Review – Dead Space: Extraction
In space no-one can hear you waggle.
Yes, it has been said before how well suited the Wii is to Rail Shooters but it’s still not a genre that has fully been exploited on the console. Past games (actually the ONLY ones I could think of) range from the blaverage â€“ Link’s Crossbow Training, to the atmospheric â€“ Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, to the whorey fun â€“ House of the Dead: Overkill. Dead Space Extraction (DSE) steps forward, not trying to best 2008’s Dead Space but rather showing a different side to the events on and around the USG Ishimura.
Brief recap of the events of the first Dead Space. Big ship uncovers quasi-religious-scientific artefact (The Marker) on planet – People start acting strangely – Creatures begin to appear – They eat/infect/turn people – Shoot their limbs off to survive â€“ You turn up after the shit has hit the fan. Somewhat crass of me, indeed but the narrative of the game was actually fantastic, roaming the dimly lit ship (they mostly come from the dark â€“ mostly) where story unfolds by collecting vid and audio logs in the greatest survival horror fashion whilst bathing in all the Sci-Fi references from Alien to Event Horizon. Truly a joy to play.
DSE is set just before the events of the first game â€“ pre fan-shit hit-age. The Marker has just been discovered and it all kicks off. People start to go nuts, start hallucinating, start savagely attacking each other and a small group of misfits take it upon themselves to survive.
A huge chunk of the game is its story, or rather the interaction between the survivors, which is why this review won’t be giving away any more details. Needless to say people in such a situation talk to each other and a major part of the game involves the game taking you on your set path though the world and the panicked survivors arguing to with each other, trying to figure out what is going on and what to do next â€“ All with Scottish and English accents no less (amongst others). Ninety percent of the game has you travelling with a companion so the story progresses naturally from the dialogue. The characters are voiced very well and you do experience genuine camaraderie along with the occasional urge to shoot some of the more scaredy characters. The occasional vid, text and audio logs appear in the environment which are fine, however few and far between they may be. FYI devs; listening to any kind of audio through the Wii-motes inferior speaker is never a good idea.
Obviously if you wanted to talk and listen to people you wouldn’t be playing video games, theres action to be had too! The Necromorphs (the baddies) of course are out to get you and have to be dispatched in much the same manner as the last game. The â€œspray and prayâ€ approach to shooting will only get you so far and will deplete your ammo reserves quicker than you’d like, as such â€œstrategic dismembermentâ€ is the way forward. Shoot off a head and they slow down, flailing wildly towards you. Shoot off the legs and they travel much slower crawling towards you. Shoot off the arms and they have less to attack you with. You don’t have to turn each enemy into a stumpy torso, so a few limbs here and there is generally enough, with latter enemies requiring more to pierce their armoured hides. To aid your aim against the speedy Necromorphs is your stasis module (C on the nun-chuck), which when fired, significantly slows your foes down for a while. Three stasis shots can be stored and once used they naturally recharge.
Of course there is a pretty weak waggle based melee attack but it’s about as effective as harsh language â€“ you need guns. You can carry 4 weapons at any one time, with the option to exchange them at the start of certain levels, or when you collect a new weapon in the environment. Each weapon has an alternative fire mode (accessed by turning the Wii-mote on its side) and requires you to collect ammunition â€“ with the exception of your â€œalways with youâ€ Rivet Gun. This weapon is pretty much weak sauce with its slow fire rate, but on a stasis slowed enemy it can be remarkably effective. Other weapons include Dead Space favourites the Plasma Cutter, Line Gun, Flame Thrower, Force Gun and Contact Beam along with new arrivals PSEC Pistol and Electric Arc Welder. Using each weapon for a time will soon have you choosing and sticking with your four favourites. Each weapon also incorporates an â€œactive reloadâ€ wherein if you press the reload button a second time at the right moment, your gun reloads quicker. There is no real penalty in failing the â€œactive reloadâ€ other than having to wait the normal reload speed, which when you have pointy limbed enemies charging towards you is penalty enough.
