When he wasn't expressing excitement that one of the people attending his demo writes for legendary horror magazine Fangoria, the executive producer of Dead Space Extraction was letting us experience EA's bravest Wii game. These devs like the gore.
EA has taken a bold step. The company is bringing a prequel to the graphically and aurally award-winning 2008 Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 space horror game Dead Space to a less capable but arguably more immersive game console this fall, the Wii.
At a recent press event in New York City, the game's executive producer, Steve Papoutsis, let me get my hands on the thing and begin to determine whether EA made a wise move.
What Is It?
Dead Space Extraction is a Wii-exclusive prequel to Dead Space. It is slated for late September release in the U.S. Development studios Visceral Games' and Eurcom's on-rails first-person adventure tells the story of the infestation of the Ishimura, the mining ship upon which most of last year's game took place. the first game was after the catastrophe. This game is the catastrophe.
What We Saw
This was Kotaku's second hands-on with Extraction. Our first Dead Space Extraction preview was in May. This new opportunity focused on the game's seventh chapter and featured the Ishimura's chief botanist in battle with monsters. I played co-op, though that doesn't add an extra character to the narrative or gameplay.
How Far Along Is It?
The level I played felt complete, but the game has a little more development time before release.
What Needs Improvement?
The Graphical Callbacks: This is the risk. Dead Space Extraction may be one of the best-looking games on the Wii, but parts of the game take place in parts of the Ishimura already rendered on more advanced systems in the first game. Extraction's chapter seven version on the hydroponics area unavoidably looks inferior to what wowed me when I was there on my PS3. Extraction fares better with its enemies, whose gangly limbs animate as they did before and just beckon to be dismembered, as is the series' trademark act of violence. (There's your gore, Fangoria guy!)
What Should Stay The Same?
The Controls: In my brief time with the game, I didn't mind not being able to control my character's movement. I can't tell how much I'd mind on a re-play when I was experiencing the same guidance through the same levels all over again. After all, last year, I walked around the Ishimura freely. I learned that Extraction's co-op controls will work in a few ways: Supporting a pair of Remotes and Nunchuks, or a Nunchuk/Remote combo for player one and Remote-only for player two .... or a two-player, two-Zapper configuration. I played with Remote and Nunchuk and had a good time waving the Nunchuk for melee attacks and pushing my Remote toward and away from the screen in order to have the spinning sawblade of the weapon The Ripper slice through enemies. Here's the control config as a chart:
The Structure: I'm used to going through a Dead Space by the chapter. That returns here. I didn't see a fancy heads-up display hovering in front of my character's face, but cutscenes still suggested there's a lot of story interspersed with the game's action.
Bosses: I liked the first Dead Space's bosses, as conventional as some of them were. They never required a lot of re-fighting and had obvious weaknesses that were fun to exploit. During my time with Extraction, I watched two other people at my demo battle a hulking mini-boss in a blazing furnace room. They used a stasis power to hurl back projectiles and then blasted weak points, avoiding their enemies' rampages. It was simple, but in the dark, visually interesting world of Dead Space it looked fun and smartly attenuated.
The Constant Interactivity: Like any good on-rails shooter, there's lots of stuff to shoot in this game. Sometimes to kill. Sometimes to pick up. There's even stuff to blast in the cutscenes for those who don't feel like listening. Shoot the background to find your targets.
EA is making a game that will visually impress any Wii owners who want a darker shooter and have never played Dead Space. But the game can't shake the fact that it can't look like it's predecessor. Can a new game in the same universe have the interest in its prequel narrative and the strength of its gameplay trump graphical limitations?
That's a big gamble for EA. So far, it looks like things are going as well as can be expected.