Let the nightmares commence

Dead Space 2

Issac Clarke is back and so are the Necromorphs in Visceral Games first major title of 2011. "Dead Space 2," the highly anticipated sequel to its 2008 predecessor, "Dead Space," will bring terror to any gamer who dares to pick up the controller and player through the 15-chapter story. And, unlike many sequels to highly rated games, "Dead Space 2" is good. Very good, in fact.

However, the newest game published by Electronic Arts is certainly not for everyone. For a franchise like "Dead Space," the rating of "M" for mature doesn’t seem to do the game enough justice. "Dead Space 2" is one of those games where it deserves its own rating because of the absolute horror the gamer experiences while trudging through the bloody halls of the Sprawl, a highly populated city built on one of Saturn’s many moons, Titan. It’s been three years since Issac was part of a small group of engineers sent to investigate a mysterious power outage aboard the USG Ishimura, a mining ship used for "planet cracking." The last time gamers saw Issac, he had narrowly escaped Aegis VII, a space colony where the alien infestation was believed to have originated, before it was destroyed. The ending to "Dead Space" left much to be desired, as Issac is attacked by his girlfriend, Nicole, who had taken her own life before being overcome by the infestation.

Issac awakens in the psychiatric ward of the Sprawl in nothing but a straight jacket. He has no memory between his final moments on Aegis VII and the present. But the events that took place in "Dead Space" have left Issac unstable. Throughout the game he experiences horrifying hallucinations caused by his encounter with the Marker, which is believed to be an alien artifact that causes mass hysteria to those near it. Issac wakes up in the midst of yet another Necromorph invasion. The game’s beginning is perhaps the most horrifying because Issac is restricted to a straight jacket with no ability to fend off the oncoming wave of Necromorphs looking to separate his head from his shoulders.

As the story progresses, Issac is contacted by a women named Diana, who claims that she can help cure his dementia if he can make his way to her. Issac is also contacted by a mental patient named Nolan Stross, who has also been affected by the Marker and tells Issac not to trust her. After a close encounter with the Titan Security officers, who have strict orders to kill him, Issac encounters another survivor aboard the Sprawl, Ellie, who is reluctant to trust Issac. While she does not fight alongside Issac, Ellie agrees to help him destroy the Marker, which is being stored within the Titan Government District under the command of Hans Tiedemann.

While "Dead Space 2" plays almost identical to its predecessor, there are many new features that separate the sequel from the original. The most noticeable difference is the enemies; there are plenty of new ones to choose from. The original Necromorphs, such as slashers, leapers, lurkers, infectors and pregnant, return for the sequel, but the newer enemies are much tougher and smarter. "Dead Space 2" features four new main enemies: stalkers, pukers, crawlers and The Pack. Stalkers are perhaps the smartest monsters ever seen in a horror game. They have the look of an original Necromorph, minus the blades, but they always travel in packs. What makes them clever is one will try to bait you into attack it while another one will charge you from the other side of the room.

Enemies aren’t the only new components to "Dead Space 2." New weapons suits also make their way into the game. All of the guns found in "Dead Space" are available for purchase in "Dead Space 2," along with the javelin gun, detonator and seeker rifle. Each gun has an alternative firing mode that makes slicing through Necromorphs a little easier.

If someone had to describe "Dead Space 2" in just one word it would be this: frightening. There is absolutely no question that this third person survival horror will scare anybody who plays it. The one aspect of the game that increases the terror factor is the environment aboard the Sprawl. Unlike the USG Ishimura, which had nothing but trained "planet crackers" aboard, the Sprawl is an intergalactic city with a population consisting of men, women and children, some as young as newborns. As Issac makes his way down living corridors, the faint sound of infant screams can be heard echoing in the nearby rooms. Adding to the spine-tingling factor is part of the game that takes place in the daycare center. While one typically considers a daycare center to be a place of joy and happiness, the daycare center aboard the Sprawl is covered with blood and mutant babies, not to mention the eerie sight of toy animals illuminating across the dark wall.

With every passing minute the game’s scare factor increases. Issac begins to lose his sense of reality and the visions of his dead girlfriend continue to clog his mind. When Issac is forced to return to the USG Ishimura toward the end of the game, visions of his past experiences onboard the ship begin to bend the line between what is real and what is in his head. In one particular scene, Issac is grabbed by a giant mutant tentacle, exactly like the ones from the previous game. However, when Issac is knocked to the ground with the tentacle having a firm grasp around his body, the image disappears. It was nothing more than a hallucination.

There are moments in the game where even a college-aged student will cringe. In Issac’s final confrontation with Stross, who grows more delusional every time he appears, he is holding a bloody needle with one of Ellie’s eyes attached to it. Issac is even forced to insert a needle into his own eye, with the gamer being fully in control with positioning the needle and placing it firmly into Issac’s pupil.

Typically, when games try to go overboard on the horror and gore factor, the plot is always the one that suffers. That is not the case in "Dead Space 2." The plot is filled with plenty of twists and turns that will keep any gamer playing until the very end, which supplies the biggest twist of them all. "Dead Space 2" sets a gold standard when it comes to horror games. The most difficult aspect of the game is finding the courage to make it through to the very end.