Dead Space 2 Multiplayer - Prima Games

Dead Space 2 Multiplayer

by Prima Games Staff

Dead Space 2’s single player campaign is an anxious creep through a string of dark corridors to a soundtrack of groaning steelwork and laboured breath. There are, of course, interruptions to the taut atmosphere: the burst of a gangly Necromorph through a dilapidated wall, or a screaming phantom that breaks through the fragile sanity of your mind. But the journey through Dead Space II is characterized primarily by its bars of rest, not by its bars of fury.

Dead Space 2’s multiplayer mode, by contrast, is a cacophony of uninterrupted noise, a soundtrack of un-muffled industrial screams and the relentless, hot pitter-patter of gunfire. It’s all fury, the air thick with dismemberment, the floor wet with gloop. Eight players are split into two teams. One plays the role of the Necromorphs, the other plays the role of the Humans, in one of the most frenetic tussles of survival and dominance in gaming.

By comparison to Halo or Call of Duty, play options seem limited. You cannot set options other than choosing which of the five arenas on offer you want to play in. You always play with two teams of four. After the first round, the roles of Necromorph and Human are swapped, and after the second round the game is over, with experience points doled out based on your performance in each. There are no straight Last Man Standing matches to be had, each of the six levels instead arriving with an immovable set of objectives for the Humans to complete and the Necromorphs to prevent.

It’s like a stripped-down and enclosed version of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. The mission objectives for the Humans are interesting and vary between each of the five stages.

In ‘Titan Mines’, for example, the Humans must gather different components for a bomb and deliver them to the centre of the map before the timer runs out. In this slow-motion Capture The Flag, whichever team member is carrying a bomb component cannot run, and must be protected by his team-mates while the Necromorphs scramble to take him down. Once the bomb is set, the Human team’s role becomes one of protection, warding off the Necromorph attacks on the bomb for the 30 seconds it takes to count down to detonation. Meanwhile, in ‘Escape’, the Human team must evacuate the reddish insides of the Ishimura spaceship from the first game by activating switches in sequence before belting towards the escape pods.

When playing as the Necromorphs, your job is simply to prevent the human team from achieving any of their five sequential objectives in each stage. There are four different types of Necromorph: the Pack, which has a short-ranged, powerful melee attack; the Lurker, a crab-like creature that can jump on to opponents and whip out tentacles to damage Humans at range; the Puker, which has a short range, Left4Dead-style acidic projectile; and the Spitter, which enjoys long-range charged fire.

Every time you die when playing as a Necromorph you have the chance to reincarnate as a different type, but you must wait longer if you want to respawn as the more powerful creatures, an ingenious system that forces you to decide whether it’s more important to rush back in as a weaker unit and overwhelm in numbers, or sit out till you can arrive in power.

The game borrows Modern Warfare’s influential experience system and after each match you earn points for the number of kills made and the number of objectives you personally cleared, with bonus points if you were on the winning team. As you level up your character, you unlock various extras. Some of these are merely aesthetic, such as the different colours and styles of suits for your Human character. But most offer tangible advantages in play by unlocking new weapons and upgrades for those weapons, and increasing the abilities of your Necromorphs.

In the immediate term, the system is compelling, as you want to level up your characters, increase your options and grow more powerful, and the excitement of growth distracts from the limited number of maps and game types. But as with any competitive multiplayer game that offers advantages for players that have been playing for longer than others, the cost is imbalance. If you manage to secure a higher-level player on your team, the increased abilities and power can make victory a foregone conclusion. Once you finally reach the cap of level 60 (which will take 50-60 hours) the promise of new unlocks is gone and there’s little left to sustain interest.

Video: Necromorphs can see Humans through walls, balancing out the advantage the opposing team members have by way of health packs.

But only the most dedicated players will plough this much time into the mode in order to press their noses up against its boundaries. For the majority, who want to dip in and out for an hour or two as a break from the single-player campaign, Dead Space 2’s multiplayer mode is well-constructed and satisfying. It’s a game that, when played properly, demands teamwork, as a group of Humans working together against a disorganized Necromorph side will plough through the defenses, while a scattered Human side will be overwhelmed by Necromorphs that move together.

The small environments keep the tempo of play quick and exciting, and when all eight players are thrashing about in close proximity there’s no sign of slow-down. It’s like a hellish rendering of American Football; the thrill when you break the Necromorph defenses and make it to an unattended objective marker is addictive. Far from a dull bolt-on to the single-player campaign, Dead Space 2’s multiplayer is slight but focused – Visceral Games choosing to do one thing well, rather than 10 without polish.

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