Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star... How I wonder what you are.
With the first Dead Space, Visceral Games (formerly EA Redwood Shores) had finally found something they were good at. These developers of The Simpsons Game and The Godfather: The Game had luke warm reception of their first games, but nailed it with a horror themed, isolationist third person title set inside the massive USG Ishimura. While Dead Space: Extraction remains in the horror genre, it takes a decidedly different approach and sets you along what the publisher defines as a "guided experience," and I'm happy to report that they've got another hit with the Dead Space name.
This title will be easily dismissed by naysayers as "just another light gun game," and while technically correct, it is unlike anything we've seen out of this type of game. While gameplay does revolves at taking down enemies by pointing your Wiimote at the screen, there are many additions here that turn it from "just another" to "the best one around."
For starters, you get an actual inventory system, allowing you to pick up and switch between different types of guns on the fly. Your primary weapon, the Rivet Gun, has unlimited ammo but is slow to fire and reload so grabbing a plethora of other weapons is very important. You are able to carry up to four at a time, and there will be points where you'll need to determine which weapons to keep and which to throw away. Additionally, each weapon has an upgrade mechanic which is managed by picking up items throughout the world, and an alt-fire mode which is executed by turning the Wiimote to the side and firing gangsta' style.
Reloading will be done automatically if your weapon is empty, or you can chose to reload at any time by pressing Z. To increase tension, each weapon has a different reload time that you'll have to deal with, but taking a page out of Gears of War, Visceral has incorporated an active reload system which, with a properly timed Z press, will give you the ability to shoot again much faster. There's no damage boost, but trust me, being able to reload faster is all you'll want.
Oh yeah... you even get a melee attack by waving the nunchuck a bit. This will knock the bad guys back if they get to close, as well as clear debris out of the way.
Primary abilities from the first Dead Space, Stasis and Telekinesis, are also included. Telekinesis allows you to grab items from a distance and move (as well as throw) objects in the environment, while Statis gives you a leg up on baddies by freezing them in their tracks, or stopping a fast spinning fan blade so you can move through safely.
Back also is the ever-so-popular "Strategic Dismemberment." While most light gun games just have you shooting as fast as you can to proceed, Extraction wants you to aim for limbs and heads. Just aiming for the center mass will waste more ammo than taking off the arms and legs of your enemies. Effectively, this mechanic forces every enemy to have a weak spots that will not only help conserve ammo, but take down the Necromorphs faster. Be careful though, popping off heads may just make the enemies even angrier.
Instead of just throwing you into a meaningless firefight with a weak story, Extraction's main focus, and what helps set it even further apart from other games in the genre, is a well thought out and executed prequel story to the events of the first Dead Space. Told from the point of view of multiple characters (all who actually talk and are well voice acted), you get to see, and take part in, what happened leading up to Issac Clarke's rescue mission. There's plenty of good first person storytelling going on, although to get the most out of this aspect, you'll probably want to have played the original Dead Space. You'll visit many of the same locations, starting out on the Aegis VII mining facility and traveling to the USG Ishimura, seeing what initially started the whole Necromorph mess in the first place. It's totally a hard M for Mature. Foul language, blood, guts, dismemberment, and what appeared to be a quick bit of pixelated nudity. Don't let the kids near this game.
Not all is great though, there are a few things that are irritating. For one, your on screen reticule is far too opaque and bright. When aiming at enemies that are far away, you'll often need to shoot, move your reticle aside to see what happened, then re-aim and shoot again. While the game is supposed to be dark, I had a few issues spotting enemies in corridors because it was just TOO dark (even with the brightness turned all the way up). There can also be a bit of minor slowdown when you're being attacked by a ton of 'morphs.
Additional features include a drop-in/out co-op mode which gives you a second gun on the screen, score based challenge modes that are unlocked once you finish the level they are based on, four difficulty levels (two of which are unavailable from the start) and even a motion comic book story that's worth a look. There are some interesting changes with the co-op mode, particularly with any sort of "hacking" that needs to be done. You'll need to alternate who is doing the hacking, and who is doing the shooting, which turns a minor encounter into an exhilarating experience. Your mileage will certainly vary depending on what kind of gamer you are, some people may not even touch the challenges or the co-op, or bother replaying to see what happens down the alternate paths, but at about six and a half hours for one play through, it really is the perfect length and doesn't outstay its welcome.
At the end of the day, this game is certainly Dead Space. Despite not being as crisp in the graphics department, or as frightening as the first, fans of the original should definitely check it out for a different bit of gameplay in the same, awesome universe. In case this is your first venture against the Necromorphs, it is still a worthy, entertaining, and well made title that will make you say "Hey, why aren't all light gun games this awesome?"
- Great storytelling from multiple viewpoints really adds to the experience.
- Fans of the original Dead Space will certainly get some loose ends tied up and get to see what happened prior to Issac Clarke's adventure.
- Excellent atmosphere, graphics, audio, and general use of the Wii's motion capabilities.
- If you haven't played the original Dead Space, you may not get as much out of the story.
- Even with the gamma turned up or your glow worms active, it can be a bit too dark.
- That reticule really needed to be a bit more transparent...