Dead Space Extraction

Review

posted 9/30/2009 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms: Wii
The perspective and even the flavor of horror may have changed but the visuals certainly haven’t. Fans expecting a drastically downgraded presentation will be surprised to see just how good Extraction looks. The Wii isn’t pushing the shaders we saw in the original game but aside from that, it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes. The Necromorphs animate, bleed and dismember just like they did in Dead Space, and the human character models are impressive too.

You see many of the locations and environments from the original recreated faithfully in Extraction, with atmospheric lighting effects, flickering holograms, bloom glow and sparking particles. Each character has a “glow worm” torch, activated by shaking the Wii remote like a cyalume stick. The green pallor it casts on the environment is spooky and very well done, but glow worm sequences are strictly scripted—I wish I could fire it up at will, considering the environments get pretty dark even when you can’t use it.

In between the nostalgic revisits to the excavation point, med bay, Ishimura bridge and hydroponics, you get to see more metropolitan areas of the colony including a town square beset by madness and mass suicide. A handful of zero-g sequences intersect the chapters and the dead silence is just as creepy and atmospheric as it was before.


Occasionally you’ll get some framerate chop but only when a ton of effects are happening on screen, and considering the original game would chug when I spammed the flamethrower I think a little slowdown is forgivable. It’s ironic, when playing through the original for the first time, I noticed that Visceral relied on clever geometry as much as GPU intensive effects to construct their world, and didn’t slather shaders over every surface like Epic did with Gears of War. At the time I thought such an approach would make Dead Space feasible on Wii, although I never expected it could turn out so well.

The audio portion is just as good as the first game, if not better. Visceral once again assembled an experienced voice cast and this time you get to hear a lot more from them. There are a few campy horror movie lines but the majority of the script is tight and well delivered. The orchestral score reminded me of Jerry Goldsmith’s “Alien” music, rising dramatically with the action and crawling unnervingly during tense moments.


Extraction’s bonus features start with a drop-in cooperative mode. A second player can fire up a Wii remote at any time, even sans-Nunchuk, and start dismembering Necromorphs. There are usually at least two armed characters in the party of survivors at any time, and while it’s never explicitly stated who the second player is controlling, co-op broadens the game’s accessibility and is a welcome addition. A separate challenge mode lets one or two players run through the chapters just blasting enemies. The story mode is rather plot-centric so it’s a nice switch to just shoot Necromorphs, and for gamers who finished both Dead Space and Extraction on impossible, challenge mode gets much harder on the higher difficulties. Rounding out the package are all six issues of the Dead Space action comic, and while they get a little too crazy with the bloom effect the comic does add even more background to the already rich story.

Even though Extraction is a very different animal than its predecessor it retains enough of its atmosphere and style to be completely true to the spirit of the series. The focus on character interaction makes the plot and action much more immediate—it’s terror through chaos and split-second decisions rather than terror through apprehension. Newcomers to Dead Space will love it because it’s an exciting, accessible entry to the series that highlights all the important aspects and acts as a great introduction. Fans of the first game will love it because it illuminates so much of the nebulous backstory that was only hinted at, and builds some satisfying connections directly to Dead Space and its characters. There are crew logs, lines of dialogue and moments in Extraction that will mean a lot more if you’re a big fan of the first game. To make another Aliens analogy, the first game was the haunted house and Extraction is the roller coaster. It’s like being in a scifi horror film as opposed to a survival horror game.

Still, I have to wonder where Dead Space is headed, in general and on the Wii. I really enjoyed Extraction but to be honest, I would like to see the series branch out of the rail shooter genre on the Wii, maybe a traditional FPS to preserve the dementia and tension we got in Extraction. I’d like to see some of the memorable characters in Extraction again (yes, at least some survive, though I’m not telling who!), but not in the same setting. The Aegis VII disaster and subsequent downfall of the Ishimura have been covered extensively in two games, an animated feature and a comic series, and I think it’s time to take the story and surviving characters somewhere else.

Maybe on the Wii? I certainly hope so. I’d love to see a Wii-exclusive interquel or side story that sets up the inevitable Dead Space 2. Perhaps the characters in Extraction could show up primarily on Wii, while Isaac handles the Necromorph infestation on the 360 and PS3.
Regardless of what they have planned, we know that Visceral Games is perfectly capable of creating a faithful Dead Space experience on the Wii hardware. I just hope the series has a future on the console.


B+
Even as a rail shooter Dead Space Extraction is very faithful to the series' setting and mechanics. Dismembering aliens feels just as satisfying, the graphics are surprisingly close to the original and the story fills in the background left open by Isaac's story. Extraction is a must-play for Dead Space fans, and a damn good rail shooter in its own right.


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