Previews

Dead Space 2

Hands-on with multiplayer reveals that there really is no 'I' in "Aaaargh..."

They say in space, no one can hear you scream, but we're pretty sure everyone in the room can hear us cackle maniacally as we swoop onto a human player and neatly remove their head while playing as a Necromorph in Dead Space 2's new asymmetrical multiplayer mode. Victory is short-lived, however, as one of our victim's team-mates neatly slices us in half with a well-placed Plasma Cutter shot. Ouch - but we'll be back for you, buddy. Many still claim Dead Space 2 doesn't need a multiplayer component, but from where we're sitting it's a bonus we're happy to have.

Much like the online features in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, this nod to Left 4 Dead is a fun little extra that never detracts from the meaty single-player campaign we can't wait to sink our teeth into. It's extra - a treat for fans who want to extend their experience beyond the shock and thrills of the main story.

Online, there are no scares or suspense, it's all action - a testament to how far Dead Space's combat system can stretch beyond the core survival horror. The change of pace feels natural - a relief in some ways from the oppressive horrors of Isaac Clarke's descent into madness that characterises the single-player's narrative.

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The drat pack

Our session kicks off on Solar Array (and we later move on to Titan Mines), one of the five maps designed exclusively for multiplayer. It's a tight affair, with semi-lit corridors and plenty of places for Necromorphs to hide, so we begin by kicking things off as the series' bad-guys. Our objective in this four vs four match is simple: stop the humans from reactivating the Solar array by killing them until time runs out.

There are four inhuman beasts to pick from: the Lurker (those bastard-annoying small, three-tentacled creatures that climb on the walls and spam you with projectiles), the Pack (the small demon babies that jump onto you), the Puker (a new enemy that projectile vomits as its main attack), and the Spitter (Dead Space's main Necromorph characters with extra limbs for attacks/dismemberment). Us? We favour the Pack, a creature that seems a little over-powered right now because jumping onto an enemy back and hammering A yields an instant-kill nine times out of ten. Oh, and you can keep running around without a head, which is funny - unless you're playing as the Sprawl Security.

Dead Space's multiplayer restricts the number of specific Necromorph types you can have at any one time, so you couldn't co-ordinate with friends to have a group of four Lurkers all at once. That's for the best. Initially our sessions felt unbalanced, with the Necromorphs taking easy victories every time thanks to the overpowered Pack and Lurkers. It almost felt like a come-down to be a 'normal' human, with all the game's regular weapons. However, the key to success in Dead Space 2's multiplayer is teamwork.

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The Sprawl Security have to complete specific objectives on each map, and they achieve this by working together. Yes, in a one-on-one fight the Necro will usually lose, but they spawn quicker and attack in numbers, so solo efforts by human players inevitably end up in bloody failure. The way to be effective is to travel as a group, watching each other's backs and progressing towards each specific objective (say, hacking computer terminals - with the press of a button - or carrying objects from A to B like Capture the Flag) in a cautious, measured way. Ammo pick-ups are common, so running out of bullets is rarely an issue, and mercifully you can quick-heal using the B button.

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