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Up Close And Personal With Dead Space Extraction

Impressions of EA's guided sci-fi follow-up to Dead Space. Note: Not a first-person shooter.

The art design is right on point.
The art design is right on point.
It was only halfway into a hands-off demo of Dead Space Extraction--when a fellow press member quietly directed my attention to our demo player's unmoving thumb--that I realized this Wii follow-up to last year's excellent sci-fi horror game is not a first-person shooter. In Extraction, you can't control your movement, nor even the camera angle (outside of infrequent, predefined scenarios); the game is simply about pointing and shooting at the enemies coming at you, then being whisked away on rails to your next enemy encounter, puzzle, or friendly character interaction. It's far more akin to games like House of the Dead: Overkill and Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles than Metroid Prime 3 or The Conduit.

On the upside, I have to wonder if these tight constraints on perspective and movement are crucial to maintaining Extraction's visual fidelity and frame rate. I wonder because, no hyperbole intended, this is a damn fine-looking Wii game. The art style and even holographic pop-up display are perfectly in line with that of the first Dead Space, as you'd expect--but the technical execution, the complexity of the level geometry and the smoothness of the action are what really impressed me. 

Extraction takes place at the outset of the alien mutation that later sweeps the crew of the starship Ishimura, so you'll be interacting with more normal, pre-infected human characters than in the first game. The quick demo I saw had the player fighting basic mutants in some area of the starship with three other survivors. Though you and your companions are generally running from points A to B to C, ad infinitum, there will be occasional branching paths that will let you choose one of two ways to get through a given area.

The glow worm offers light in dark places.
The glow worm offers light in dark places.
"Strategic dismemberment" is still the operative marketing point here; shooting limbs off is the quickest way to kill enemies. The player was armed with the basic, pistol-like plasma cutter from the first game, and I'd assume most of the weapons from the original will make an appearance. You can twist the Wii remote 90 degrees--yes, holding it gangster-style--to use a weapon's alt-fire. 

There are a few mechanics unique to the Wii here. One is the "glow worm," a greenish flashlight that you charge and activate by shaking the remote. EA described this as a risk/reward ability; you'll obviously lose the ability to shoot while you do this, but in some almost pitch-black areas, it will help you aim at enemies coming at you out of the dark. There will be some motion-based puzzles in between action scenes, too. For instance, to unlock a door, you'll have to trace a zig-zagging circuit pathway on a computer display with the targeting reticle, without touching barriers around the sides.

I'm not necessarily knocking Extraction for its on-rails gameplay. Other games in this style have obviously done well enough on the Wii. I just want EA to be forthcoming about what kind of game this is, because it looks like the deepest game I've seen so far in a genre that isn't necessarily known for its depth.

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No new video of Extraction out of EA this time, but here's the original announcement trailer they put out a few weeks ago.


Brad Shoemaker on Google+