Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dead Space 2: Severed (Xbox 360) Review

I've had the craving to play through Dead Space 2 again, and I've only resisted simply because I lack the time to properly enjoy the 15 to 20 hour experience. I also never bothered to pick up the game's single player add-on, entitled Dead Space 2: Severed, because I heard it was a) short and b) rather actioned up much like the disappointing ending Chapters of the core game.

During Xbox LIVE's Boxing Week Sale, Dead Space 2: Severed was discounted by 50%, and I decided to bite. So how does it stack up compared to what I'd already heard? Well, a) it is very short, with only two Chapters that clocked me in at under three hours on Normal Difficulty and b) it is _not_ like the ending Chapters of Dead Space 2 and once again focuses on solid survivor horror gameplay, much to my pleasant surprise.

Dead Space 2: Severed continues the story of Gabe Weller and his wife, Lexine, both of whom survived the events of Dead Space: Extraction three years ago. Now residing on Titan Station, Weller works as a security officer patrolling the Titan Mines when the Necromorph outbreak is unleashed. As most of his fellow security personal are whipped out, Weller realizes the situation is hopeless and contacts Lexine to plan their escape.

Paralleling the events of Issac's journey during Dead Space 2, Weller travels through many of the mine areas that Issac will explore and then much of the hospital section that Issac has already gone through. Much of the environmental interaction that Weller does in the mines are things that Isaac has to undo when he makes it there later on, and Weller will travel through post-battle chaos in the hospital that Isaac caused, complicating his own journey.

Being a simple add-on, Dead Space 2: Severed is less robust than the core game. There are no new suits to purchase, so you can not increase your inventory space, and there are no locked doors requiring Power Nodes to open, so spend them at a Work Bench as soon as you get them. You begin the DLC with 50,000 Credits to immediately let you purchase items or upgrades, and if you have a save game from Dead Space you can still buy, at no charge, the Refurbished Plasma Cutter (handy against the Pack). You also start with an upgraded Plasma Rifle and the Patrol Seeker Rifle (grants +5% to firing speed and -%5 to reload time over the default model), as well as a Stasis Unit and Telekinesis. Every other weapon and Inventory item is available for immediate purchase in the Store, however.

The only new enemy in the add-on would be the return of the Twitchers whom I so loathed in Dead Space, though instead of being reanimated soldiers they are instead reanimated security team members and there's two special Twitcher's towards the add-on's end. The Twitchers are tougher than before as they now zig-zag while approaching you, dodging your shots and making them far harder to hit. Using Stasis is near essential to slow them down and take out their legs. Despite the lack of real new enemies and weapons, the add-on is fun featuring several nicely done scenario pieces and scripted sequences which add to the plot and variety, and I won't ruin them for you here.

Oddly enough, one of the hallmark gameplay mechanics from the franchise is completely absent: there's no Zero-G sequences what-so-ever. This susprised me greatly, as I expected Zero-G to be in the DLC in some short and limited form. There is a very brief sequence where there's no oxygen, but at no point will you need to upgrade the Oxygen in your suit to get past it. Overall, Dead Space 2: Severed's gameplay is very basic gun-play.

The story telling is far less dramatic and much more simple than what was offered in the core game, but it certainly gets the job done, and the voice acting is good, though it's a shame that Weller makes much of the same basic grunts and noises that Isaac does since the developers really just used Issac's model over again; save for the face. There's also no new music that I noticed, but the overall sound scape is as creepy as any Dead Space experience and will make you jump at things that aren't really there.

The add-on features 8 additional Achievements to earn, some Secret/story based, on Difficulty based, and the rest situational specific. For the most part, it's an easy 250 Gamerscore that you can earn in one or two playthroughs, a short affair given the DLC's length. Note however that you can _not_ take advantage of the New Game + option with this add-on, and any subsequent playthrough's you do you'll be starting from scratch.

Dead Space 2: Severed is a simple little fix to any Dead Space craving and is a decent Single Player add-on based on today's lowered content standards; straight, basic, and to the point. While I did enjoy it and was surprised by a few of the scripted events, due to its short length and lack of any real innovation and complete lack of some key components from the franchise (Zero-G), I can't recommend it at the full overpriced cost of 560 Microsoft Points ($8.12), but at the discount of 280 Microsoft Points ($4.06) it was alright.

If you have the time to properly play through Dead Space 2 again though, you'd get a far richer experience out of that at no additional charge, and you wouldn't miss much of anything if you passed on Dead Space 2: Severed completely. Basically, buy it only if it's on sale and if you want something new that's Dead Space related.

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