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Dead Space 2 multiplayer hands-on

The original Dead Space was a harrowing solitary experience, as the silent Isaac Clarke searched a derelict spaceship for his fiancé while fighting off hideous creatures. In early 2011 the sequel will be out, with improvements players had been asking for, but the rumored multiplayer wasn’t on the minds of some. Many, including me, thought that any possible multiplayer would ruin the haunting, lonely feel of the Dead Space universe, so when I was invited to the unveiling of the online multiplayer I was a little skeptical. Three hours later and I’d be singing a different tune.


Above: The multiplayer trailer

First off, here’s what Dead Space 2’s multiplayer isn’t: it isn’t deathmatch, capture the flag, king of the hill, none of those standard modes I was expecting/partially dreading. Instead, the mode is built entirely around four vs four player, one side a collection of humans, the other the horrid Necromorphs. But this isn’t the normal team deathmatch, as each battle takes place in one of five objective-based maps, where the humans need to focus more on completing a task than slaughtering enemies, while the Necromorphs are out to stop them.

The human side is easier to grasp at first, as each man basically plays like Isaac. The human team each started with a standard loadout of a plasma cutter and the assault rifle. All four of us started in the same area and were tasked with collecting four items throughout the level to build a bomb. It seemed easy enough, and there were helpful markers on the screen to guide us to where each new objective was, but once the team went for it and the Necros hit us, it was a different story.

As my team got surrounded, those of us that recalled the “cut off their limbs” note from the first game did well, while others foolishly aimed for the head. It did help that as we battled with them that each of us started with one stasis attack to freeze a monster in his place, and one healing item that, if used in close proximity to a teammate, heals the both of you. Still, fighting off our enemies was a harrowing/fun experience, so much so that some forgot our actual purpose on this map and thought they just had to kill monsters, which is exactly what the enemy wanted. As the clock ticked down to zero, which would mean our defeat, a team member finally got a piece of the bomb to where it needed to be, refilling the counter and taking us to the next item. Sadly, in that first playthrough, we wouldn’t make it much farther.

The next round came and the roles were reversed, as the four of us became the Necromorphs and we got to see just how different that world was. First off, unlike the humans, we got to choose between one of four different types of Necros: the Spitter, the Pack, and the Lurker (by the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if a fourth type is in the retail game, as three types for four players doesn’t add up). The goal of each Necromorph was much easier: simply kill all the humans and prevent them from completing their task, a much more straightforward task.

Each of the Necromorphs had a unique way of playing. The Spitters were the strongest, with their giant blade arms, and the strongest charging blast, but they were also the easiest to see, making them the biggest targets. The Pack were the creepy, new, child-sized Necros, whose sharp claws can hack up a man, and their short stature makes them harder to spot, but they aren’t too tough. And the Lurker is the smallest and technically weakest of the three, but is great at hiding and with its ability to climb up the walls and ceilings, it's the hardest to find and was the toughest to battle when it was controlled by a skilled player.

As I began seeing how the other side kills, I started to notice all the differences between both sides. First of all, the Necros play through the level with a red sheen over the screen, mostly to imply the bloodlust their transformation caused. The humans, on the other hand, have a drier, sci-fi blue tone to the screen. And while the humans are tougher and have more fire power, their tasks are much harder, and the Necros can easily overwhelm if you aren’t careful. Plus the Necros can respawn at several different places on the map, and there’s some real strategy in choosing where you’re reborn, while humans only reappear in one area, which is usually a bit of a walk from where your teammates are dying. Differences like that really heighten the fear for the human team, which is exactly what the developer hoped for.

Later in the night we saw a second of the five maps, with a very different objective put before us. Instead of fetching items together, the human team needed to (ideally) pair off and open the doors to a dying spacecraft in hopes of at least one of them getting to an escape hatch. Obviously, the Necros were still just out to kill the guys. The fact that the two maps we saw played so very differently gives me lots of hope for a real varied experience in multiplayer, even if from the outside it may sound limiting as “only” five different, four-on-four  maps.

Talking with the game’s producers, they spoke of wanting Dead Space 2’s multiplayer to keep the feel of the single player and not look tacked on. And while they didn’t go into detail about it, they did mention that each map tells a story that is somehow connected to Isaac’s new adventure. Plus I only saw the slightest hint of the online leveling system and customization, which I would love to see more details on. After my time with it, I found myself pleasantly surprised, and very ready to play more. Even if Dead Space fans see the campaign as the main event, when the game hits stores in late January next year, those players might also find themselves just as happy and scared when they dive in online.

Sep 13, 2010

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17 comments

  • Gex4212 - September 15, 2010 9:27 p.m.

    @Daedazrael you are right Natural Selection does come to mind I remember playing that game to death..... well I do think L4D was fun....it could of been a whole lot better. no story or substance and extremely short. I wish Capcom thinks about reviving RE:OUTBREAK.
  • CoktorBloktopus - September 14, 2010 4:13 a.m.

    oh yeah!!! this makes me want this game even more now
  • NullG7 - September 13, 2010 11:04 p.m.

    An intresting aproach if nothing else, needs more investigation though...
  • SumthingStupid - September 13, 2010 10:33 p.m.

    reminds me of alien swarm, and im not sad about multiplayer anymore
  • Jacko415 - September 13, 2010 9:32 p.m.

    i knew the L4D way or the Horde mode way were the only possible multiplayer modes for deadspace...
  • BlankBrush - September 13, 2010 8:02 p.m.

    well, well, im impressed. Not enough to buy, but still impressed.
  • bongzilla - September 13, 2010 6:43 p.m.

    I'm still pretty Meh, on the multiplayer... You better be on the podcast these week HANK..
  • BoltActionRevolver - September 13, 2010 5:55 p.m.

    Looks like L4D and Alien Swarm combined but I doubt it'll keep the 3rd person camera
  • sternparez - September 13, 2010 5:48 p.m.

    yeh nice idea, I hated the thought of a 16-Isaac's deathmatch
  • Daedazrael - September 13, 2010 5:36 p.m.

    Left 4 Dead? Oh you kids these days. For us old fogeys, the classic Natural Selection comes to mind. Which is good, because Natural Selection 2 is taking forever to come out.
  • Bloodstorm - September 13, 2010 5:26 p.m.

    Very L4D sounding, but without the zombie AI. Not original by any means, but it tried and true.
  • FlikNightshade - September 13, 2010 5:24 p.m.

    It's nice to see that they went with more of a Left 4 Dead vibe than a standard shooter for this. This has peaked my interest.
  • ArkkAngel007 - September 13, 2010 4:59 p.m.

    I do believe the fourth playable necromorph is the Puker, who they probably didn't include in the the press demos due to balancing issues. But, comparing it to Left 4 Dead, the Puker will serve a similar purpose to the Boomer as a sapper. Unless you take out the Puker at a distance, the security team will be bathed not only in the projectile vomit but from the bile that is flowing from its dismembered limbs.
  • db1331 - September 13, 2010 4:57 p.m.

    BioShock 2 2: Multiplayer Boogaloo
  • dannage805 - September 13, 2010 4:52 p.m.

    sounds a bit like L4D, which is no bad thing
  • BrianDowns - September 13, 2010 4:48 p.m.

    This game looked brilliant before I knew about the multiplayer, now it looks unbelievably good, the multiplayer reminds of of left 4 dead, and that is a good thing.
  • musashi1596 - September 13, 2010 4:46 p.m.

    I did originally have reservations about this but I have to say, I'm excited.

Showing 1-17 of 17 comments

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