Light is shed on the events leading up to the original game in Dead Space Extraction, the rail-shooter prequel to EA's Dead Space.
When a major Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 title makes the trip to the Nintendo Wii, you generally expect a watered-down version of the original game. Not so with Dead Space Extraction, which presents an entirely new chapter in the sci-fi survival horror experience, complimenting the original game rather than simply aping it. Trading in the third-person shooter gameplay of the original title, Extraction capitalizes on the Wii's strengths, delivering on on-rails shooter experience that heightens the tension by wresting control from the player.
Is Dead Space Extraction a worthy entry in the series, or did Wii owners get the short end of the remote again?
I almost feel like I need to offer apologies or excuses while recommending Dead Space Extraction, EA's Wii follow-up to last year's breakout original sci-fi horror shooter. Extraction's marketing campaign would like you to think of it as a "guided experience" that whisks you through the dramatic beginnings of the series' horrible space-monster outbreak, but in blunt terms, Extraction is an on-rails shooter. Blunter still: it's a light-gun game. These days, that's not a style of game serious game players usually gravitate toward. But keeping the genre's inherent restrictions in mind—not to mention the limitations of the Wii hardware—Extraction is really pretty good, for what it is.
Dead Space: Extraction runs on rails, pulling the player forward at a scripted pace. Developer Visceral Games did a commendable job of making this experience feel more organic. Shaky cameras constantly distort your field of view, and you can hear your character's labored breathing. As intended, the bobbing camera combined with dancing shadows plays tricks on your eyes, and can lead to a few shots being fired at nothing.
One area that definitely benefits from the on-rails nature of Extraction is the overall pacing. Sometimes you creep along agonisingly, other times it feels like the enemy onslaught is never going to end. There are few occasions where you don't come away feeling like your scraped through by the skin of your teeth, and even on the game's lowest 'Normal' difficulty, there's a definite sense of achievement when you get through.
The controls in the game are perfectly matched for what the Visceral was trying to get acrossed. The Wii-mote and nunchuck are required unless you are going to use the Wii Zapper. Reloading the weapons, using your suits powers and melee attacks are all balanced out perfectly and the controls never get in the way of the action. The game slides you through all the different ways you'll be using the controllers and eases you into the game without any confusion. It's good to see a developer really think about the controls in a Wii game and how they can be immersive to the in-game situations and not just a gimmick, or a borrowed scheme from an already proven game.
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The characters often fall into horror-movie tropes. There's the hardened security officer, the shady guy who won't tell you why he's there, and the scared woman mourning her recently deceased boyfriend. The game controls your movement and facing, so you often have to grab items as soon as you see them, or miss the opportunity. Events are often timed, which is frustrating when you have to spot a creature's weakness and determine the best way to exploit it within a few seconds. At least the time issues become easier in co-op mode.
Dead Space Extraction is not just a light-gun shooter. It's not just an on-rails game. It's an adventure as exciting as anything I've played in a while. If players can stand the brevity and don't mind something else controlling their hero's legs, it's well worth playing. The game presents a model, like tennis in Wii Sports, of how to get a whole lot more out of a simplified user set-up. I can imagine some gamers - and some potential gamers - who wouldn't have the skills to have a fun time in the original Dead Space. They'd have ample skill to get through Extraction and might even have a better experience doing so.