Like Dead Space and light guns? Great.
After much forethought and soul-searching, it dawned on me that my favorite game of last year may have been Dead Space. It came out of nowhere, had a deep and truly scary atmosphere, and some of the most entertaining gameplay I had in all of 2008. What I found most surprising though was in its story, which created a universe filled not just with pants-shittingly terrifying monsters, but also rife with deep political and religious intrigue.
So I was interested to find that Visceral Games and EA were making a prequel to Dead Space...for the Wii! As a rail shooter! Well, at least they weren't making a Dead Space minigame collection, but I was nonetheless finding it difficult in garnering excitement for what amounts to an arcade light-gun game. Despite my own protestations, however, I was pleasantly surprised by Dead Space: Extraction. At the end of the day it is just a rail...no excuse me a "guided shooter experience," but it's a damned good one, and if you're into Dead Space as much I am, then it's not a bad game to play.
Dead Space Extraction doesn't place you in the gravity boots of one sole character, but rather through the eyes of multiple, with one overarching story. You're started off as a worker down on the colony of Aegis VII, in ironically the same place the original Dead Space ends. Events start off at the moment everything begins going wrong on the planet, with people mysteriously losing their mind and going into murderous rampages. Soon the entire colony has lost it, and you play as a few rag-tag survivors who manage to escape the colony together, only to find the hell they've escaped has followed them onto the USG Ishimura.
It's a by-the-numbers sort of story, with the requisite stereotypes of "Scientist Guy," "Frightened Girl," "Military Asshole," and "Stoic Hero" all being filled to a tee. There are a few plot twists and surprises, including a couple really cool moments, but you can guess what's going to happen next for most of the game. Extraction helps paint in some new details about the Dead Space universe, and sets up some new possible quirks for the inevitable Dead Space 2, but unless you're really into Dead Space the story won't be the reason to play this.
Neither will the graphics make you want to come and play Extraction. The setting looks adequate, but the models are all jaggy and dated. You could say it looks good for a Wii game, which is a really backhanded sort of compliment. There were also a few graphical tweaks which got in the way of the gameplay; though I understand the need for constant darkness in an ostensibly "horror" game, when I have to jack up the game's brightness to its max and STILL can't see the enemy attacking me in the distance, then something isn't right. The aiming reticule as well is a little too big and cumbersome, and can even get in the way of your vision and hinder accuracy.
As for the gameplay itself, well...it's a rail shooter. You point your wiimote at the screen (or your zapper if you like buying fake plastic instruments), and shoot at horrifying monstrosities until they or you cease existing. To be fair it's a very well done rail shooter; there are multiple paths for nearly every level, and plenty of hidden power-ups and story logs that can only be found by shooting and opening everything you see. They're at times difficult to find, but not frustratingly so, and you shouldn't have too hard a time finding most upgrades on your first playthrough. What's aggravating however is that nearly all the text and audio logs found within Extraction are carbon copies of old logs found in the original Dead Space; would've it have killed Visceral to have spent a few hours writing up new material? The enemies as well are, with a minor exception, all iterations from the original, as well as the numerous weapons to be found, though each gun does play and aim slightly differently due to the first-person view.
The gunplay itself in Extraction is a good mixture of tense and exciting; like the original Dead Space the shooting is all about de-limbing your opponents, which can be difficult when you're making the shots based entirely on your own sure hand. It all began making sense to me why they made this game for the Wii when I started getting into intense necromorph bloodbaths, as the process of quickly trying to steady my hand and shoot as many limbs as possible is a kind of fun not seen in other games this day, and Extraction's greatest strength.
Aside from the story mode, Dead Space Extraction does have a number of other features. There's a challenge mode, which takes away all the superfluous "story" parts and simply places you down and tells you to kill as much as possible, as fast as possible. It's good mindless fun, but without any sort of unlocking achievement and only a new high score to shoot for, there's little driving reason to want to come back and replay. There's also a bonus comic book feature you can unlock, with fully voiced and semi-animated cartoon scenes, showcasing the colony's initial descent into madness. The artwork isn't spectacular, and the voicing ranges from mediocre to laughably terrible, but it was a cool idea to include and helps flesh out the universe.
At the end of the day, Dead Space Extraction isn't a game for everybody. It's not particularly lengthy, capping off at around the six hour mark, and it's really just a rail shooter. But it's a superbly well done rail shooter. The gameplay's exciting and frantic, and they manage to retain the dark, claustrophobic atmosphere of the original. If you're a major fan of Dead Space, and want to see some some new continuations to the universe, or if you just miss the heady days of the arcade and really, really want to play a light-gun style shooter, then Visceral's got a game for you. Otherwise, Dead Space Extraction may not be worth your $50.
By Chris Norris-Jones - Systemlink Blog