m probably going to beat it. I love the way Isaac’s shadow stretches across doorways, looking almost like a Necromorph if you see it in your peripheral vision. I even love the shrieking violin music. But sometimes, it’s just too damn stressful to play a horror game, no matter how gorgeous and well-made it is.
If you try all these tips and you still can’t play this game without freaking out, I absolve you of having to complete Isaac’s mission. He’s a fictional man in a video game, and you should only step into his big metal boots if you’re having a good time wearing them. After all, even the game’s technical director said that playing it with headphones at night was “too fucking scary.” So I’m not gonna judge you if you bail, and neither should anybody else.