Dead Space Extraction is the Wii exclusive prequel to Dead Space, EA’s critically acclaimed survival horror title of 2008. There is reportedly a sequel in the works, but in the meantime fans can immerse themselves in another scary/gory fight for survival, and follow the sequence of events leading up to that mission on the ill-fated USG Ishimura; an immense – and apparently abandoned – mining ship (but we know better, don’t we!).
The Ishimura and other familiar features make an appearance in Dead Space Extraction, which should make fans of the first game feel right at home.
There are some notable changes, too: rather than stay with the third person perspective, developer Visceral has gone with the first person ‘point and shoot’ format, which can take a little getting used to. It’s like being the passenger in a car, when you are used to driving… except the passenger gets to annihilate hordes of hideous creatures with a rivet gun and other useful mining instruments.
This time around your role is mainly that of protector, the object being to keep a small group of colonists alive as they flee a horrific alien infection spreading throughout the Aegis VII mining colony. The infection reanimates human corpses, mutating them into Necromorphs - nightmarish abominations with extremely violent tendencies.
The Wii remote controls your aiming reticule and weapons – most of which have a secondary firing mode which is activated by turning the Wii-mote on its side. This works very well, and Even the nunchuck gets a good workout; it is mainly used for bitch slapping any necromorphs that invade your personal space, which will buy enough time to reload and take ‘em out with your weapon of choice.
As with its predecessor, simply pumping rounds into oncoming Necromorphs isn’t necessarily the quickest way to defeat them. Instead, ‘strategic dismemberment’ is usually more effective. This involves methodically targeting and blowing away limbs and other body parts, which can be tricky because most of those suckers move extremely fast – and they know how to dodge. Fortunately, time-stopping stasis projectiles can be employed to temporarily halt attackers, buying you precious seconds to take them down for good.
The Kinesis ability allows you to grab items from afar without having to lift a finger. This is handy when scrounging for weapons, ammo and health packs, or for hurling objects at enemies. There is also a puzzle element which takes the form of point-to-point soldering on circuit boards to repair deactivated consoles – sometimes whilst under attack.
The action can be frenetic at times, with hostiles closing in on all directions and body parts flying everywhere. By contrast the action grinds to a halt when you sit through a cut scene as story unfolds further. These interludes provide a welcome change of pace from the onslaught which lies ahead. There are different environments for each of the game’s levels, which helps keep the interest levels up.
With its predetermined camera angles and preset paths, Dead Space: Extraction is firmly in the 'rail shooter' camp; however this doesn’t detract from gameplay. The camera moves much as you’d expect if you were controlling it yourself, and you quickly become accustomed to it. The game occasionally offers a limited degree of freedom by allowing the player to briefly control the camera, along with the option to choose between branching paths at certain points in the game. Each path has its pros and cons, so discovering what would have happened had you taken path ‘A’ instead of ‘B’ may appeal to completionists, but probably not the majority of gamers.
At around 6-8 hours from start to finish the game isn’t incredibly long, however you could always ramp up the difficulty level if you fancy more of a challenge. The ‘jump-in, jump-out’ cooperative play option is reason enough to play the game again, once you’ve completed it solo. Having a friend tag along for the ride decreases the fear factor without sacrificing any of the playability. Challenge mode (which involves fighting off waves of Necromorphs for points) will tack on an hour or two of playing time. Bonus material in the form of ‘animated’ comics is also well worth a gander; however this is likely to appeal more to Dead Space fans than your average gamer. A well crafted soundtrack supports the visuals, and manages to maintain the tension and underlying feeling of dread without being overpowering. Voice acting is of a very good standard, and lines are delivered convincingly with just the right amount of fear, bewilderment and hysteria thrown in to make the characters believable. Audio logs are broadcast via the Wii remote’s speaker, which gives the impression you are listening to a small, personal recording device. Nice touch.
While it’s definitely not as terrifying as its predecessor, Dead Space: Extraction is plenty scary. Graphics are of a particularly high standard for a Wii title, with some impressive backgrounds and weapons effects, and truly creepy Necromorph models. Thanks to the effective ‘mood’ lighting and gruesome décor the feeling of dread is palpable and ever present – especially for those who have played Dead Space. You know it’s only a matter of time before everything turns to custard, and daren’t risk tearing your eyes from the screen, for fear something nasty will leap out of the shadows and catch you unawares. In our book that’s the mark of a good game.
What we have here is much more than your average rail shooter. With its immersive gameplay, cleverly paced storyline and spine-chillling atmosphere, Dead Space Extraction is like taking a roller coaster ride through a sci-fi slasher flick. Definitely not for the faint hearted… or the kids.