Posted on January 31, 2013, Phil Hornshaw 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.