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Dead Space 2: Severed 360 DLC brings the characters from Wii game Dead Space: Extraction back into the core series in a slight-but-entertaining two-chapter adventure.
Long time survival horror fans will find that Dead Space 2: Severed takes a very familiar approach to additional material for a game in that genre. Anyone who has played Separate Ways from Resident Evil 4 or Born From A Wish in Silent Hill 2 will be familiar with the formula: create a new story that weaves through environments from the main game via a different route, with a different player character and a few new set pieces to spice things up.
Severed does something similar, dropping new characters into Dead Space 2's the Sprawl, re-configuring existing environments by switching lights on and off and changing which doors are open or closed. In a neat inversion Severed's lead character, Gabe Weller, is heading towards the Medical Centre which Isaac Clarke escaped from at the start of the main game.
Gabe and the girlfriend he's trying to get to, Lexine Murdoch, are characters from the Wii (and latterly PS3 Move) shooter Dead Space: Extraction.
I've not played Extraction, and I'm not sure whether that lack of foreknowledge matters: Gabe and Lexine are fairly straightforward characters with a typical romantic relationship (certainly compared to Isaac's torturous dead/ghost-girlfriend issues), and need little introduction. I never quite invested in the fate of these two, but then the Dead Space series has never been a tear-jerker, regardless of all the emoting and angst.
While there's nothing wrong with Severed, it does feel tremendously straightforward and slightly perfunctory. It's efficient, but lacks the passion and scale of the main game. While its two chapters are a reasonable chunk of content, there's not much story here: Severed takes place in parallel with the events of the main game, but while Isaac is getting all messianic and fighting off numerous factions, Gabe just wants to get back to his missus and leg it.
Severed is very reliant on these latter events as big dramatic moments.
While there's some conspiracy stuff about the significance of Lexine, in terms of what Gabe, and by extension the player, needs to do Severed is a dash from one point to another. The pacing takes the stop/start/panic approach of letting tension build, then breaking it with a bit of action, then occasionally throwing in a really hectic skirmish at certain pinch points.
Severed is very reliant on these latter events as big dramatic moments, which does get a bit wearing: when it comes to waves of monsters piling through the walls, sometimes more ends up being less. The environments are not very exciting, mainly because they're familiar but partially because Gabe's journey takes him through some of the less interesting parts of the Sprawl. I think he goes to some new places along the way, but as one mine shaft or hospital corridor is pretty similar to another it's hard to tell a lot of the time.
That sounds a bit facetious, and might imply that I think Severed is bad, which is not my intention: Severed presents two perfectly efficient and enjoyable additional chapters of the Dead Space saga, providing a chance for fans to catch up with the Extraction characters. There's a good few hours of Necromorph-dismembering fun to be had here, and there are a couple of good, chunky set-pieces to enjoy.
If you're gagging for new material, then Severed is well worth a look.
However it does feel small scale compared to the scope and variety of the core Dead Space 2, and while I'm usually a big fan of DLC it is notable that all those additional missions for the Resident Evil and Silent Hill games were unlocks that became available when you completed the game, while Severed requires a separate purchase.
Put in those terms it feels slight, not in terms of hours of play or quality of execution, but in terms of what it adds to the Dead Space 2 experience. Having chewed my way through Severed, I decided to restart Dead Space 2 while the disc was still in the 360, and found myself enjoying the main game on a second playthrough as much, if not more, than I did playing the two DLC chapters for the first time.
If you're a big fan of Gabe and Lexine, or have simply squeezed all the possible juice out of the core Dead Space 2 game and are gagging for new material, then Severed is well worth a look.
However, for most of us I suspect Dead Space 2 in all its bombastic blockbuster glory is quite enough game to be getting on with, and by comparison Severed is a brief and inessential supplement.
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