Madness makes the heart pound faster. Three years after surviving the terrors of the USG Ishimura, retired engineer Isaac Clarke can most definitely be classified as mad.
Haunted by the ghost of dead girlfriend Nicole and rigorously interrogated by Earth-Gov for information about the Marker, the man is more broken now than he was at the end of the first game.
Spare your sympathies, however, because there's literally no moment free for pity. Dead Space 2 launches waves of necromorphs at your face right from the get-go, catapulting you straight into the action in a start so impressive it even overshadows Mass Effect 2's colossal Normandy destruction.
We rejoin Isaac in a hospital where, stripped of weapons and abilities, he must pilfer kit from the environment to tool himself up for another stand against the necromorph threat.
Luckily the futuristic operating theatres are well stocked and so a little guerrilla engineering soon deprives surgery beds of their stasis modules, telekinesis modules and cutting tools.
Not a moment too soon, either, for the alien infestation worsens with every single minute.
SPRAWL OF DUTY
Hospitals soon make way for residential zones, where unseen terrors rip occupants apart behind locked doors. Then it's on to churches and mines and even space itself, plus a wonderful twist two-thirds in that's just too good to reveal.
Dead Space 2 is a game unafraid to mix it up. Visceral Games boasted that each of its fifteen chapters would feature one 'epic moment', and although we'd argue a couple of chapters pass by without anything overly spectacular happening there's certainly no shortage of great sights.
The original Dead Space had a fairly regimented skeleton with Isaac arriving in one zone on the ship's tram system, spending an hour or so doing some odd jobs and then returning to the tram to be whisked away to another area. No longer.
You never know what's around the corner, and that makes for a thrilling rollercoaster with unexpected twists and turns relentlessly assaulting you for the entirety of its running time (eight and a half hours for us, fact fans).
The epic moments rarely disappoint. Whether it's leaping from speeding train to speeding train or hurtling through space after being tossed out of The Sprawl by a giant foe, the only thing likely to relax is your anus once you've been caught unawares - yet again - by deafening roars of light and sound.
Unfortunately the epic moments tend not to feature bosses. Dead Space 2 is disappointingly sparse on this front, with bigger alien threats rarely showing their mutated faces*. What it lacks in big bad guys, however, it makes up for with other set-pieces.
Hanging upside down with your foot caught in cabling, fending off swarms of necromorphs with little more than metal rebars after firing your plasma cutter dry isn't good for the blood pressure. It does, however, make for a great game.
DEEP SPACE FINE
Running out of ammunition is a recurring theme in Dead Space 2. A lethal combo of more monsters and fewer pick-ups means we ran out of shots on a fairly regular basis - even though we bought ammo often at the stores.
Pulling necromorph bodies open is a good way to restock your levels, although carcasses in the busier areas (most noticeably those where you're swamped by dozens of The Pack) occasionally vanish. Luckily, technical letdowns like this are relatively few and very far between.
Dwindling ammo supplies make for some tense stand-offs, especially now there are viable alternatives to shooting. In the first game it was possible to pick up saw blades with TK and fire them at necromorphs, but the slightly clunky controls made it difficult.