The GameXplain crew just emerged from the bowels of EA’s multi-player exclusive Dead Space 2 event and we’ve disemboweled our experience to bring you these impressions.
Andre Segers, Co-Founder
We knew little of Dead Space 2’s multiplayer before the event, but after playing for a few hours, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve seen. I was worried the game’s multiplayer might be a straight-up deathmatch (four Isaacs shooting each other would be ridiculous), but rather enjoyed the Left4Dead-inspired version we were left with.
Splitting up the players into Survivors and Necromorphs makes sense contextually and also helps set the game apart from most other shooters. And it also allows the game to retain some of the tension and scares of the single-player experience, but I still feel like they could have done a bit more to further enhance the sense of immersion.
In the mode we played, the human survivors had to complete a series of objectives within a relatively small play area while the Necromorphs attempted to take them down before that happened.
I really liked the spawn-mechanic for the Necromorphs--basically, you control a free-roaming camera that allows you to choose almost any vent to spawn from, including ones right in the heat of the action. Once you choose a location, you spawn from that vent, much like how Necromorphs pop out during the single-player campaign. But I wish they had taken the vent concept even further. Unlike the campaign, you can’t re-enter vents which I think would not only have made the Necromorphs less weak, but more importantly, less predictable, and thus scarier.
I also wish the levels were structured differently. Instead of exploring one small, self-contained area, I would have loved it if the map unlocked in segments after each objective, providing everyone with a new area of the ship to explore (which would be enhanced by my aforementioned vent idea--imagine if the Necromorphs could race there before the humans and pop out as they were venturing deeper.) To be fair, this very well could be the case in later maps since it sounds like the mode is dependent on the map being played, so we’ll see.
Micah Seff, Co-Founder
While I was somewhat happy with what Visceral showed us at the event, I couldn’t help but compare the multiplayer mode we played to Left 4 Dead, a comparison that does Dead Space 2 no favors. Still, I enjoyed what I played.
We only go to check out three of the four Necromorph races from which players can choose. This was too bad, as I already felt like there weren’t as clearly defined roles for these three different types of Necromorph, especially when compared to the special zombies in Left 4 Dead 2.
It also felt like there were some balancing issues present throughout the matches we played, though it was hard to tell. It was much easier to kill the Necromorphs than it was the survivors, resulting in some quick matches.
Despite seemingly weighting things in favor of the humans, the Necromorphs do have advantage in numbers, as they’re able to spawn directly in the middle of the action if they want to.
I wished that I grew attached to one of the specific Necromorph races, but despite the fact that the Lurkers could walk on walls, nothing felt all that cool or distinctive to play. Too bad, because there is a lot of potential to the idea of fighting your way through a mass of human soldiers as a savage alien creature.
Stephanie Lee, Editor
Rest assured that, despite their best efforts, my access to EA’s unlimited alcohol failed to dumb down my ability to make a professional (and fairly uninhibited) assessment of the multiplayer. So, here it is:
It was totallyyyyyy raaaaddddd. Totally the Best. Game. EVERRRRRR.
On a more serious note, Dead Space 2’s multiplayer is, without a doubt, awesome, but doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking in terms of gameplay. It barely avoids being a complete Left 4 Dead clone. For this reason, I will be mercilessly comparing the new multiplayer to Left 4 Dead’s tried and true formula throughout.
Dead Space’s multiplayer borrows the idea of pitting the two warring factions against each other—in this case, humans versus the Necromorphs—from Left 4 Dead, but with the addition of a few nice tweaks and Dead Space’s signature creepy factor.
On second thought, I take that back. It may have been the surrounding boisterous laughter and conversations, the booze’s influence, the crowded environment, or the fact that I refused to put on the headphones, but I was actually unaffected by the multiplayer. Ok, let me first explain by saying that my tolerance for scares is thinner than the full width of a butt crack. Needless to say, I tend to struggle through the pretty much any horror game’s single-player mode. This miracle of me, a 20-something-year-old pansy who still slept with a night light, running and gunning with fellow journalists filled me with the realization that Dead Space’s most crucial element was missing: its feeling of perturbing uncertainty. Although it seems to lack its usual Dead Space charm, it doesn’t detract from one’s overall enjoyment of the multiplayer.
The three playable Necromorphs (the fourth one to be revealed later) offer little innovation in their roles in taking down the human forces. Here’s where a clear-cut distinction between Left 4 Dead’s cleverly executed multiplayer and Dead Space 2’s lackluster imitation exists. If you’ve played Left 4 Dead 2, recall that there are a variety of ways to collaborate with each special zombie to almost guarantee a kill or at least a severely crippling maneuver. For example, use the Jockey to steer the survivor away from the group, take the Hunter to pin down the same target, and then have the Spitter soak the victim in its corrosive acid. That kind of well-coordinated integration of each creature’s unique skill set into snaring the quarry seems to be missing completely here.
The Puker snipes primarily from a distance, and the Lurker can hide on ceilings and lash out against (or spit acid at) unsuspecting humans. Of the three, the Pack, which we dubbed “space demon babies,” stood out with the most potential in lethality, with their pounce attack and vicious little claws. By themselves, these abilities are all fine and dandy, but when taking into account the very essence of multiplayer--team-playing--I can’t see the abilities working to complement one another as well as they should be. I will keep in mind, however, that I only got a taste of one level and that no one was really paying attention to teamwork anyhow.
Similar to Left 4 Dead, Necromorphs are able to track the humans wherever they are and can spawn at most locations. The spawn selection system worked simply enough, but I was surprised by how lax the rules of spawning were. You got to select your Necromorph of choice for each respawn, which could potentially create an imbalance within the team, like if everyone were more partial to the Lurker, for example. Unlike Left 4 Dead, there doesn’t seem to be any limitations to where a Necromorph could spawn either, and there was no significant delay between respawns. Theoretically, you can pop up in the middle of a human group and wreak havoc, over and over again. Attack, die, respawn, and repeat. In practice, this places the humans in the most precarious and difficult of situations, often turning the tables in the Necromorph’s favor.
With this in mind, I have to disagree with Micah. Humans certainly seem to be at an overwhelming disadvantage.
Whereas Necromorphs can quickly refill their numbers via the previously discussed spawning system, humans get ported back to the starting area, completely separated from his companions and vulnerable to more Necromorph-induced suffering. On the flip side, it’s much easier to kill Necromorphs than it is to kill humans (for obvious reasons). It’s not just a matter of surviving; multiplayer tests your ability to survive and complete mini-objectives using teamwork. Without communication and tightly-controlled coordination between the humans, frustrating losses seem only imminent, since Necromorphs can win purely with numbers.
In reference to Andre’s comment about wishing the levels were structured differently, I am sure the level we experienced was only just a small teaser of what’s really in store (I hope anyway). However, if this is the best Visceral Games has to show of its multiplayer I can find myself becoming bored with it after a mere few hours. I look forward to seeing how they will clean up the finished product.
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