Review: Dead Space 2: Severed (Microsoft Xbox 360)
by Mark B. on March 16, 2011

Dead Space 2: Severed
Genre: Survival Horror
Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: 03/01/11

If anyone knows how to make the best of DLC content, it’s Electronic Arts. While some folks have taken umbrage with their DLC practices in some instances, the company sure does know how to get their people behind the idea of cranking out DLC for their games, keeping older games flush with content long after release and keeping fans coming back for more. Dead Space 2 is no exception, as EA and developer Visceral Games have already pushed several armor and weapon packs out the door to gamers from the day of release, and the game shows no signs of slowing down with the DLC any time soon. Dead Space 2: Severed marks the first attempt to provide actual additional content instead of just outfits and guns, as it’s a substory that has nothing to do with Isaac Clarke and his adventures whatsoever, giving players a new and different perspective on the events taking place on The Sprawl while Isaac does his business. That said, while the perspective changes, the gameplay does not, and as such, Severed is essentially a return to the game players love as a new protagonist with new goals and motivations, giving the experience a fresh feel, to a point. However, while EA is miles ahead of Capcom and their comparable product, Resident Evil 5, when it comes to exploiting DLC, Visceral Games is miles behind when it comes to actually PRODUCING that content, as Severed comes across as underwhelming when compared to something like, say, Desperate Escape.

Note: as this is a review of expansion content, you will need to own a copy of Dead Space 2 to play it. Further, as you will need to own a copy of the main game to play this, this review will not discuss information relative to the core game, as this is handled in the original review. Changes made to the game mechanics will be discussed, however.

Dead Space 2: Severed once again takes place on The Sprawl, AKA Titan Station, but this time places you in the shoes of Gabe Weller, one of the heroes from Dead Space: Extraction. It’s been three years since he and his now wife Lexine Murdoch-nee-Weller escaped from the USG Ishimura, and they’ve mostly managed to settle in fine aboard The Sprawl, with Gabe taking a job as a security officer and Lexine taking on work in the medical ward. So you can imagine that they’d be understandably put out when they’re faced with ANOTHER Necromorph assault, which is pretty much where the game picks up, with Gabe down in the mines trying to fight what is becoming a losing battle in a big hurry. Needless to say, his squad (or what’s left of it) pull out, and Gabe now has to get to Lexine and escape the station before any one of the many obstacles conspiring against him prevents him from doing so in the most permanent way imaginable. For fans of Dead Space: Extraction, this is a fine enough callback to that game, using established characters in a new setting and giving them a bit more screen time and story development, and as such, fans will likely derive some enjoyment from the plot and its execution on that level, if nothing else.

That said, and I really hate to be mean to the plot of a seven dollar expansion pack but there’s not a lot of choice here, the plot really isn’t very good. For one thing, the plot answers exactly two questions (“What have Gabe and Lexine been doing for the past three years?” and “What are they assumed to be doing right now?”) and asks about a dozen questions it has no interest in answering. This MIGHT be fine if the implication was that these things were going somewhere, but realistically, the answers, as they are, will be presented as random snippets of information Isaac acquires in Dead Space 4 or something instead of as part of an actual plot involving these characters somewhere down the line. Further, Dead Space: Extraction, if VGChartz is to be believed (I know, but work with me), sold around three hundred and fifty million units. Assuming you’re one of the five hundred million players who 1.) owns Dead Space 2 for 360 and 2.) DIDN’T buy Dead Space: Extraction, and that’s a minimum estimate mind you, you’ll have no idea who these characters are because the expansion sure as hell doesn’t tell you. The pack literally does nothing to introduce these characters, who they are, or why they might be important to the Dead Space continuity, and while that’s fine for the PS3 players who get a copy of that game with their purchase, I wouldn’t even know who they were if I didn’t spend like two hours reading the wiki on the franchise. I’m not saying they need to spend hours regaling us with the backstory here, but a simple video explaining who the characters are and why we should care about them would have been good instead of the nothing we got. Oh, and the ending, while powerful on an execution level, is completely inane considering that there is next to no character progression in the expansion and we literally only spend an hour or so with these characters. If you know who Gabe and Lexine are, then maybe you’ll care about how Severed ends, but if you don’t, you’ll likely just shrug and move on with your day, and that’s never a good reaction to have to an ending like this.

Dead Space 2: Severed uses the exact same engine as the game it’s expanded from, and as such, is functionally identical in all the ways that matter. The visuals are functionally similar, though there are plenty of new texture maps as you progress, which look just as good as those from the core game. The audio is as good as ever, and the new voice actors do as good of a job as those from the main game. The gameplay is more action oriented this time around, removing zero gravity segments and involved puzzle solving in favor of more action based gameplay, which is perfectly fine given that the action is still top notch. The game also brings back the twitchy Necromorphs from Dead Space for a go this time around, giving Gabe an additional challenge to face down and adding more challenge to the expansion as a result. The expansion stands alone from the main game, meaning that while you’ll have access to all of the tools you’d have available in Dead Space 2, you won’t have access to any of the upgraded versions Isaac might have, meaning you start with whatever Gabe has at the moment. However, Gabe starts with an upgraded pulse rifle and a customized seeker rifle, and picks up a flamethrower early, meaning that you get some tools right off the bat to work with. Further, any DLC you’ve acquired is available to Gabe in the shop free of charge for him to use, and you’re given fifty thousand credits to spend as you see fit, meaning you can build a solid arsenal with little effort, though upgrading is going to take some time.

