Dead Space 2 – review

Xbox 360/PS3/PC; £39.99; cert 18+ Visceral Games/EA

If you think things are bad at the moment, just be thankful you’re not Isaac Clarke. To describe the character you control in the second instalment of EA’s acclaimed space-survival-horror franchise as “put-upon” would be the mother of all understatements.

Dead Space 2 resumes Isaac’s story three years after the first game, in the frankly unwelcoming surroundings of the Sprawl, a giant city on one of Saturn’s moons. Once again, our poor old hero – who begins the game in a straitjacket – must negotiate double-dealing and deranged behaviour from fellow humans, hallucinations of his dead girlfriend and, most of all, the unwanted attentions of a set of mutants known as necromorphs which are so disgustingly putrid, blood-crazed and brain-lackingly persistent that the likes of Clive Barker would be proud to have created them.

That Dead Space 2 happens to be a video game which puts you at the heart of the action is a bonus: it would stand up impressively as an example of non-interactive horror. The ranks of the necromorphs have been impressively added to this time around with the likes of Pukers, who spew acid at you from a distance accompanied by blood-curdling screams, and featureless children with scythe-like limbs who swamp you in a pack.

But much of Dead Space 2’s impressive scariness derives from more mundane devices, such as vents that unexpectedly blast you with steam, and gloriously chilling music, lighting and sound effects.

Appropriately, given the way in which he is a more seasoned necromorph-dispatcher, Isaac gets some great new weapons – such as the Javelin Gun, a powerful speargun which can impale his assailants, and old favourites such as the Plasma cutter have been subtly improved (plus, of course, you can upgrade your favourites via workbenches, or re-spec them if you take an upgrade direction that doesn’t work out).

Isaac’s Kinesis ability to pick up objects and fire them has been made vastly more responsive, so that it now has a part to play in combat. You can, for example, fire severed limbs at necromorphs. Ammo is still in severely short supply during periods of the game, and like its predecessor, Dead Space 2 is challenging and unforgiving to play. Which is just how games like this should be.

Once again, it contains some great puzzles that involve manipulating objects with Kinesis and Stasis, and plenty of floating around in zero gravity. And this time around, it has acquired a four-versus-four multiplayer mode, in which four humans try to achieve an objective while four necromorphs try to maul them to pieces. Slightly unexpectedly, it’s somewhat reminiscent of Left4Dead.

In general, pretty much every aspect of Dead Space 2 has been improved: the combat is slicker and more accurate, the story flows in an exemplary manner (with puzzles occurring just when you’re screaming for a break from the relentless necromorph onslaughts), the graphics and sound are fantastic and, in general, production values are sky-high. As long as you’re not of a remotely nervous disposition, you’ll discover there is a vast amount of pleasure to be found in it.

• Game reviewed on PlayStation 3.

Rating: 4/5








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