Dead Space 2 multiplayer preview
Visceral Games created one of the most supremely terrifying and atmospheric games in history with Dead Space 1, and, from what we’ve played of it, it looks like they are about to do the same again with Dead Space 2. However – that’s all good for singleplayer – it takes more than a great setting and mood to create an interesting multiplayer experience; it needs to be competitive and moreish. Is Visceral up to the task?
After spending an hour dismembering our friends, we feel quietly optimistic. Dead Space 2’s multiplayer is objective-based; it has four Sprawl security officers trying to complete a task, while four Necromorphs (human-controlled) try to obstruct and dismember them. There will be five objectives in the final version of the game, but today we are in a position to talk about two of them.
First up is the Solar Array. A briefcase of firing codes is situated somewhere on the map, and the security officers have to locate it, pick it up and then deliver it to the Solar Array – and within a set period of time. It’s essentially a VIP escort mission. Only one person can carry the firing codes at a time so the other three players must defend the carrier with their lives. If the carrier falls to a nasty death another player has to then take over and carry the burden of responsibility.
The second mission, set on the Titan Mines, had the security officers trying to assemble a bomb. They had to collect three bomb parts, which were scattered around the map, before delivering them to the generator, where the bomb was built. The bomb has to be defended until it detonates.
The tactics for these missions are simple: work together or get slaughtered. It’s easy to stick to this advice on the Solar Array, where there is only one objective that everyone instinctively sticks to, but on the Titan Mines it is easy to get seduced by the thought of being the hero who gets all the bomb parts alone; consequently you die alone if you think like this.
Each map is made up of mostly tight, enclosed corridors (there are no places to hide), but there are some open plan rooms with higher platforms, especially on the Titan Mines; however even these larger rooms feel closed-in. Because the layouts are so claustrophobic, what we get is constant confrontation and a lot of deaths. If you find yourself having a respite from the action it probably means you aren’t contributing.
You have stick to together if you are the security, as mentioned already, because they do feel underpowered. The plasma cutters felt ineffective when up against the mobile Necromorphs we faced. A pack could jump on you at any time, and you’ll be bashing away at X to try and free yourself, hoping that an ally is around to swat them off.
Because we’ve controlled Isaac in Dead Space 1, playing as the security feels familiar. We know the feel of the controls so we can instantly get going. It took us longer to get used to the Necromorphs.
There are four Necromorphs to choose from: the lurker, the puker, the pack and the splitter. Each has their own qualities:
Lurker is a small Necromorph who can use the three spiked tentacles, growing out of their backs, to attack, but their main strength is the ability to use long-ranged attacks. They can climb walls to get to hard to reach areas. They can easily sneak up on security officers because of their small stature.
Pack, or demon baby, uses short-ranged powerful melee attacks. They are quick and run rings around the security officers. They are quite vulnerable to attacks, but they’re probably the most fun to play with.
Spitters are bigger than the previous two. As the name implies, it does a lot of spitting. It can spit from range as well. The spitters are powerful and quick. They are a good all rounder.
Pukers, like spitters, expel substances from their mouths, but they need to be close to security officers for their caustic fluids to land. In a one on one situation between a puker and a security officer, at close range, our money would always be on the puker.
There’s a class for everyone. If you like to play for yourself, and kill as much as possible, you should choose to play as a Necromorph. If you want something fast then the pack is ideal. If you want something more subtle then you will like the lurkers. Those who like to play strategically as part of a team will prefer to play as a human.
Actually being able to climb walls alone makes a huge difference. It feels mischievous taking a lurker up onto the ceiling to spit onto an unsuspecting human below. The only downside is that the camera can get very disorientating when you are on a wall or upside down.
There is another advantage to playing as aNecromorphs: you can choose your spawn points. You can decide whether to come out of a vent away from the security or right in the heart of the action – maybe even sneaking in behind to catch them off guard. This adds an interesting tactical element.
The Necromorphs are very powerful, and you’ll certainly do more killing while playing as them. It’s satisfying but there is a worry that once players get used to playing as them they’ll be too powerful, but it’s too early to judge. In the games we played the balance was actually pretty good with different sides coming out on top in each game.
Like most modern multiplayer games, players can level up and gain new abilities (eg. longer stasis, more damaging puke), and this will affect the balance for better or worse. We’re curious to see what a match will be like with two high levelled teams. We can only picture it being a bloody mess. It already is with two low-levelled teams.
Players can also change the look of their suits, and pick the weapons they take into battle with them, when they are playing as the security force.
Dead Space 2’s multiplayer lives up to its tagline; it really does allow you to “dismember your friends.” Necromorphs rip off the security officers’ limbs and chop them in half. Some of the deaths are very brutal and we saw a lot of blood being spilled onto our screens. The game is certainly not for the squeamish, but if you’ve played Dead Space 1 you will have known that already.
Sure, the terrifying nature of the solo game doesn’t quite transcend into the multiplayer – it’s not as tense and doesn’t have the same level of surprise because you know that a human foe is coming after you – but we still jumped occasionally when a Necromorph would jump out from a vent behind us. The multiplayer may not be as chilling as the singleplayer campaign, but it’s still a lot more atmospheric, tense and brooding than any other game available.
It’s Dead Space 2’s main strength: it’s nothing like the military shooters that swarm the multiplayer scene; it has a completely different visual style and slower pacing. Our only worry is that a lack of variety will limit its longevity. We found the all-out action infectious, but for how long will that last? Nevertheless, it’s pleasing to see this, alongside Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, do something different with multiplayer. After all, some of us grew out of playing soldiers a long time ago – actually that’s a lie.