Moving the game to the Sprawl however, provides the game with a decent amount of aesthetic diversity: there's a lot more going on than the Ishimura's endless metal corridors. And where Isaac haplessly assumed the role of back-and-forth courier over engineer in the original, now the game is mostly a linear progression through a whistle-stop tour of flashy sights and expensive-looking set pieces. A boss encounter early on is the game's whizz-bang highlight, mixing up QTEs with cutscenes and quick-fire reflex actions.
The game betrays this potential near the end, however, where levels become padded affairs of regurgitated combat; the developmental desire to have Isaac shatter bones and tear sinew takes precedence over nervous exploration and slow-building tension. It basically feels like chunks of cheaper meat have been thrown in to add some unnecessary bulk to the Necromorph patty, and it doesn't particularly work well as an example of great action, either. Each room contains another dense concentration of monsters, and then a couple more will routinely spring up behind you and shout boo. Simply kill and repeat. And the less said about the lacklustre final boss the better.
Still, by the time you reach Dead Space 2's saggier later levels you'll have committed yourself to finishing the course hours ago. Phenomenal production values, including perhaps the best use of sound in modern gaming, and an early barrage of rich environments, alongside the game's satisfyingly weighty controls and returning dismemberment conceit, ensure the game stands tall amongst its peers. Most of the time, anyway.
Post-completion there's the urge to go back and replay on a higher difficulty, though probably not on the punishing Hardcore mode, which unlocks after finishing the campaign, that limits you to three saves for the entire game and will be completed by next to nobody. I got a few levels in before dying and promptly concluding it to be too much work. It's a far cry from the original, where maximum completion was an accessible uphill climb.
A wholly average multiplayer mode rounds out the package, which pits two teams of four against each other as humans versus Necromorphs in a standard objective-based gametype. It comes with your standard vertical progression system of persistent upgrades, and teamwork is an absolute must. While no single component feels notably faulty, I found my enjoyment of the mode completely exhausted before the end of the three hours of playtime EA provided on the game's pre-release servers.
Dead Space 2 is sometimes a confused and disappointing production, but more often than not it's tense and fascinating. Just make sure that, whatever you do, you don't fzzfzgghzhghghghcrkrkkkckkkzzzzzzz...
VideoGamer.com Score8 Score out of 10
- Production values are excellent.
- Lingering sense of dread.
- Satisfying combat.
- Momentum stalls towards the end.