"Your mom hates 'Dead Space 2,' " the ads tell us. This slogan's about as provocative as calling the principal lame, but it's better, I guess, than "You'll feel lukewarm about 'Dead Space 2.' " In its first sequel, the main name in survival horror, now that "Resident Evil" is slouching toward pure action, delivers a mixed bag with roughly the same mix as its predecessor: cool guns, cool setting, cool storytelling, enemies as likely to bore you to death as slice you up with the evil protrusions that have grown out of their limbs since they ceased being human.
"Dead Space 2" relocates the action from a space station to Sprawl, a condensed metropolis clinging to a shard of one of Saturn's moons. Like Coruscant made miniature and evil, Sprawl reminds us of Rapture, the Art Deco city at the bottom of the ocean in the "BioShock" games. Not in that Sprawl features gleaming midcentury architecture, but that both are lively outposts standing in stark contrast to the surrounding desolation. As in the first "Dead Space," the best parts of its sequel are spent exploring this void. The time you spend out of airlock is deeply cinematic, as sound, realistically, is reduced to the breathing noises inside your characters' helmet, allowing enemies to completely surprise you, and you constantly fear becoming untethered and slipping toward the distant stars.
Inside the airlock, the action is about as frightening as a session with "Doom" would be today. The dazzlingly predictable enemies tempt you to start making wagers with the game. "See that air vent up there? I bet you a hundred bucks that after I walk by it, you're gonna make an enemy pop out and 'surprise' me from behind." You'd win every time.
|'Dead Space 2'|
|» System: PS3, Xbox 360, PC|
|» Price: $59.99|
|» Rating: 3 out of 5 stars|
If the makers of "Dead Space" freed us from these hallways and set more of the game in, ahem, space, they could have something truly scary on their hands. As it is, we have to suffer through long stretches of playing exterminator to get to the good parts.