When word first got out that Dead Space Extraction, the Wii-exclusive prequel to last year’s survival horror hit, was going to be an on-rails shooter instead of a third person game, I admit to being pretty disappointed. How could a rail shooter ever be as scary as the first game? Would it be campy like The House of the Dead? Would the presentation live up to the high production values established by Isaac Clarke’s nightmarish journey through the USG Ishimura? I’m a big fan of the original Dead Space but I assumed that EA was following the lead of another horror series, Resident Evil. After receiving a great port of RE4, the Wii has gotten nothing but on-rails shooters from the series, with the official reason being that this genre was easier for the casual audience to get into.
That’s all well and good for the casuals, but for gamers like me who loved the first Dead Space and want to see it branch off onto the Wii, it looked like EA was just dumbing the series down and cranking out a spinoff to make a quick buck. I quickly moved Dead Space Extraction to the bottom of my “to play” list.
I guess I shouldn’t make assumptions. Let’s get this out of the way first: Extraction is not
a cash grab, a weak spinoff or a bone being condescendingly tossed to Wii gamers. It’s a professionally produced, skillfully developed and cleverly plotted prequel to last year’s scifi horror success. I’ve played through it and Dead Space fans are going to love it.
Visceral Games helmed this one themselves—Extraction wasn’t farmed out to some understaffed studio accustomed to churning out Wii minigames, but developed by the creators and curators of the Dead Space franchise. Even the menus are identical; you’ll feel right at home from the intro screen onward.
After listening in on a conference call
with the Visceral guys I could tell they were committed and enthusiastic about the project too; spurned hardcore Wii owners can rest assured that these people were serious about giving the Wii a genuine Dead Space experience. Still, the question remains: why such an abrupt transition to a different genre? In the end it’s all about story.
The developers said that one of the main goals behind Extraction was to tell an engaging story that made you feel like a player in a horror film, not the lone survivor but part of an unlikely team of them trying to find their way out. The story also had to paint in the immense quantity of back story that was merely insinuated in Dead Space. After finishing Extraction and playing through the first game again to refresh my memory, I understand where Visceral was coming from.
Isaac Clarke’s ordeal was very task oriented—Kendra and Hammond only bothered talking to you when they had a job for you to complete. Dead Space was about surviving the catastrophe, thinking about the matters at hand to get out alive and piecing together the reasons for the disaster later from logs and hints. Extraction is all about origins, how things got started and how the various factions are involved, represented in the four core characters. The end result is a very different kind of horror experience, a more immediate and active one, but it is no less Dead Space than its predecessor. You’ll still find crew logs (the audio recordings are played back through the Wii remote’s speaker) but a great deal more of the plot is happening around you.
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