Dead Effect 2 Review

By Kevin Tavore, 2 years ago
The ship is dark and eerie. The dead roam the halls and each step could lure a swarm of zombies who are baying for blood. The dead come in all shapes and sizes: some are quick, some are resilient, and some exist only to serve as meat shields. Invariably they all rush at the worst times and I’m fighting for my life. The mission is one of survival. I’m a part of a small group of resistance fighters aboard the ship in the middle of an extrasolar journey to Tau Ceti and scientists have been experimenting with cloning and resurrection on the way there to terrifying effect. They’re hunting us all, so I move forward despite knowing doom might await.

Suddenly a group of soldiers attack as a villain taunts over the radio. My character cracks a weird joke in response that completely ruins the mood as I begin fighting. I’m peppered by shotguns at long range, powerless since my own shotgun is entirely ineffective at that range. So I switch to my high-fantasy sword instead and approach the soldiers to begin murdering them. I swing and swing and the soldiers simply fire on, unflinching, until they finally die. Eventually, the path is clear. I follow the arrow in my UI to solve a strange math puzzle and my mission is complete.

Title

Dead Effect 2 is a game that tries valiantly to be something it simply is not. It tries to be a hybrid of Dead Space and DOOM with all the AAA bells and whistles you’d never expect from an indie developer. The story I told will be familiar to anyone who plays the game -- it repeats itself over and over again. A mission will start with an interesting premise and will quickly devolve into mediocrity as more and more elements converge that simply do not fit. The game tries to have survivor horror, classic FPS gameplay, levity, depth, heroism, moral dilemmas, and RPG elements; it does have each of these, but these pieces do not fit together and the result is a game full of unreached potential.

The game’s story is a complete mess. You are a super soldier, the result of experiments by Dr. Wagner. You’re stuck on a spaceship and have only a small group of allies to call friends, mostly augmented clones like yourself. Each time you return to the home base, you can speak with these allies and learn about them but you probably won’t want to do so. The writing was never engaging enough to make you want to know more and the voice acting is so bad you’ll actively want to know less. Dialogue always begins with the same canned phrases at which you’ll be laughing by the time the game’s done. “Can upgrade. Minikin can,” says one of your allies over and over.

Even once you get to the deeper questions about your allies lives and thoughts, the voice acting makes the conversations seem out of place, as if the characters aren’t really talking to each other but instead are simply reading lines. Near the end the game tries to inject moral questions into the story, such as whether a genetically-augmented clone deserves to have the same rights as a natural human, but that question is only asked and never answered. Instead, you’ll move on to the last mission where you get a screen thanking you for playing Dead Effect 2 and then a teaser trailer for the developer’s next game, not an ending cutscene to conclude the story. The game’s conclusion whimpers into nothing of note, which is appropriately symbolic of the game as a whole.

Sword

The gameplay is standard FPS fare. You’ll select a mission and then set out to kill either zombies or soldiers. There are a few types of zombies but your strategy will never change -- you just occasionally take more damage and use your ammo. Zombies will spit at you, throw harpoons, or run at you quickly but the best option is always to keep firing away, and you will want to fire your guns since the melee weapons are nearly useless. Melee weapons can either be swung horizontally or vertically and that’s it; there’s no blocking, dodging or parrying. It’s similar to 2014’s Shadow Warrior, except Shadow Warrior used limited ammo to make using swords a necessary last resort. In Dead Effect 2, you’ll never run out of ammo so there’s no reason to ever use anything other than the guns.

The mission structure is dull and formulaic. Each mission is set somewhere on the space ship. Logically, you'd imagine a space ship wouldn't have a lot of environmental variety and it seems the developers took that to heart. You’ll begin by killing enemies -- either soldiers or zombies -- and then you’ll follow directional arrows down a linear path to your objective. On the way you’ll press cn_A quickly to open cabinets for ammo and credits or search the area for collectibles that do nothing.

Your objective will require you to either simply press cn_A or, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to do a puzzle. The puzzles are dull and incredibly easy, tasking you with doing simple matching or math. The math puzzles are exceptionally horrible. You’ll have a group of ~15 numbers and will need to subtract them from a total to get to zero. Most of them are quite easy, but some of the later ones have you subtracting numbers in the 300-400 range, which can be annoyingly difficult even for those who are good at math.

