There's no real need to explain Dead Space 2 to you in single player terms, is there? Chances are you know all about its necromorph-stomping fun from the first game, or you at least know of it. Just in case, here's a quick little summary of the single player element. Man with no voice wearing strange suit kills grotesque mutants in a third-person view. Saves the day, questions his sanity, gets a bit shocked in surprise ending. Enters second game, everything goes south once more, mutant-slicing ensues, this time with a square-jawed hero's voice in tow.
There, the entire Dead Space experience in a nutshell. But, of course, there's more. DS2 has a multiplayer component. Amputating rotting mutant limbs with lasers can now be made much more satisfying with the knowledge that the leg that goes flying into a wall is that of a friend. There's definitely something more satisfying about that than mutilating a computer opponent.
The reaction when multiplayer was announced for DS2 says a lot – a mixture of very cautious optimism mixed with a slight bewilderment. How was it going to work? How would the developers change what was so much a solitary experience into one catering for multiple users. Finally, we got to have a proper hands-on and can partially answer those questions.
Two teams of four players will go head to head across a handful of objective-based maps as either human engineer teams or squiggly, slimy necromorphs. Human players will essentially be pretty much the same, so the character variety is provided by the mutant side. Here we've got a selection four different types of monster, which are as follows – the Pack, the Lurker, the Spitter and the Puker.
The first one is like the little baby thing that can jump at the humans and their necks a bit, while the Lurker sort of, well, lurks around and needs to use stealth and tactical play to get attacks in. The Spitter does what it says on the tin, while the Puker disorientates its enemies by spraying them in bile. Bonus question – answers on a digital postcard, which game does this remind you of? Hint: it might have the word Dead in the title too. Just a thought.
There was only one map to play through and, to be honest, your correspondent had no idea what was going on, objectives-wise. Something about bombs, perhaps. Other people seemed to have a better idea of the mission, so it was a case of following them, covering their backs and spamming the grenade launcher until it ran out of ammo.
As the humans, things are looking good. Even with the horrible PS3 pad (sorry, Sony fans, but I just can't deal with it) it played well. When things got hectic and Pack players were leaping about all over the shop, it got confusing and difficult to get a handle on where enemies were, but on the whole, playing as the humans worked as an experience. The camera's set up perfectly well for them and it's natural.
The same, unfortunately, can't be said for the necromorphs at this stage. The Pack specifically is very tough to play as when you start trying to make a leap for a human's face, the camera getting stuck too easily in really uncomfortable and disorienting positions. Some work needs to be done on making this less of an issue, because it's threatening to be quite a damaging issue.
Just like that other game with the word Dead in the title, 4 v 4 objective team play looks like it'll work very well. It would have been easy to slap in a tedious, generic deathmatch game, so credit to the developers for not doing this. And if you're going to copy Left 4 Dead (oops, gave it away there!) it's no bad thing, as it's a great game to, shall we say, “draw inspiration from”.
Most people are going to go into Dead Space 2 with very little concern for how the multiplayer is, as the general consensus will always be that it's a single player game first and foremost. At least we know that once we're ready to venture into the even scarier world of online play, we'll have something that's promising to be good, solid fun. Just fix those camera angles, please.