Dead Space: Extraction
The Dead Space franchise is evolving, mutating and expanding faster than a spaceship full of necromorphs. As well as last year’s debut, which reduced us to jibbering wrecks, we’ve also being treated to an animated film (Dead Space: Downfall) as well as a comic book series, which suggests that EA have big things in mind for the Dead Space brand. The use of the word ‘brand’ might be a bit harsh, but this is after all still EA we’re taking about – for every Dead Space and Mirrors Edge, there’s a lazy Tiger Woods update or a Lord of the Rings: Conquest to endure. On the other hand, we could admire EA’s genuine attempt at crafting a universe in which fans of a particular IP can really get their teeth into. It worked for Halo and Star Wars, at least.
Oddly enough, there were many who saw the arrival of such an adult and ‘mature’ franchise on the Wii as a bit of an unpleasant surprise – the usual barbs such as the commercial viability of such a game appearing on the console, as well as the now-tired questioning of its technical capabilities, were quick to be brought into focus. Sceptics raised many an eyebrow upon realising that Dead Space: Extraction was to be an on-rails shooter, as well as a prequel. Not even the box art escaped the wrath of the cynics, and in the eyes of many the Dead Space franchise just didn’t belong on Wii. However, contrary to what you might expect (or lament) from Nintendo’s little white box of tricks, Extraction does the Dead Space name proud.
The first element of a game like Dead Space: Extraction one is going to want to immediately assess is whether or not it retains the nauseatingly unsettling, “dare-I-even-play-this-at-night” feeling of pure fear which made the original such a terrifying experience. As early as the opening cinematic, until the end credits begin to roll (which disappointingly, although perhaps predictably, isn’t a significant amount of time at all) it’s clear that the magic is still here. Production values are at a true premium, with the game sporting a perhaps unprecedented level of visual fidelity, running as smooth as you would hope and with superb audio production. Indeed, like its predecessor, Dead Space: Extraction is blessed with superb sound design, and realises the advantages that such a skill can bring in terms of crafting atmosphere.
Despite this praise we’re initially cautious as to whether or not we can recommend Extraction to every fan of Dead Space, or to every fan of the first person shooter, or even to every fan of lightgun games. Extraction is such a hazy mix of all three, and there’s a risk that residents in each of these camps will come away disappointed. The game is very action orientated, with a sizable arsenal of mostly makeshift weaponry on offer, each with an alternate firing mode accessed with a tilt of the Wiimote. There’s plenty of experimentation to be had, made all the more entertaining by borrowing a couple of toys from the first game. The time-slowing Stasis ability returns, allowing for some seriously precise limb removal. Also making a welcome return is the Kinesis skill, as well as the addition of melee attacks activated by a swipe of the Nunchuck. These functions ensure that the game becomes so much more than a simple point and shoot, immersing us deeper into a now-typical Dead Space experience – House of the Dead: Overkill this most definitely is not, save for the debate as to whether or not either title features a semi-colon in its name.
The Wii is the new home of the lightgun genre – of that there is little doubt – and Dead Space: Extraction is a superb blend of the old-school methods associated with this once-forgotten giant and a more modern recollection of shooting archetypes. In most instances this is a good thing, but there are one or two instances where not every shot hits the target. An obvious side effect of turning up the action dials is that the levels of tension are markedly lower in comparison to the original. This isn’t particularly helped by the fact that nobody can seem to keep quiet for very long. One of the originals strengths was its effectiveness in evoking a remarkably unsettling feeling of isolation. Extraction seemingly abandons this for lots of dialogue between characters, which end up feeling rather out of place.
Dead Space: Extraction is a welcome shot in the arm for the Wii, which has arguably been lacking these sorts of experiences since its very inception. A must for all Dead Space fans, then, but what it lacks in scares and scale it makes up for in visceral heart-pounding action. Whilst a little short, there’s plenty of replay value here with alternate routes and the top grades for each level to aim for. Although it just falls short of sitting alongside the original game in the ‘main courses’ section of the proverbial menu that is the franchise thus far, it’s a delightful accompaniment. Just try not to look at the box art for too long though, won’t you?
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