I'm a firm believer that strong single-player action games don't necessarily need multiplayer modes just for the sake of filling out a back-of-box feature list. That said, it's kind of ironic that the first Dead Space didn't have any sort of online mode, since it's one of those rare story-based games whose core shooting controls are so fluid and finely tuned that they actually would have done justice to some kind of multiplayer game type.
Anyway, Dead Space 2 does have multiplayer, so problem solved. It doesn't look like something that's received the intense level of design that a pure multiplayer game like, say, Left 4 Dead has, though it does share that game's humans-versus-monsters premise. (I'll give credit to Scooter over at 1UP for coining "Left 4 Dead Space" while we played the game at an EA-hosted event recently.) Four human players battle against four player-controlled necromorphs (plus some additional AI monsters), and then the teams switch sides for the second round. It's a tried-and-true formula that seems to fit the Dead Space milieu pretty well, from the little I played of it.
== TEASER ==The game will ship with five timed, objective-based maps that have the humans trying to fulfill a series of goals while the monsters try to, uh, stop them. One map we got to play had the four mining suit-outfitted humans collecting parts to arm a bomb so they could blow open an escape route, while the other was set on a spaceship and had us all fleeing desperately toward a group of escape pods.
As you'd probably expect, the human players pretty much play just like Isaac Clarke, with line guns and all the other weapons you remember from the first game. On the necromorph side, you've got a repulsive-looking assortment of monsters from the story campaign that can do things like climb up walls, jump onto and flail at human players, and charge up globs of acidic slobber for a projectile attack. The thing about the necromorphs that struck me was that they spawn out of specific ventilation ducts and gratings in each map, so when you die, you can fly around and find the spawn point that's closest to where the action is, then burst right out of the wall and pull a surprise attack. That action had a quick pace to it, and the controls felt just like Dead Space (although the frame rate looked like it was targeted at 30, rather than the single-player's 60, in the early PS3 build we were playing).
Dead Space 2's multiplayer mode will have some kind of persistent progression system a la Modern Warfare, although Visceral Games wasn't talking too specifically about how you'll accrue experience or what sort of things you'll unlock. Company reps did say at least that you'll only have one experience level to manage that will gain you new techniques and attacks for both factions, rather than forcing you to unlock goodies for humans and necromorphs separately.
Visceral proved how great a single-player action game it was capable of making with the first Dead Space, and to be perfectly honest that's still the thing I want most out of the upcoming sequel. But the idea behind the multiplayer here is a sound one, and the execution looks skilled enough that I'll be happy to at least give Dead Space 2's online mode a whirl after I've finished the story, once the game heads to retail next January.