It’s finally here. October 31st, better known as Halloween, is upon us and that means the 13 Days of Horror ends today. So before you go out and commit to all sorts of Halloween shenanigans I’d love it if you would stay for a minute to enjoy this proud finale to an incredibly fun series. This humble conclusion was birthed from my mind’s womb as a short second opinion on the Dead Space 2 multiplayer beta, but I soon realized I have a lot to say about the game so I thought to myself, why not turn it into another of my long-winded opinion pieces?
It’s not perfect, and shouldn’t be seeing as this is an early build of the game but since I enjoy taking games apart and talking about what I feel could be improved upon so much I feel Dead Space 2 deserves a little poking and prodding as well. In this series I usually don’t talk about games we already know so much about and especially ones that are only a handful of months away. Dead Space 2 is easily my most anticipated game in a long time so if any of you sexy designers at Visceral Games are perusing this article, I hope you find the following gems of opinion tasty.
First let’s get into the multiplayer, which I had the pleasure of playing a few games in earlier today. For being so far off it’s look rather pretty so I’m excited to see what the final product looks like when the game ships in January. Before you get to dismembering you have the option of creating a load-out for your character that includes your primary and secondary weapon. Three weapons were unlocked for the beta: the Pulse Rifle, which I never used in the original game but found incredibly useful here, the Plasma Cutter (a classic), and the brand new Javelin Gun. If I could make love to a weapon I would choose Half-Life’s Gravity Gun to marry, and the Javelin would be my naughty mistress. So yeah, it’s a useful weapon.
After you choose your arsenal of death you can create a playgroup, which lets you and three friends get together for a bloody fun foursome of strategic dismemberment, or you can check the detailed leaderboards to see how you stack against other players. I rarely deal with leaderboards but being able to see total scores, skill levels, win counts, win/loss ratios, kills, kill/death ratios, best streaks, and how long played might change that. Though I rarely find myself in the position I do like to put my excessive nerdiness out there and brag about my ratios and wins to people who clearly couldn’t care less.
So you’ve set up your character, got some friends together and compared your score to others; now it’s time to play a game. The only map available for the beta was the incredibly dark Titan Mines, and other than not being able to see where I was going (despite having the brightness level on maximum, maybe it was my TV?) I enjoyed this level. After playing as the humans and the Necromorphs I can definitely say I enjoyed playing as the latter far more than the former. The Lurker, Puker and Pack were unlocked and each provides a unique approach to unleashing a massive can of unholy whoopass on your unsuspecting enemies.
The Lurker, otherwise known as dart chucking tentacle baby, shoots in threes that make it easy to hit the good guys even if you have terrible aim (like me). The Pack is essentially a child who hits, not unlike real children, and because I could just walk up to the soldiers and beat them until they cried he ended up being my favorite. The Puker, which ended up being the most annoying to fight against, upchucks on its enemies, covering them in corrosive green goop that’s bound to ruin even the most stain-resistant miner ensemble. I’m sure there will be more options when the game launches but so far I’m loving the diversity.
You might be saying to yourself, why Adam, the more you describe the multiplayer the more similar it sounds to Left 4 Dead. Yes, there are similarities to Valve’s post-apocalyptic shooter but in many ways, and I’m surprised I’m about to say this; Dead Space 2’s multiplayer is actually better. Yeah, I went there. I’m not saying it is better, I’m saying with time, tweaking, and a few issues I’ll get into later that it could become better. And before any L4D fans get up in arms, give me a chance to win you over.
First, the soldier team has goals instead of simply trying to survive until the next safe room, so on top of trying to survive you’re also attempting to complete various missions along the way. It’s also important to note that you won’t have to deal with insanely boring 10-25 second respawns, which has always been one of my biggest gripes against L4D. When the Necromorphs die you choose your next form, also a fantastic bonus since you can be whatever you damn well please, choose your spawning vent, and get to work. It’s faster and more frenetic without losing any sense of strategy. As I said earlier you can also customize your character a bit with custom loadouts and while that was all I could do in the beta, I’m desperately hoping that idea is expanded upon in the final game (like some armor permutations to show a little variety in the good guys).
And while this last thing might seem a little silly to most, I would very much like to hand out a massive thanks to the fine people at Visceral for doing something I think all games should do, and that’s to not put some incredibly unrealistic limit on running. The humans can jog as long as they want and the Necromorphs are free to waddle briskly to their heart’s content. Running should not be limited to quick five second bursts of speed that leave your character a gasping wreck like they’re fifty pounds overweight and have a serious case of asthma.
But I’m not, nor have I ever been happy to praise a game when I could bestow upon it some delicious ideas that might improve it, so let’s get into some things the multiplayer needs to work on (that is the point of the beta in the first place).
First, TJ was right in that the Necromorphs don’t control as well as I’d like them to. I don’t know if I’d describe them as tank-like, I may even go the opposite route and say they’re a bit floaty. All the Necromorphs feel like they weigh nothings and while that makes sense for the Lurker who’s roughly the size of an aborted fetus, the Pack in particular is too light. If they were to spend a little less time in the air during leaps and run with a little more sense of weight I think that could add some mass to the group.
