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Dead Space 2 PS3

Polished sequel to cult sci-fi shooter deserves new disciples

The scariest thing in Dead Space 2 is a sprinkler system. It doesn't spew out blood, or introduce a boss monster, or cause a blow-out in a water tank - it merely covers a dank, dark corridor in case of emergency.

Monsters could come from anywhere, so you shuffle forwards slowly, reflex aiming at every single flicker. Nothing. You continue to inch forwards - then there's the great thunk of cavernous pipes, reverberating through the surround system as you frantically look everywhere and see... just water.

The original Dead Space was a classier breed of horror game, merrily combining the mechanics of Resident Evil 4 with shocks and scenarios from the movies. Dead Space 2 sticks with this template for the most part, but it's a crazier beast - the setting of The Sprawl, a giant space station, lets Visceral come up with twisted places that would never have worked on the Ishimura.

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Isaac's more of an action man this time around, his heft and capacity for violence wedded to an arsenal with explosive possibilities.

THE TALENT
The stars of the show, however, remain undimmed. The necromorphs, gross spiked and spitting beasts re-assembled from human corpses, are even more horrific than first time around.

Their distended silhouettes are frightening enough - when they sprint headlong from every direction, hiding their limbs and pouncing from dark corners, it's outright terrifying. Dead Space's limb-lopping targeting system is as thrilling as ever - slice off a necromorph's head and it continues to scuttle forwards, oblivious to the loss of something that isn't used for attacking. And hardly any of them collapse from losing a single limb.

Getting that into your head is easy enough - picking out the shot among a forest of spiked arms and hooks heading your way is quite another.

The creature's movements and shapes mix it up superbly, twisting exposed tendrils away just as you line up, barreling forwards with arms tucked away and forcing a leg shot. But it's how you're controlled that's the genius here: if there is any situation with necromorphs you fear, don't buy Dead Space 2, because it puts you in all of them.

"Hmm, this corridor's a bit narrow and there's no exit, I'd be in trouble if... " Right. Time and again, Dead Space 2 forces a new tactic or different weapon, hits from a distance then gets up in your face.

SUPER SLO-MO
Combat is still a question of balancing firepower with stasis and kinesis - the first a rechargeable bolt of slowdown juice that makes limb-lopping easy, the second used to pick up and throw stuff at enemies.

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Stasis is a godsend strategically, letting you escape from rucks and conserve ammo with shots that rip through multiple limbs - so much so that all of our power nodes went into upgrading it to maximum duration and efficiency. Nodes return, and are kept rare: there's a useful option to 'de-spec' an item and get all your nodes back for 5,000 credits (peanuts, relatively), but you'll still be hard-pushed to get more than two fully-upgraded weapons.

This scarcity is what makes Hard mode work. The necromorphs certainly up their game, managing to be even more ferocious and deadly in their sustained onslaughts - but the real killer is waste.

There's less ammo and health around: every shot counts, every blow hurts. It's where Dead Space 2 really shines, when you begin to appreciate the detail packed into every corner while scavenging them to stay alive - and when the necromorphs show just how vicious they can be.

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