The human race inhabiting the Dead Space universe must have gone through extraordinarily hard times leading up to the 26th Century. Series protagonist Isaac Clarke essentially went insane from the death of his girlfriend, and Lexine, the poor girl from Extraction, was not only forced to endure her boyfriend's demise on the run during the outbreak on Aegis 7, but subsequently had to witness the transformation of her new would-be beau after escaping from the Ishimura.
In fact, just about anyone lucky enough to survive an encounter with the Necromorphs simply seem worn, and, more often than not, hardened from battle. I can only assume it's because of some cataclysmic, unspoken horror that has given humanity an incredible resilience against a situation that would probably leave most people too shell-shocked to even speak.
In Severed, Dead Space 2's first single-player DLC, Lexine once again appears to prove this point. Now married to Extraction's Gabe Weller, she appears far too calm amidst the chaos occurring on the Sprawl. At one point Gabe even tells his wife to hide from what he thought was a rescue team, because they are coming to kill her. "Okay," Lexine says, her voice little more than a worry. "I'm in the psych ward now. It looks deserted."
After playing through Dead Space 2's single-player campaign – an experience that scared me more than any game in years - Severed left me feeling like Lexine. Maybe I've just been steeled to Visceral's trickery, but this quick trip through sections of the Sprawl feels less like a true horror experience and more like a haunted house.
This is obviously intentional. Leading man Gabe is a soldier, and is therefore given beefier starting weaponry than a lowly engineer like Isaac, which makes most Necromorph conflicts akin to tearing through papier-mâché. Visceral wants you to play Severed like an action game, and for the most part that's what it is.
In this truncated form, Visceral Games doesn't have the luxury of drawing out the suspense, giving the game's combat a more punctuated, staccato feel. And given its theme park design, it's noticeable just how much they crammed into two chapters - nearly every monster in the series makes some abbreviated appearance.
This isn't a bad thing, as long as you're not expecting anything more than Dead Space 2 in extreme short-form. Aside from a few minor detours and changes, the levels are reused from the main game, and since something is always lurking right around the corner you probably won't jump much. Interestingly, the few sentences of narrative have the hook of mystery, and the ending is a nice touch.
I definitely enjoyed Severed. In fact, I'm thrilled that Visceral is actually creating single-player DLC, since so few companies ever bother to do so. Is it worth playing? Sure. But can Visceral do better? Absolutely.
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