Speaking of adding weight, the melee attacks don’t feel terribly satisfying. If I pimpslap a baby Necromorph with my Plasma Cutter I expect that thing to get slammed into a nearby wall, not skip a recovery time and jump on my chest so it could proceed to tear me apart. This issue came up a lot when I found myself surrounded but unable to make room with my gun swinging move. Granted, messing with the human’s melee’s could unbalance the game a bit but you could always do what L4D did and put a recovery time on melee attacks to remove spamming.
Can the humans share items? This one I’m not sure about but if they can I wasn’t able to figure out how. If I see a friend getting raped by a group of baddies I want to be able to give him some health and/or ammo to help him survive a little longer. Too often I found my health and guns full and my teammates on the verge of dying and there was nothing I could do to help them other than shoot away the baddies that tried to finish them off.
This last thing is arguably the most important: please explain a little better what the humans are supposed to do; the Necromorphs know their goal is to fuck up the other team but I spent a large majority of my time as a badass Space Cop trying to keep up with my team who had been playing the game far longer than I. Granted, there are things highlighted on your HUD and a few other hints to help lead you in the right direction, but I feel for myself and others like me we could use a little extra help.
Before I get into the single player let me throw out a little disclaimer; all of the above is subject to change, the game isn’t finished and much will be improved (such is the point of the beta). Everything I’ve said above could be completely different when the game ships; in the final product you could be a beautiful butterfly who’s sole mission is to go around spreading rainbows and unicorn farts, which incidentally could be a fun game in itself.
Earlier this year when I was working on getting together some ideas that could improve Dead Space I came up with a few little things I feel could fix/enhance the game a bit. You may not agree with the following but that’s alright, just trot on over to the comments and let me know what a dumbass I am. Don’t hold anything back, I can take it.
The original game was inspired in part by Resident Evil 4, but there are still a few things RE4 did that I think could be implemented well in Dead Space 2. In Resident Evil you can combine herbs to make them more potent and you can also combine treasures to make them more valuable. I think both of these features would translate extremely well in Dead Space 2. For example, you could combine the various health items to make them stronger; Small + Small = Medium, Medium + Small = Large, etc.
The ability to combine treasures (called Semiconductors) would add another welcome level of strategy to the game; do you want to sell the item now for quick cash or wait until you find the other half so you can get extra money? You could even make a minigame out of it, similar to the hacking in BioShock. Isaac is definitely tech savvy so why not give him the ability to use his skills to combine different parts of the conductors in a quick minigame? Maybe if the player fails the minigame, the semiconductor’s value drops, but if they succeed the value doubles. This feature could be added to the already existing Work Benches scattered throughout the game and would help break up the gameplay a bit.
Let’s talk about blood. The animated film Dead Space: Downfall had very little that made it interesting but it did have one shining moment and that was when the Energy Saw made its gory debut. This weapon better make it to the sequel because I would love to shred some Necromorphs up close and personal. Also, I would like to see someone transformed in front of my eyes. In the first game we got a taste of what it’s like to be turned into a Necromorph in the form of audio/video files and seeing several corpses get transformed by those annoying massive stingray looking things. But that’s not nearly enough. I want to see a living, breathing person, and preferably someone I’ve become connected with over the course of the game, transform in front of me. And please, leave nothing out. I want screams, cracking bones, and squishy body parts flailing about. Yes, I am in dire need of a serious psychiatric evaluation but this is something I would very much like to experience. Seeing that would strengthen the uneasiness the player feels towards the Necromorphs once they see firsthand what it’s like to become them. Plus, if it’s done right, it could be scary as hell.
For the love of all things unholy please give us side quests! In Dead Space you have a singular goal and everything you do takes you closer to accomplishing said goal. There is very little to do other then your main mission outside of some temporarily amusing distractions like the Shooting Gallery and Zero G Basketball. I’d like to see more of these, and since the game takes place on the expansive Sprawl space station, it would make sense that there would be much more to do. These sports could be added to the multiplayer too, wouldn’t it be fun to play some Zero G Basketball online with other players? Add some leaderboards and Dead Space 2 could be infinitely more replayable.
So that’s everything I can think of to make Dead Space 2 the game I desperately want it to be. Wait. I’d also like to be able to switch shoulders, like in Uncharted, because that’s useful. Okay… yeah, now that’s everything. It’s on the right track though, there’s plenty being done I would never even think about and some of the aforementioned ideas could’ve already made their way into the game. We won’t know until January. This also concludes this year’s 13 Days of Horror, which thanks to you guys was a bigger success than I could’ve hoped for. As long as you guys and gals enjoys series like these I’ll keep dishing them out, so again, thanks, and I hope all of you have an deliciously evil Halloween!
In case you missed the rest of the series, here’s a quick recap:
Day 1, A Resident Evil Retrospective
Day 2, A Silent Hill Retrospective
Day 3, What Do You Fear?
Day 4, The Four Scariest Kids in Gaming
Day 5, A Look Through the Lense
Day 6, 6 New Games You Need to Play this Halloween
Day 7, Alone in the Tower
Day 8, The 7 Biggest Horror Games of 2011
Day 9, The Real Silent Hill
Day 10, The 10 Most Terrifying Console Mods
Day 11, The 7 Commandments of Horror
Day 12, All Hell Breaks Loose