- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2011

Superhero and cartoon characters are integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and video game with a look at Dead Space 2 (from Electronic Arts and Visceral Games, reviewed for Xbox 360, rated M for mature, $59.99).

A disturbing science-fiction/horror adventure returns to entertainment consoles to dazzle anyone enamored with gore and splattering action.

Set in the year 2414, this third-person macabre masterpiece frays nerves and will make the weaker gamer cower as he seeks to destroy an alien artifact tied to the release of a parasitic mutation.

SEE ALSO: Zadzooks: Dead Space 3 review

What’s the story? Paraphrased from the product literature: Three years after engineer Isaac Clarke survives the Necromorphs aboard the USG Ishimura starship, he awakens in a medical facility on Sprawl, a massive space station orbiting Saturn. The near-deserted metropolis is now a graveyard and incubator for the familiar plague of grotesque mutations he must now destroy. Remember, “On Sprawl, no one cares if you scream.”

Play the role: A player takes control of Isaac and peers over his right shoulder throughout this terrifying dark ride.

As the hero walks — and often runs — through the city, he will crawl through air vents, jump from train cars, move through bloodstained corridors, hide in a child’s nursery and use a flashlight to poke around shadowy corners.

While exploring, he finds that life gets more complicated in areas with zero gravity. Sure, our hero has magnetic boots to get him back to the ground, but floating amid the carnage is required and can be as rewarding an endeavor as it is dangerous.

Isaac uses an ingenious holographic menu system to keep track of munitions, items collected and weapons as well as newly uncovered data. A player will love being able to monitor the hero’s health through a glowing meter on Isaac’s suit as well as use suit meters to keep track of powers and ammunition levels.

He also will find workbenches to upgrade tools and storage areas to change uniforms and can buy tools with accumulated credits and hack into rooms containing more goodies.

Get to the action: From the moment Isaac is cut out of a straitjacket, he must fight alien organisms that can reanimate human corpses — or parts of them — each creature more deadly and ruthless than John Carpenter’s Thing.

Of course our hero will require some heavy-duty powers and tools to survive attacks from the assortment of monstrosities that only someone well-versed in Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft could dream up.

Let’s start with a simple plasma cutter and a line gun that uses bursts of energy to injure enemies or a javelin gun that can impale a poor Necromorph from great distances. Better yet, find the schematic and buy the industrial saw to use circular blades that can shoot out or hover around Isaac to mutilate anything that gets near him.

To add to the strategy, Isaac can manipulate gravity to move objects, including hurling many types of pointy items at the creatures.

He also can jolt an area with stasis to slow down everything, which is helpful when blasting groups of quick-moving enemies or trying to prevent decapitation while sneaking through a high-powered overhead fan.

Creatures requiring termination include a brute containing a pus-filled yellow sac that spews quick-moving, slug-shaped parasites, winged suckers that look like mynocks and attach and envelop a victim.

Story Continues →