You can go through Dead Space 2: Severed in about two hours, at a worst case, though the expansion offers multiple difficulty levels to take on (no Hardcore mode, however), giving you reasons to come back if you desire. It also unlocks a new suit and the specialized seeker rifle for use in the main game, should you want to use these things, as the patrol suit offers pluses to pulse rifle and seeker rifle damage, and the seeker rifle has some added bonuses built in, which could be helpful for your Hardcore run. The expansion, as noted, is action-oriented above all else, so those looking to just rip through lots of Necromorphs in lieu of puzzle solving and such should have a good amount of fun with it, and the pack comes with two hundred and fifty achievement points of its own, none of which are terribly difficult to obtain. The worst of the lot, completing the pack on Zealot difficulty, is just a matter of time over anything else, and the set piece battles and more challenging combat sections almost make it worth the price even if you’re not the biggest fan of the game.

And that, unfortunately, highlights the issue with the pack: “almost”. See, here’s the thing: when I mentioned earlier that Capcom had a better idea of how to actually handle expansion content than EA did, at least in this context, the reason I say that is because Lost in Nightmares and Desperate Escape were both better expansion packs than Severed, with more content included, for less cost, and that’s a problem. Both packs cost a whopping five dollars each, offered the same amount of overall content as Severed, with single and multiplayer options available, as well as add-on content for The Mercenaries, for two dollars less. Even if you tacked on one of the two costume packs to either expansion, bringing the prices to equal value, you still got TWO costumes in the pack, as well as added multiplayer and challenge content. Sure, you can argue, “Well, the gear the game gives you is neat”, but so is the gear you get from the three armor and weapons packs available, and I’d sooner use one of those packs for a Hardcore run than what comes with Severed. I mean, does anyone even use the seeker rifle? Most strategies for a Hardcore run say to use the force gun, plasma cutter and assault rifle, not the weird sniper rifle, so, uh, what’s the point? You get no new gear for online play, when even a new suit would have been a nice addition. The expansion also reuses almost all of the assets from the main game, and while it adds some genetic soup to the locales, you’re still traipsing through locales you’ve seen before, either in the main game or in multiplayer, which is kind of lazy, to be honest. Also, there’s no option for a New Game Plus playthrough, and while, okay, it’s a two hour expansion pack, the option would have been nice, if only because it would have given the player something else to do.

The bottom line is that Dead Space 2: Severed is adequate and nothing more. It’s a nice little callback for the fans who know about Dead Space: Extraction, and it’s a fun little action romp for the couple of hours it lasts, but it’s not easy to recommend otherwise. The story is weak unless you’ve played the Wii game in some form or fashion, as the game tells you literally NOTHING about it, and even then, the ending comes out of nowhere and is satisfying as a setpiece but unsatisfying as a resolution for the characters presented. The game looks, sounds and plays as well as it ever did, and the expansion, being focused on action over anything else, is a good amount of fun, with some acceptable add-on content included and new achievements to unlock. However, the game is more expensive than comparable expansion packs and offers less content to boot, and it’s unpleasant realizing that you’re basically going through the same locales you’ve already seen with some minor touch-ups here and there. The expansion is over in two hours or less, as well, and if you take the mission on in Zealot mode, you can literally earn EVERY SINGLE ACHIEVEMENT in one two hour playthrough, which makes it feel like a hollow download to boot. Severed isn’t bad, mind you, and fans will like it fine, but anyone who isn’t seriously into Dead Space as a series is likely to feel let down by this, at the minimum, because it simply doesn’t do enough right.

Story: MEDIOCRE
Graphics: UNPARALLELED
Sound: UNPARALLELED
Control/Gameplay: GREAT
Replayability: POOR
Balance: GREAT
Originality: BAD
Addictiveness: WORTHLESS
Appeal: MEDIOCRE
Miscellaneous: MEDIOCRE

Final Score: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Dead Space 2: Severed is an adequate expansion pack that combines the great gameplay of the core game with an appearance from two characters fans will be happy to see, but for more casual fans, it’s likely to seem a bit overpriced and underwhelming. The story brings back Gabe and Lexine from Dead Space: Extraction, which is nice for fans of the characters, but if you don’t know who they are the game gives you no help and the ending is ultimately satisfying as an event, but unsatisfying as a resolution to their storyline. The expansion looks, sounds and plays as well as the core game, of course, and the expansion itself is enjoyable, as it’s a straight action packed experience from start to finish that’s satisfying enough, provides add-on content and achievements to players, and some solid challenge all around. That said, it only clocks in at around two hours at most, and is more expensive than something like Desperate Escape from Resident Evil 5, which was the same length, but featured some new locales, something Severed doesn’t really do. You can literally see and unlock everything the expansion offers in one run if you play on Zealot and are achievement minded, and it offers little to no reason to return once you’ve completed it. Dead Space 2: Severed isn’t bad, mind you, but it’s disappointing, given what could have been, and as the first piece of real expansion content for Dead Space 2, it’s not a positive indication of what’s to come.



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