Isaac Clarke wasn't the only person fighting for survival on the Sprawl during the horrific necromorph outbreak depicted in Dead Space 2. Severed, the game's first downloadable add-on, returns you to the moon of Titan and puts you in the suit of security officer Gabe Weller. Gabe should be familiar to anyone who played Dead Space: Extraction, but no experience with his previous necromorph encounters is needed to jump into this intense journey through mostly familiar locations. Severed serves up more of Dead Space's signature combat but very little else. Thankfully, that combat is thrilling enough to sustain Severed during its brief running time.
The title of this downloadable content refers not only to the nature of the series' dismemberment-focused combat, but also to the current state of Gabe Weller's marriage. Since surviving the carnage of Extraction, Gabe has made the unfortunate choice to move to the Sprawl with his new wife. He's deep in the mines when the necromorph outbreak begins, which separates Gabe from his wife who works in the Sprawl's medical center. Desperate to get back to her and keep her safe as all hell is breaking loose, he sets off in her direction. Weller's desire to be reunited with his wife makes it easy to invest in his struggle, but the brief journey pauses only rarely to develop the story. The climactic moments raise some intriguing questions but provide no answers, making Severed's story a compelling but unsatisfying setup.
The focus here is on combat--and lots of it. Gabe encounters no zero-G areas, no puzzles that require the use of kinesis, or any of the other diversions that provided Isaac Clarke with the occasional respite from fighting necromorphs. And this works in Severed's favor. The near-constant, undiluted combat makes this DLC a particularly intense slice of Dead Space action, and it's short enough to sustain this intensity without leaving you longing for a reprieve from the carnage. A few particularly dramatic moments, like a memorable elevator ride and an encounter with a gunship, punctuate the action and prevent fighting necromorphs from becoming monotonous.
As a security officer, Gabe begins the game armed with the versatile pulse rifle and the sniper-rifle-like seeker rifle. You also find a flamethrower very early on and start with 50,000 credits to spend in stores, so you can easily outfit yourself with any other weapons from the Dead Space 2 arsenal. Explosive canisters are liberally strewn about many of the environments you fight through, which is useful because Severed often throws more necromorphs at you at one time than Dead Space 2 tended to. This results in encounters that are, for the most part, a bit more challenging than those in the main game, which makes this a satisfying progression in challenge for those who completed Isaac's adventure.
In addition to the pack, the stalkers, and the other gruesome and terrifying enemies Isaac faced in Dead Space 2, the deeply unsettling twitcher necromorphs from Dead Space make a return here. These necromorphs move at blinding speeds that allow them to evade your attacks more effectively than other enemies and close in to strike you in the blink of an eye. The variety of necromorphs you encounter from one step of the journey to the next keeps you on your toes and helps keep the combat fresh.
Unfortunately, the environments are not so fresh. Although there are a handful of new areas, it's disappointing that the overwhelming majority of your time is spent in locations that are familiar from Dead Space 2 and that nothing has been done with these places to present them in a new light. Still, the visuals are consistently great, creating a tone of oppressive dread that makes the necromorphs that much more terrifying. Impressive smoke effects contribute to the industrial mood of the metal platforms and corridors of the mining operation, and flickering lights add a haunting ambiance to the Sprawl's medical center. In addition, the chilling audio design that has always been a hallmark of the series is in full effect here. The mingling shrieks and wails of the necromorphs may continue to echo in your psyche long after you've stopped playing.
Severed delivers more Dead Space combat, pure and simple, and that is no bad thing. This return to the Sprawl offers up a quick fix of action that maintains a high level of intensity and doesn't overstay its welcome. At $7, this desperate journey, which most players will complete in well under two hours, is a bit overpriced, and the story raises questions without offering any answers. But it's not to Severed's story that you should look for satisfaction; it's to the gameplay, which is sure to satiate your appetite for necromorph-fighting, limb-severing carnage, for a little while.