|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Visceral Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 25, 2011||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Steve Haske
Visceral Games has done some interesting things with Dead Space since the announcement of the original games sequel. Some of these are typical for big video game series (and perhaps particularly for EA titles). In the wake of Isaacs return, theres been announcements of several further Dead Space spin-offs, including a new animated film and a comic book-style companion game, to name a couple of examples.
Dead Space 2s multiplayer component, however, came as something of a surprise to a lot of fans (myself included). Dont get me wrong, I like the concept, but the series penchant for moody atmosphere and isolation (Extraction, the Wiis intense one-off installment notwithstanding) didnt exactly scream good multiplayer setting to me. Needless to say, hearing about what I could only imagine would be a Modern Warfare-esque deathmatch mode left me somewhat skeptical about whatever Visceral had cooking up. Though I wasnt sure how the mechanics might work beyond a Left 4 Dead-style zombies vs. humans idea, it had to be better than the entirely forgettable multiplayer component in Dantes Inferno, right?
Now that Ive spent some time both blasting necrotic beasties and ripping hapless engineers limb from limb, I can safely say that not only does the Dead Space 2 multiplayer erase any memory of Viscerals abortive Inferno, its actually a pretty fun addition to the sequel. And it plays exactly how youd expect from playing single-player. Only youre wasting other people online rather than disturbed AI monsters in a carefully constructed solo affair. Frankly, Im surprised at how well the developers have re-appropriated Dead Space for a deathmatch construction; although, much like Extraction, the name of the game here is action, the series intensity and trademark dismemberment make for some bloody, gruesome fun, even without a spooky feel. Scares are effectively replaced with violence, or the ongoing quest for ityoure unlikely to jump at all during a multiplayer match, but the quick-respawn pace of the frenzied encounters between man and necromorph make for a chaotic climate thats just as entertaining.
Compared to a lot of other multiplayer games, Dead Space 2s single class-based team play mode might feel a little lacking, but theres a depth here that seems to take its cues from other popular multiplayer games, incorporating levels, perks, and customizable weapon loadouts, to name a few. The beta offers just a taste of this, placing you in the combat suit of a member of the Sprawls security detail on the human side while letting you choose between three of the four necromorph classes when on the opposing team. The four-on-four matches alternate between which side you play as, although its unclear whether or not youll have the option to choose games with fixed sides when the game ships. As a human, you can customize your two-weapon loadout, if only minimallythe beta only allows access to the line cutter, pulse rifle, and the new javelin gun. Similarly, unlocking additional perks and other items here seems to be locked for the moment, but gives you an idea of how things should work in the final game.
Of course, what everyone wants to know is how the necromorphs play, and, for the most part, it seems that Visceral has done a good job adopting everyones favorite horrific alien plague into some solid deathmatch classes. That being said, the feel is unsurprisingly and vastly different when playing undead-like alien over human. The security detail essentially play like Isaac clones (which is fine, frankly), complete with access to stasis and telekinesis, not to mention the protection of high-tech combat armor and the ability to pick up dropped ammo and supplies from corpses. The fleshy necromorphs have none of these perks. In fact, the first time playing as a necromorph you may balk at how unbalanced the game seemsthese monsters break apart so quickly its like theyre made from paper-maché stuffed with beef and viscera. With little in the way of natural defenses, strategy is vital to survival as part of the necromorph hordes, though a good team will be able to trump enemies using the range of available classes. The Pack, the creepy demon-children seen in the Dead Space 2 demo shown at E3 and PAX, are a short-range melee class who can move quickly with talon-like claws; the small, baby-like Lurkers can attack or spew projectiles from their prehensile retractable tentacles, and can crawl on walls and ceilings; while the Spitter has a long-range acid attack and can charge humans, attacking with their dual spear-like arms. Necromorphs also get a special attack which let them theoretically overtake a hapless human; The Pack and Lurker classes can lunge onto someones back or chest, savagely tearing or beating them until their vitals are depleted (just mash the special ability button), while Spitters can grab an enemy while charging, trapping and skewering them with their arms. Of course, the vulnerability of the necromorphs still make any enemy encounter risky, but their abilities can be harnessed effectively with some finesse, and if you can get your teammates to travel in groups you can make short work of a group of humans. Unlike the security detail, necromorphs can also spawn wherever there is an open vent or shaft, which adds a little strategy into the mix while getting you back into the action quickly.
Interestingly, the game keeps a running of both dismemberments and kills. The beta doesnt provide any information on what the difference isdismemberment still results in dead necromorphsbut you can only get experience with kills, which are far more difficult to pull off. There are some other kinks that need ironing out, as well (aside from how ridiculously easy it is to get slaughtered as a necromorph). When on either side of a special grabbing necromorph attack, it seems to be a crapshoot on whether or not the attack will be successful, since hitting the x button repeatedly to either attack or wrestle free seems to have little noticeable effect. More often than not, I would spring on to an unsuspecting persons back as a Pack class, only to see my little guy get torn into shreds after several seconds of attacking inexplicably yielded no real results. Though the single map in the beta had an interesting idea (humans have to assemble a bomb to stop a necromorph outbreak in some mines on the Sprawl), Visceral may also want to consider adding a mode or two, or at least maybe a few new maps (theres reportedly only five at the moment), following the games release.
At this point, Dead Space 2s multiplayer holds a lot of promise, thoughIm especially looking forward to seeing how the heavy class Puker playsand if the dev team can fix the balancing and add a little more variety into the proceedings, it could wind up a very solid companion to the sequels fear-driven single-player experience. In any case, all will be revealed when Dead Space 2 hits early 2011.
CCC Freelance Writer