There's a bit where, over the radio, Isaac Clarke is told that under absolutely no circumstances must he never ever... and then the transmission cuts to static. Still, blind obedience to a tried and tested bag of clichés is never necessarily a bad thing, and it's always a reassuring eventuality that moving into a monster-infested funeral parlour is never going to end well.
As the big-budget sequel to the 2008 survival-horror epic, developer Visceral Games is attempting to solidify the series' exemplary shooting and top-tier jumpy frights by rounding out the human element of its protagonist. Formerly little more than a mute conduit for the player, giving Isaac a voice and a face is a move which may come back to haunt Visceral Games more than Derek Acorah does Living TV. Personally, I kind of preferred Isaac Clarke when he was just a wheezing death rattle, but now he's into serial cussing and showing off his oft-visible bonce with a range that spans expressionless to completely bemused.
The game, however, is much the same as before: an unrestrained exercise in violence, set around Titan mining colony the Sprawl, three years after calamitous events of the original, and it's all still wrapped up with overarching themes of shady capitalistic enterprise and quasi-religious Unitology fanatics. Before long it becomes clear that the Sprawl is home to another Marker, one of the twisted double-helix structures at the root of the universe's mucky Necromorph problems, and that everybody has been transformed into a monster. Again.
Things kick off pretty quickly, too, and seconds after the opening montage there's a person getting stabbed through the head, with the player watching their grisly, close-up transformation into a gibbering, flailing Necromorph, and gleefully continues throwing up well-designed shots of nasty brutality until its bombastic denouement. The whole game is never anything less than visually stunning, either, with the signature minimalistic UI and a near-unparalleled attention to detail across its many creepy crevices and flickering corridors.
Dead Space 2 is a poster boy for violent carnage, but the unnerving clash between Visceral Games' desire to refocus and remodel Isaac and the situation he finds himself in is epitomised nicely about two-thirds of the way through the game. During this moment the player finds themselves staring at something horrible and iconic from the first game, and the growing sense of dread and unease is neatly undercut when Isaac turns to his female sidekick and cheesily says "I'm full of bad ideas." So was the scriptwriter, evidentially.
I imagine the intention was to replicate something like Ripley's character shift from Alien to Aliens - Dead Space has always been an unashamed attempt to replicate the coolest bits from dozens of sci-fi influences in a survival horror mould, with the mix of borrowed ideas even trickling down to the protagonist's compounded name. But here it doesn't always mesh right. A creeping traversal through a Unitology church is enough to make your palms sweat, but during a section where you stand on top of a massive mining truck as it's driven through an underground tunnel of Necromorph gore, the game errs dangerously close to the point where Isaac might as well take off his helmet, put on a pair of sunglasses and try dual-wielding plasma rifles.