As Isaac, you’ll pick up your plasma cutter, don an engineering suit, and take the fight to the monsters out to kill you. The overarching goal is to find and destroy the religious idol (known as the Marker) causing all of this, but the story that makes Dead Space 2 great is the internal war Isaac’s fighting. Isaac is totally ruined by the events of the original Dead Space. He saw things no man should have during his time on the spaceship USG Ishimura, but it’s the fact that Isaac’s girlfriend died on the vessel after he encouraged her to work there that really haunts him.
Isaac’s losing his mind in Dead Space 2. The guilt is tearing his very sanity apart. Isaac doesn’t let anyone else in on the fact that he’s coming unglued, so as a player you get to see who he really is and the facade he presents to the other characters.
When you first start the game, you take control of Isaac as he runs for his life from the hideous creatures who, for reasons that aren’t immediately clear, have suddenly appeared and started slaughtering the human population in the Sprawl, a vast urban area on Titan. Isaac, who said not a word in the original game, has a voice here, and although he’s a bit bland as a character, the intensity of the action that surrounds him makes you feel invested in his desperate struggle for survival.
Revealing glimpses into the world of Dead Space–such as a trek through a Unitology center that sheds light on the inner workings of the church whose activity is inextricably linked to the necromorph outbreaks–keep the momentum rolling during the early chapters. The game later falls into predictable rhythms for a while, but it picks up steam again toward the end, as the story goes to some unexpected and exciting places and puts almost as much emphasis on Isaac’s struggle against his own demons of guilt and regret as on his battles against the necromorphs.
Dead Space 2 is pretty much the best haunted house attraction ever. Visceral stripped out the stuff that slowed down the original game (backtracking, getting disoriented, etc.) and ended up with a fast-paced game that’s suspenseful and scary at the same time. You are funneled down halls and corridors on your way from Point A to Point B, and necromorphs pop out for you to blast.
The Sprawl’s pressurized environment occasionally offers a spectacularly reckless and dramatic way to eliminate some necromorphs. Certain rooms have windows that you can easily shatter with a shot of your weapon or a hurled object. The instant you do so, everything in the room–furniture, necromorphs, and you–is rapidly pulled toward the window as the air rushes out into the vacuum of space. To save yourself, as you are being pulled toward the opening, you must quickly shoot a sensor that brings a metallic emergency door down over it.
Despite your powerful and satisfying arsenal, you still feel as if you’re in constant danger, and that’s never more the case than when you’re faced with a few of the terrifying new types of necromorphs that make their debuts in the game.
One new variety, called the pack, resembles a twisted version of a human toddler. Individually very weak, these terrors run at you in groups, emitting bloodcurdling shrieks all the while, and if one manages to leap up onto you, it can cause tremendous damage.
The other new standout necromorph type is called a stalker. These hunters display an intelligence previously unseen in necromorphs, making use of cover to try to stay hidden from you until they decide to strike, charging at you with incredible speed. It’s particularly satisfying to hit one of these charging beasts with your very useful stasis ability, stopping it in its tracks before blasting it to bits. On the other hand, these creatures are so speedy and so prone to charge at you when your back is turned that Isaac’s slow turning ability can at times become less a source of tension than a source of frustration.
Stasis remains an invaluable part of your arsenal, but turnabout is fair play, and the bile of another new necromorph type, the puker, slows you down almost as much as your stasis ability slows the necromorphs down, leaving you extremely vulnerable for a short period of time.
All of these new necromorph threats fit in perfectly with all the returning varieties from the first game, creating a diverse and deadly assortment of both short- and long-range attackers to keep you constantly on edge as you make your way across the Sprawl.
So what are you waiting for? Go and fight your way across the Sprawl today, and make sure you play with all the lights out to get the best thrills and shrills.
Dead Space 2 is out for the PS3.