As mentioned previously, the guns require ammunition. This, along with health packs, weapon upgrades and the text/vid/audio logs are scattered about the environment or in containers and lockers. A simple task such as picking up ammo changes into life threatening emergency, being that you can’t stroll about at your leisure â€“ you go where the camera takes you. You constantly get the feeling of panic, scouring the landscape with you eyeballs for fear of missing something or worse â€“ seeing it but not being quick enough to aim and press A on it â€“ thus pulling it towards you with you kinesis module (remarkably tooled up for miners, police and scientists aren’t they?). A few instances halt your travel forward and give you free reign to point your remote around and to the side of you to scan for more items, again these sections are just as (if not more) frantic in your mad dash to pick items up in the few seconds you have. Play with some skill, strategy and ammo conservation and you should keep a fair reserve of ammo, but reckless blasting with leave you with your pants round your ankles â€“ and not in a good way.
Many eyes rolled when this was revealed to be an on-rails lightgun game – mine’s included – but the final product is anything but a lazy cash-in.
The developers refer to this as a”guided first-person experience”, which couldn’t be more accurate. It doesn’t feel like your typical on-rails shooter at all. It plays very much like an FPS, but on rails – If you know what I mean. Pretty much all the centralgameplay mechanics of Dead Space make a successful transition. Dismembering enemies limbs is once again essential to kill them, rather than the traditional headshot method. Tilting the remote on its side to activate each weapons alternate fire mode is a clever touch, particularly when using the plasma cutter as it mimics the on-screen actions. Speaking of weapons, therivet gun is by far the best of the new bunch. When fully upgraded, it’s sheer power more than makes up for its slow firing rate. Using it, along with the stasis ability results in it being one of the best weapons in the game.
Extraction manages to perfectly recreate the atmosphere and tension that made its big brother the best survival horror game since Resident Evil 4. Once again, sound plays a big part in creating a sense of terror, and fightingnecromorphs is just as thrilling as it was before – perhaps even more so due to your inability to move. It creates a sense of panic that not many other horror games can match.
Also worth mentioning are the storytelling and characters. It’s much more cinematic than the original, and the text/audio logs make a return. Aside from a few shockers in the audio logs, the voice acting is fantastic, and the face models in particular are very impressive.
Don’t let the on-rails aspect put you off, Dead Space: Extraction is without a doubt one of the best third-party offerings on the Wii, and one of this years biggest surprises.
Secondary Score: 8/10
The atmosphere and carnage is nicely broken up with a few puzzle sections, such as â€œuse kinesis to pull/insert thing out-of/in-to wallâ€. The most frequent puzzle is easily the best, ostensibly a version of â€œBuzz Offâ€ where you guide the cursor round a short maze without touching the sides or other hazards. You do this to hack door panels and is again, remarkably frantic when there’s enemies charging towards you. Brilliantly implemented. A couple of boss battles are also dotted in there and whilst they are tricky â€“ not always being sure what you must do, they certainly are fair.
Not only is this a great stand alone game, but as someone who has played the previous game and seen the movie and watched the comics it’s great to see the environments again. Many of the levels are easily recognised, but not in a cheap, rehashed way, a brilliant chance to see them from a different perspective. In addition you get to interact with a few characters that know Isaac (your protagonist from Dead Space) and even face a few of the bosses he does.
The story levels can be completed and re-completed on a multitude of difficulty levels, but if hearing the character interactions again isn’t for you then there is the option to play challenge levels, small sections of the story levels (sans character interaction) but with increased numbers of enemies spawning in increasingly difficult and relentless waves. Perfect for cheap visceral thrills.
The Wii does a fair job with the graphics, and while the game may not be as pretty as Resi: UC, it certainly does have more enemies on screen, interactive environments and the lack of HUD greatly immerses you into the world. Likewise, while the game does have the same visceral gameplay and feel to HotD Overkill, the story just adds so much to the atmosphere. There were a couple of minor instances of slowdown, only mentioned to be fair to people that love hearing of the Wii’s technical limitations â€“ myself included.
The game also includes jump in 2 player play for both modes. It’s certainly a welcomed addition and in the case of the higher difficulty settings â€“ its essential to have a wingman watch your back and dish out witty puns.
While its length is fairly standard for a light-gun affair this doesn’t stop Dead Space: Extraction from being nothing less than a phenomenal game. Taking the best tension from Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles and the shooting fun from House of the Dead: Overkill, Dead Space Extraction brings enough of its own unique gameplay to make it stand out from the crowd. â€œMan-up, sweetheart!â€ and buy this game.