ESRB Rating: M
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Review by: John Gustafson
Last year’s horror title for the PS3 and 360, Dead Space, changed the way players and fans viewed the genre from then on. It reinvigorated the perception of what horror games could be with an inventive combat system and a truly scary experience that players had not fought through for quite some time. Dead Space Extraction may be a genre switch, but it does for rail shooters what the original did for horror.
Extraction smartly serves as a prequel to Dead Space, telling the tale of a mining colony extracting a mysterious artifact on Aegis VII, a small group’s escape to the planet-cracking ship Ishimura, and the terrors they fight once they arrive. Make no mistake about it – this is 100 percent Dead Space in tone, theme and style.
The rail combat has a unique and evolved feel that is unlike any other light-gun shooter to hit the market. The camera makes natural moves emulating the characters’ point of view rather than quick-shot directional changes, and level progression feels smooth, as if the character is really walking or running. Essentially this translates to a first-person shooter with the game removing the option to move forward, backward or side to side. There are even select moments when the player has direct control over the camera to scan an environment. It may sound a bit odd at first, but it quickly becomes comfortable and players can adjust to the game without much thought.
With a creative introduction to the changes fans can expect, Extraction also reveals how video and audio logs play their respective roles, with the former popping up as a picture-in-picture feed and the latter playing through the Wii Remote’s speaker. The two were major storytelling tools in the first game and continue to be integral plot devices as they provide accounts of tragedy and background information.
The Wii remote serves as the targeting reticule and the “B” button is the weapon’s trigger. The remote accuracy is impressive, making distant headshots and dismemberments as easy as point-and-shoot. Each weapon the character finds happens to have a secondary fire with upgrades available for the player to pick up. They improve reload speeds and available ammo. Reloading happens on the nun-chuck and is reminiscent of the Gears of War mechanic with a “sweet spot” to click a second time for a quicker load and an extra round in the chamber. Players also shake the nun-chuck to melee an attacker and shake the remote to trigger an illuminating glow stick. Conservative use of motion controls is a blessing, and the ones utilized work appropriately in the context of the game.
Telekinesis is controlled with the “A” button and pulls in ammunition, audio logs, weapons and glow sticks, and interacts with surroundings. Stasis shots also return, freezing enemies for ten seconds and refilling over time. Players should get used to using stasis, because its use is as important as pulling the trigger.
Extraction is also visually impressive in its level designs and character models. The game translates to the Wii surprisingly well and stands out as one of the better looking games on the console. The facial animations for a Wii title are impressive, and when combined with competent voice acting the characters come to life in this horrible world. The game’s lighting is very dark, however, and in standard definition it can be a bit difficult to differentiate shadows from enemies or sections of the level. It is a major difference from last year’s game, which looked incredible in high definition and reveled in its shadowy interiors.
Yet, the biggest hit to Extraction is that as a horror game, it just isn’t scary. The sense that anything could happen at any moment is still there, but the reveals and payoffs are meager compared to Dead Space. This may be due to the player losing control of the actions on screen, but at the same time one would think that with the developer having complete control of pacing and action framing that players would have horribly soiled underwear by the end of the trip. In this regard, the game is disappointing for fans, and rightfully so as Dead Space had moments that stayed with the player through the whole game.
Even without the scare factor, Extraction manages to be a great game because of its engaging story and solid shooting elements. With a well implemented drop-in co-op that manages players well and includes them in the game’s puzzles, there is a lot to like. Rounding out the experience are independent challenge scenarios putting the player or players into difficult combat missions that push their skills to the limit. Fans of the series might long for scares and a true horror game, but Dead Space Extraction makes major changes to the rail shooter that every title from here on out should utilize. It is a top tier shooter that fans would do well to pick up just for the mythology alone.
For more info, http://deadspace.ea.com
Pads & Panels received a copy of the game courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.