Why Dead Space 2 is One of the Best Sequels Ever Made

With Dead Space 3 looming next week, we’ve revisited Dead Space and Dead Space 2 to rediscover what we love about Visceral’s sci-fi survival-horror third-person shooter series. Warning: Spoilers for both games within.


A lot of sequels pop up in the video game universe. A lot of sequels. That constant march of familiar titles and IPs starts to make things feel as if we’ve played every game out there already, in some form or another.

But good sequels exist, and the reason so many sequels get made is that players love the ability to revisit certain experiences over and over. There are such things as “good” and “bad” sequels: A good sequel manages to build on the foundation of the familiar experience, while rewarding the player with new content and certain innovations to gameplay systems. A bad one either alters the formula too far away from fun (it’s possible for a sequel to be vastly different and still be enjoyable) or makes so few changes that it feels like it’s reselling the same title over again.

So judging by those criteria specifically — how “good” a “sequel” something is — Dead Space 2 is a standalone accomplishment. The game beautifully expands on many of the most meaningful elements of the original’s mechanics and gameplay, while remaining perfectly familiar. What’s more, Dead Space 2 is so aware of its predecessor that it manages to use your own memory against you to amplify its scares.

All other considerations aside, when it comes to sequels, Visceral Games should give a clinic using Dead Space 2 as its example.

Bigger Problems, Better Solutions

The first Dead Space had an intriguing weaponry system that modeled most of its artillery after futuristic mining equipment. Sure, the weapon-like design of the plasma cutter and line gun made them awfully convenient weapons in an emergency situation, but they gave the feeling of the larger world of which they were a part. They’re cutting tools, by and large. The force gun is barely a gun at all, but more like a burst of air that can blow back enemies. They feel like they have utility as much as deadly capabilities.

Dead Space 2 expanded the arsenal greatly, adding things like seismic detonator mines and the electrified javelin gun (okay, that one I have no idea what you’d use for outside spearing mutated monster children), and adding more opportunities for you to use the game world as a weapon. But it also threw in a number of new enemy types that are tougher and spookier than those that came before. One brand of necromorph spits acid on you that renders you nearly immobile; smaller ones swarm in packs and are hard to hit; even old enemies like the crawling legless necromorphs are faster and more deadly.

There’s a lot to be afraid of in Dead Space 2, with enemies added that aren’t just difficult to fight, but frightening in their presentation. The fast-moving Stalkers in Dead Space 2 can be seen running around just out of range, repositioning to flank you. They fight with purpose and intent, and when they attack, they do it by charging right at you. Never knowing exactly where the next attack might come from is extremely unnerving, and Dead Space 2 uses these guys to perfectly build on the original necromorph convention of having enemies pop out of the walls and ceilings around you. So even as you get new guns, you have new adversaries. Even as new adversaries challenge your existing strategies, you get new weapons to use to deal with them. That’s exactly how a sequel should operate.

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7 Comments on Why Dead Space 2 is One of the Best Sequels Ever Made

Sharkey

On January 31, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Totally agree. I always compared DS1 to Alien and DS2 to Aliens, with me loving the latter 2 just a bit more. This is why I’ve always had complete faith in Visceral delivering another amazing game with DS3. Bring on Tuesday!

Wesker1984

On January 31, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Finally someone inteligent and positive here!

Hi Sharkey!

R.J.

On February 1, 2013 at 12:28 am

The Ishimura level was definitely my favorite, for exactly these reasons.

goner

On February 1, 2013 at 10:53 am

It is product like this, that’s keep me dreaming since so many year, everythings was probably already made in visual art, but some people can put together all the classics and make something great.
Talk about classics…. watch this, and ask ourselves why it’s still work( sometimes).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgOtPXDyKjA

Tiagonal

On February 3, 2013 at 7:04 pm

DUDE, Gamefront’s Phil always forcing me to type comments…

YES, Dead Space 2 was good, despite the fact it KILLED the franchise! Here, I’ll repost one of any of my ancient comments regarding Dead Space 2:

>>I just want to point out again that if Dead Space had got rid of Isaac Clarke and the necromorphs.. a clean sequel would’ve porvided the thrills of unexpected horrors in a vast space with a core gameplay that was awesome<>)…. uh, I always wanted to write this even if noone would ever believe it, just as I finished Dead Space I had so much inertial hyping I wrote myself ideas for a sequel in one of the EA’s forum (not Dead Space’s official), a week later I wanted to check people’s opinion on it only to check there was no forum anymore. A year later, intel started leaking out about DS2 and each clicked me with striking similarities to what I had written, some really hit the nail, regardless they were all too broad and all anyway. Yet saddly, it was also that same moment I understood… that the only way to Dead Space survive beyond a third, would be a completely refreshed sequel.

Phil Hornshaw

On February 3, 2013 at 7:21 pm

@Tiagonal

So you’re suggesting a sort of Final Fantasy horror series for Dead Space? I could get behind that.

Personally I feel like Dead Space really functioned well as a two-game unit. Of course, I’m working through DS3 now, so this is not a judgment of that, but I do understand what you mean by saying that the more sequels the game has, the fewer strong scares it can manage because it is, by definition, rehashing the same material to a least some degree.

That said, I like Dead Space a lot and I’m excited that it exists, and I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt: especially given how well Dead Space 2 makes use of the same material to create a great second game.

Tiagonal

On February 4, 2013 at 5:50 pm

@Phil Hornshaw I mentioned Final Fantasy in one of my ancient comments! You got it. I’m so glad someone did.

It’s called ‘Dead Space’ not ‘Isaac Clarke’s misadventures’… Ah, back to that moment when I first heard of Dead Space and didn’t know any of the characters or creatures… craving that feeling…

Yeh, now try imagining a fourth one.. long shot.
Don’t spoil me the ending of DS3 tho’ I’ll do that myself, as about.. now.