Visceral Games surprised gamers with the addition of multiplayer to their survival horror game Dead Space 2, and fans have been eager to try out the new horrific co-operative modes. The closed beta for the horror sequel, which is published by EA Games, found its way online, inviting a select group of fans to experience the action for themselves. I was among that group of players and was able to get a taste of the multiplayer madness that Visceral has created.The multiplayer in Dead Space 2 splits players up into two four-player teams, the Humans and the Necromorphs, and they compete in four objective-based missions. The Humans on the sprawl security team are tasked with completing a goal, which usually involves escaping a Necromorph-infested area, while the pesky Necromorphs attempt to prevent the Humans doing so. After playing on one side for a round, players will automatically switch to the other to keep the gameplay even and varied.
The ‘Titan Mine" map was the only environment available when I jumped into the beta. It gives the Humans the challenge of trying to find components for a shock mine that are spread throughout the map. Once found, the Human team needs to combine the pieces together in order to blow up an escape door. The map has several confining hallways for cornering enemies and plenty of raised platforms for the Necromorphs to plan their attacks.
The Human team controls will feel very familiar to fans of the first game, as they work exactly the same as Dead Space protagonist Issac Clarke's controls. Three weapons were available when I played the beta. The first two are the Plasma Cutter and Pulse Rifle — both well known to fans of the original. The Plasma Cutter is a high-powered pistol and the Pulse Rifle is essentially a machine gun. The brand new and extremely powerful gun is the Javelin— it fires a harpoon at your enemies causing them to be nailed to the wall or to explode into several icky pieces. Stasis and telekinesis return in the multiplayer and become extremely useful when the Necromorphs swarm your team.
Teamwork is essential when playing as the Humans. It would be impossible to succeed as a lone wolf, and don’t even think about Rambo-ing your way through. It’s extremely easy to be swarmed and you’ll die quickly without backup. Even more strategy comes into play as the Necromorphs, since they can respawn anywhere on the map so long as there’s a vent, resulting in catching unsuspecting prey off guard. It’s also a good idea for the Necromorphs to attack simultaneously, easily wiping out a group of Humans within seconds.
While players on the Human side will play as very similar characters, there’s more variety on the Necromorph team. The multiplayer will ultimately include four types, but I only got to try out three in the beta. I started off as one of “The Pack,” the little child-like Necromorphs who are short range and deadly. Then, I tried the “Lurker,” a baby Necromorph that can climb on walls and shoot from afar. Both of the first two can lunge onto their enemies, immobilizing them while fellow Necromorphs attack. The “Spitter” was the last playable Necromorph at the time. She’s the lone female of the group and can attack by spitting fluid at her enemies. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to test out the last type, which is the "Puker," but it’s pretty easy to guess its talent (projectile vomiting). Necromorphs are also able to view the Human's life signatures through walls, allowing them to plan accordingly. Gruesome kills were promised for Dead Space and they arrive in droves while playing as the Necromorphs - mostly involving heads being sliced clean off.
Early reveals of the multiplayer showed a similarity to the Versus mode found in Left 4 Dead,and while it closely resembles this model, it stands on its own by being firmly rooted in the Dead Space universe. The team-based versus mode works well with the Dead Space characters, weapons, and environment. It’s much more confined and claustrophobic in addition to having a great sense of dread prevalent in every match.
Even though the multiplayer is intense, it is much more of an action game with monsters than an atmospheric horror game. The relationship of the single player in Dead Space to the multiplayer in Dead Space 2 could be compared to the transition from Resident Evil 4 to Resident Evil 5, since the action is front and center while the horror takes a back seat.
The original Dead Space campaign succeeded because it reveled in its simplistic horror. It relied heavily on anticipation and experiencing the game by yourself so that you could empathize with Issac Clarke. In the multiplayer, the atmosphere and tension has been turned down several notches. The environment is similar, but playing with other people and viewing the game from the Necromorphs' point of view changes the game fundamentally, giving it more of an action twist. That being said, I did have fun with the multiplayer and I look forward to playing with friends - it's just not as frightening as desired.
The only major problem I encountered was a balancing issue. Most matches resulted in the alien lifeforms swarming and repeatedly attacking the humans without any chance of survival. This is due to the Necromorphs not having a respawn delay for the smaller creatures and being able to choose their respawn anywhere on the map. It can become quite frustrating, but hopefully it will be altered for the retail game.
Even though I’m partial to the single-player experience in Dead Space, the multiplayer feels like a natural addition and a great companion piece. The single-player in the first Dead Space relied on atmospheric horror while the multiplayer is more action-oriented. If the single-player campaign in Dead Space 2 is similar to the first, then the two different game modes should result in a well-rounded game that will allow gamers to have two unique experiences. My anticipation for Dead Space 2 has increased greatly, and even though I was reluctant to try out the multiplayer, I can't wait to jump back in and play it again.
Are you excited to try out the multiplayer, Ranters? How do you feel about the addition of multiplayer to Dead Space? Would you like to see anything else added to any future iterations?
Dead Space 2 is set to jump out of the woodwork and onto the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC on January 25, 2011.