Visceral has broken up this plot between ten chapters, and you start out as one of the hapless miners excavating the red Marker, the “holy” relic that gave Isaac so much trouble in Dead Space. As we all know unearthing the Marker touches off the disaster, beginning with widespread dementia and later the Necromorph infestation. The first chapter acts as a control tutorial as the miners stumble through the base in the first aftershock. The basic controls are what you’d expect from a rail shooter, but Visceral has implemented nearly all of the mechanics from Dead Space to make the game more interesting and faithful to the series.
Isaac’s two special abilities, stasis and kinesis, are standard equipment for all Aegis VII personnel, allowing you to freeze enemies with the former and interact with the world using the latter by grabbing items, opening lockers and occasionally moving objects. Unfortunately the game gives you very little time to react with the environment; a few fleeting seconds to examine a room in free-look, or just a split-second to smash a crate or grab some stray ammo.
Stasis recharges over time so you can use it tactically from firefight to firefight, instead of hoarding it until you can find a stasis pack. Twisting the Wii remote switches to your weapon’s secondary fire mode; it’s quite intuitive for changing the orientation of the plasma cutter. Extraction also adds a Gears of War-like active reload, letting you top off your gun quickly with a well-timed second press of the reload button. I kind of wish Isaac had this ability back in Dead Space—I can’t tell you all the times I’ve had my gun go dry and been subsequently eviscerated.
Extraction brings back all of the weapons from Dead Space and tosses in three new ones: a rivetgun with unlimited ammo but a small clip and slow rate of fire; the P-Sec pistol, the standard semi-auto firearm of Planetside Security; and an arc welder, which takes more skill to use than you’d think. You carry the rivetgun at all times but it isn’t simply the bottomless pistol of most rail shooters. Its slow-firing rivets force you to be accurate, and its secondary charge feature is even used to bolt barricades in place. The remaining weapons like the Line Gun, flamethrower, pulse rifle and contact beam function about the same, although the ripper has seen a welcome improvement. Moving the Wii remote lets you twist its kinetic saw blades and adjust their depth, making it a much more dynamic weapon. It’s one of the few accurate, functional uses of the Wii’s depth sensing I’ve seen since the console launched.
Extraction also differs from the standard zombie shooter by virtue of how you use the weapons: namely, strategic dismemberment. The grisly method for dispatching Necromorphs is carried over to the Wii largely unchanged—I could use most of my strategies from the first game just as effectively, and in a first person perspective it was actually a little easier. Most of the gruesome enemies make a return so Dead Space fans will be severing familiar alien appendages.
As the chapters progress the perspective switches between characters, and this is where Extraction tells a different kind of story with different scares than the first game. After the ill-fated miners flip out and kill one another you take control of Nate McNeill, a P-Sec detective investigating the spreading madness in the colony. As the situation falls apart he is joined by three other survivors—Gabe Weller, an old military comrade; Lexine Murdoch, a tragedy-stricken surveyor; and Warren Eckhardt, a pompous CEC executive.
It’s tough to do effective monster closet scares in a rail shooter (it’s fairly normal for monsters to be jumping out at you) so Visceral plays more with perceptions in Extraction. The creeping dementia that subconsciously plagued Isaac up until the twist ending is more overt this time. Each character deals with madness in increasing severity, hearing voices and shooting at things that aren’t there. It’s pretty creepy when one of your teammates starts freaking out and mumbling to themselves about something you can’t even hear. In one chapter you play as a side character who battles her guilt and hallucinations while falling back on her rationality as a scientist. I also liked how the Unitology cult is more present as well, seeding paranoia and distrust amid the cast. Is all of this scripted? Sure. But in some ways it’s more disturbing than the first game and the perspective makes it more personal.
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