Until we attended an EA event in London recently, we had no idea what the hell Dead Space 2’s multiplayer was about. Safe to say, after playing half a dozen games on PS3, mostly involving us melting men’s faces off with alien infants, we’ve now got a fair impression. Below, you’ll discover why the game’s take on team deathmatch is not only horribly unnerving, but also a brutal blast to play online.
So how does it play, then?
Pitting four Necromorphs (the game’s evil extraterrestrial beasties) against four humans, the tense objective-based team deathmatches remind us loads of Valve’s online zombie shooter. Just with less enemies, more compact maps and, y'know, a lot more face eating. The human Secuirty Force has to activate a series of computer consoles, then carry a data pack back to their base and upload it. Meanwhile, the undead aliens have to stop said engineers… mainly by sticking their razor-like claws and teeth in some human spleens.
Above: Why can't everyone just get along?!
Online matches are bloody terrifying
Sweet, merciful Jebus. It’s all about the sound. The near constant agonising wails and high pitched alien screams is enough to give you equal parts heebies and jeebies. Seriously, you won’t go thirty seconds in a match without being serenaded by a horrified cry of pain. It creates both a genuinely horrorific atmosphere and makes the already tight maps feel even more claustrophobic. Combine the sound design with the series’ trademark explicit deaths and Dead Space 2 has a deeply unsettling ambience which is pretty unique in online games.
Above: Awwwww, it's just a murderous alien... KILL IT! KILL IT!
The different Necromorphs are brilliantly brutal
Like L4D, you can choose between four different types of murdering monster, while you’re also backed up by garden variety Necromorph controlled by the A.I. Each alien a-hole comes equipped with a special power designed to tear, singe and melt human skin off. First up, we’ve got the Pack or, in scientific terms, what we like to call the demon baby of doom. A quick little bugger, it can claw a space miner’s head to pieces if you jump with X then start clawing like a pissed off cat with R1.
If you hammer X more quickly than your enemy from here, then say "bye bye face".
But if you’re too slow, well, lets just say the outcome will have ET wincing…
The Pack is the most fun and gloriously gory to play out of the special Necromorphs, but the others have their uses too. The Lurker is a skittery so-and-so that can climb up walls, then fire projectiles at unsuspecting humans (you can camp like a mother if you plant yourself on a high ceiling). Bringing up the homicidal rear are the Puker (which handles a bit like L4D’s Boomer with its projectile vomiting) and Spitter (a stabby mid range fighter). Nail a gruesome execution with any of these bad boys and they’ll have to surgically remove the grin from you.
It’s surprisingly tactical
Well, at least if you're playing as the people. If you want to reach the various terminals around maps, you'll have to work together and form tight teams to keep the Necromorphs at bay. Working as a unit becomes even more important when one of you picks up the data pack, because once you have it, you can't run. This means you're extremely vulnerable to attacks, so you better have your buddies watching your back. And when we say 'watching', we really mean shooting the space stuffing out of anything in a fifty foot radius.
But sadly, the different classes still need tweaking
In a slightly unkind word, matches currently feel like a bit of a clusterf*ck. At their most hectic, games devolve into sprees of mindless, slightly fiddly killing. If you’re just looking for loads of the red stuff, you’ll no doubt be pleased. Still, it’s hard not to get irritated when you keep getting downed again and again with the Necromorphs, as you struggle to stop the pesky humans completing their objectives.
Above: He might be outnumbered, but our money's on the space dude
The main problem is the balancing between the two teams. Thanks to their high powered weaponry and stasis packs (which let you trap enemies in a time bubble for some slo-mo slaughtering) the Secuirty Force feel much, much more powerful than their alien foes. It’s pretty easy to cut through the otherworldly hordes if you stick together with at least one other player. Sadly, this can’t be said for the aliens. And it can feel almost impossible at times to do any significant damage with the weedy Puker and Spitter.
These problems aside, Dead Space 2's multiplayer definitely rocks its own unique atmosphere and offers something that feels enjoyably offbeat. Of course, it also helps it's getting bundled with what could well be an amazing single-player experience (that's if the quality of the first game is maintained). EA's survival horror sequel hits shops in January 2011.
Nov 5, 2010