Lumberjack

You’ll be below the level cap when you complete the game, which leaves plenty of room to level up more and try more builds with your character who can equip two special abilities -- basically, it’s a magic system with talent points. Each of the three characters has some unique abilities and a host of generic ones available to all. Sadly, the unique abilities seem to be significantly worse than the two best generic ones, so the only difference between the characters is the selection of bad dialogue. When picking a character, the game did give certain weapons that the character preferred, but it never made a difference since you always begin with a pistol and any character can use any weapon.

The game does have a loot system to draw players in and get them to experience new playstyles, but it doesn’t work. Enemies can drop loot and you’ll always get something for completing a mission. You’ll also earn credits you can use to buy new weapons or upgrade the ones you have. You’ll earn a variety of melee weapons and guns as well as armor and implants to upgrade your character. All of this together should have added depth but it missed the mark.

Weapons are not well-balanced. There’s no reason to use a shotgun or melee weapon over an assault rifle. The assault rifle will do the same damage but has more bullets and is effective at a longer range. Armor will have various stats on it such as health and stamina, but only health is ever important. Implants are perhaps the most worthless of all, offering stat boosts such as 0.5% increased zoom; Dead Effect 2 doesn’t have long corridors, so increased zoom is never worthwhile. Your weapons can be upgraded as well, but it’s expensive and can be laughably ineffective. It cost 9,000 credits to upgrade a weapon’s damage from 1501 to 1508 -- that’s a .004% damage increase. The upgrade could have been free and it still wouldn’t have been worth the time.

Dead Spacer

The game’s primary issue is simply a lack of polish. The content is there, but it seems the developers ran out of funds or manpower to conduct proper quality control. Words are misspelled or not capitalized when they should be. The voice editing is oddly disconnected. Grenade explosions slow down time, presumably to hide framerate drops. Enemies don’t flinch when struck by swords or bullets. The laundry list of major and minor issues with the game is huge and ultimately ensures that the game’s big ideas do not hit with the intended effect.

For achievements, the first thing you’ll notice is the long list of 100 achievements. Each of the game’s 20 missions has four achievements tied to it, which keeps things surprisingly interesting. Most can be completed on the first attempt, though a few are mutually exclusive and require second playthroughs from level select. There are also a few generic achievements for getting kills and completing a ridiculous number of waves in the game’s horde mode and survival modes. While the game does have collectibles, you can breathe a sigh of relief as there are no achievements tied to collecting them all beyond a few mission-specific achievements. Overall, you can get through the vast majority of the achievements in under 10 hours. The remainder will see you grinding horde and survival modes for an additional 10-15 hours to earn the completion.

Summary

Dead Effect 2 is a game with big aspirations that simply doesn’t reach the heights for which it shoots. Every neat premise is compromised by shoddy balancing, uninspired combat or strange design decisions. While there is a ton of content with 20 story missions and a bunch of additional game modes, none of it is as fun as it could have been. Many indie developers find success by focusing on specific elements in their games and fine-tuning them to perfection. Unfortunately, Dead Effect 2 tries to incorporate everything one would expect from a AAA game without the proper polishing required to make it truly good. The result is a hodge podge of elements, each of which fails to reach its full potential. As it stands, there’s no reason to play this over any of the myriad of other options in the crowded FPS space.
2 / 5
Dead Effect 2
Positives
  • Plenty of content
  • Killing zombies feels good
Negatives
  • No variety in the missions
  • Gameplay grows stale quickly thanks to poor balancing which leaves certain weapons useless
  • Voice acting is distracting due to poor quality
  • Story ends in a cliff hanger with a teaser trailer for the sequel
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 6 hours viciously murdering zombies and exploring drab corridors, unlocking 66 of the game's 100 achievements. A download code for this game was provided through the ID@Xbox program for this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Kevin is a lover of all types of media, especially any type of long form story. The American equivalent of Aristotle, he'll write about anything and everything and you'll usually see him as the purveyor of news, reviews and the occasional op-ed. He's happy with any game that's not point and click or puzzling, but would always rather be outdoors in nature.