Severed is the first piece of downloadable content for Dead Space 2. It’s a single-player short story that puts you in the shoes of Gabe Weller, a survivor from Dead Space: Extraction, who must race to the hospital to protect his pregnant wife Lexine, also a survivor from Extraction. The two hour length might sound short, but Dead Space 2 is very good at putting you in a constant heightened emotional state that makes every second feel twice as long. In this case, however, that’s not a good thing.
Gabe and Lexine were interesting and likable characters in Extraction, and introducing them now as a married couple on the verge of starting a family is certainly an unexpected development in their relationship. Sadly, this most interesting aspect of the story and characters is completely ignored. These could be any two people, it doesn’t really matter. The whole relationship is just a conceit to get the man moving from Point A to Point B.
The DLC seems interested in trying to add to the mythology of the series because people keep talking about how Lexine is “special.” This even happened in Extraction, but now both games have failed to actually explain why or how she’s special. There’s also a guard who’s trying to kill her and some scientists trying to capture her, both for reasons unknown; apparently there’s some faction rivalry going on here but it’s not clear. If the plot had just revolved around finding Lexine and getting off the Sprawl, Severed would have made a fine short story, but since it insists on bringing up all this haphazard attempt at mystery it ends up leaving a bitter taste. By the time the credits were rolling, I still wasn’t sure what had happened or why. Despite appearances, Severed isn’t interested in fleshing out the Dead Space universe, it just wants to send you from Point A to Point B while fighting some monsters along the way.
Combat is usually a high point for a Dead Space game, but Severed suffers from the same flaws as the full game. You begin with half your inventory already available, 50,000 credits, and access to all the weapons from the shop. This lets the game throw you into the action fast without any build up but that build up was the best part of Dead Space 2. Very quickly you’ll encounter the black form of various necromorphs, which are stronger and take more damage than normal monsters. These are the standard enemy for Severed, you’ll rarely even see regular necromorphs. Because they have so much health, it takes multiple shots to dismember any limb; the fun of Dead Space 2 is in dismembering a monster while others come towards you, strategically slowing them all down, so if one takes too many hits to stop, then it’s quickly on top of you and the entire dismemberment mechanic becomes pointless. Stasis is very important because the dismemberment stops being a useful tactic when the enemy limbs have this much health.
Severed is a wasted opportunity. These are interesting characters in an interesting situation that goes nowhere, the forced mystery is irritating, and the combat forces you to rely too much on a tired mechanic (stasis: slow down enemies to shoot them more easily) rather than the really fun mechanic (dismemberment). Since it is Dead Space 2, the combat is still tight and the set pieces are still grand, especially the final stand in the end, but with this premise, it could have been much more.