doctor_kaz's Dead Space Extraction (Wii) review

A great translation of the Dead Space formula onto the Wii

Dead Space: Extraction is an excellent translation of the Dead Space formula onto the Wii. The tense, noisy, bloody combat, and survival horror adventure gameplay have survived intact. The developers (Visceral) did a great job of figuring out what makes Dead Space special and unique. At the same time, they figured out what parts of the formula would work and wouldn't work on the Wii, and they designed the experience around the strengths and weaknesses of the console. The result is one very fun (and violent) amusement park ride. This is about as good as a "guided" shooter can get.

If you are not familiar with this series, then some background is in order. An alien artifact is discovered on a distant mining colony, and before long, the entire place has gone insane and is crawling with horrible monsters. The game on the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 picks up much later in the aftermath of this game, which is a prequel. The monsters that attack you aren't the usual fare that you riddle with as many bullets as possible until they drop. "Strategic dismemberment" is how combat works. Monsters are only vulnerable in their legs and arms. To kill them, you have to shoot those off. When a pack is rushing at you, you can slow some of them down by shooting their legs off while you take care of the other ones. You can also temporarily freeze some of them with a stasis blast to buy yourself some time. You can carry four powerful, noisy weapons and you refill them by finding ammo on the ground and in lockers and boxes. You also find notes and recordings that fill in background on the story.

Unlike Dead Space on other platforms, this game takes place in first person, and unlike the other versions, you can't explore your environments or control your movements. This is an experience that is mostly on rails, but don't let that fool you into thinking that this experience is vastly inferior to the other versions. The game does a great job of implementing Wii motion controls when it makes sense, and it still carries over the look and feel of the Dead Space series. The move to first person is a good one. The game's look, especially, is very impressive. "Extraction" shows off visuals that you did not know the Wii was capable of. It is the best looking game on the Wii, and in general the presentation is terrific.

Dead Space: Extraction is more story-driven and slow paced than most games of this variety. Since there are often lots of objects to pick up in an environment, the camera usually moves somewhat slowly, allowing you to open lockers and boxes to find what you need. When combat starts, the camera locks in place and you shoot at bad guys until they stop coming. Even though you can't control the camera, the game moves a lot like you would if you were in full control. This is one of many ways this feels like a very well-designed and play tested game. The pacing is excellent. There is never a boring moment. Heavy combat is offset by enough downtime to give you a break and progress the story. Lots of alternate activities and minigames show up to add to the gameplay variety. The best of these is a hacking minigame where you use the Wii controller to guide a glowing ball along a track. The minigames in most Wii games are annoying, but here they are pretty good.

The game also sports two-player co-op. This is a little bit awkward, since there is still only one main protagonist in the game. The two players share the same health bar, but use different weapons. It requires some suspension of disbelief, but who cares? It is fun as hell and like almost everything in this game, it is very well designed and tuned. The cooperative gameplay is put to great use for the hacking minigame, where you take turns moving the glowing ball on the track. Sometimes, monsters attack you while one of these minigames is going on, so one player will be hacking while the other player fights off the monsters.

For the most part, the controls in the game are great. Switching weapons is easy and so are grabbing things in the environment and using your stasis ability. The one exception is in how the game uses Primary and Alternate fire on the weapons. Every weapon has two firing modes. The way that you switch between modes isn't by pressing a button, but by rotating the Wii-mote 90 degrees. You may have to change how you hold the Wii-mote just to shoot normally, which can be annoying. You have to twist your arm 90 degrees to change firing modes. It would have been easier to just push a button. The "1" and "2" buttons are unused for this game, so the control scheme in this game doesn't make a lot of sense.

There is one boss battle two thirds through the game that is pretty bad, and sometimes you have trouble seeing enemies that are far away from you because of the low graphics resolution. These problems are relatively minor though. Extraction's biggest problem might be that there isn't enough of it. The campaign takes maybe five or six hours to play through once. This length qualifies it firmly as rental material, but an excellent rental at that.

"Dead Space: Extraction" is a game that I recommend regardless of whether you are familiar with Dead Space. If you played the other version of the game though, you will be very impressed by how well this version captures the look and feel of the gory, tense series. Fantastic Wii graphics, cool weapons, fun minigames and great pacing all contribute to a terrific albeit short experience.

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