Dead Space: Extraction
Publisher: Electronic Arts Visceral Games
Genre: Rails Shooter
Release Date: 09/29/2009
About this time last year, I reviewed a game called Dead Space. I enjoyed the game even though I found the story pretty lacking and the game to be more of an action game than anything scary or “survival horror” based. In fact, out of the Dead Space trilogy, I found the video game to be inferior to both the comic book limited series and the anime. At the end of the day, it’s about story for me.
Dead Space would go on to win our Best Horror Game of 2008 award, even though it retrospect, it should have gone to The Lost Crown or Theresia. Still, I’m a big fan of the franchise, even if the video game was weak compared to the two prequels, and so i was understandably excited for the announcement of Dead Space: Extraction, especially because it was a rail shooter. I’ve always loved light gun games, from Vampire Night to The House of the Dead: Overkill. It’s just cheesy simple fun. Besides the Wii has not only brought this dormant gaming genre out of hibernation, but has proven not only that games like HOTD:OK and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles can be amazing games, but that the Wii can be a home for well made M rated games.
So how did Dead Space: Extraction hold up? Has the 360/PS3 game remained the weakest link in the Dead Space chain (a bit of irony as it’s supposed to be the crown jewel), or did DS:E turn out to be a bit of a forgettable blunder?
I should explain the chronology of the Dead Space franchise. The comics come first and tell the tale of how the marker on AEGIS VII was discovered and the hell that broke out there. Downfall, the anime covers what happens to the USS Ishimura before your character gets on it in the video games, and the original PS3/360 game finishes the story off. With Dead Space: Extraction, you actually cover side stories to the comic series and the anime. You’re there from the moment “the marker” is dug up and released up until…well, you’ll see. As such, the game is a great companion to the non-video game pieces and as a bonus, you can unlock animated and voice acted versions of the comic by completing stages of the game. Awesome.
Unlike a lot of other rail shooters, Dead Space: Extraction actually has a lot of story to it. The game is divided into chapters, each one ending on some sort of “to be continued” vibe. You really don’t see a lot of rail shooters that delve into characterization and complex storytelling, but so far, the ones made especially for the Wii have been the exception to this rule. You main character is Nathan McNeil, but he’s not the first character you’ll be playing as. You’ll start on on AEGIS VII as Sam, a routine worker on the colony whose chapter is about as dark as something straight out of Eternal Darkness. I really enjoyed playing as Sam and his chapter serves as both a prologue for the rest of the game and as proof that Visceral CAN provide excellent storytelling.
From there you take over as Nate. He’s a detective who looks into why all these miners have started to kill each other and/or go insane. Nate starts off with his longtime colleague and friend Gabe Weller who has transferred to AEGIS VII on behalf of the CEC to learn more about these strange happenings. You’ll also pick up Lexine Murdoch, girlfriend of the character you played as in chapter 1, and Warren Eckhardt, CEC’s Executive Director of Mining Operations. Although other characters will come and go, these four make up the bulk of your story and the dynamics between them all is very well done. You’ll get to know all four quite well and the characterization here is better than anything I’ve seen in a rail shooter, and better than most survival horror games as well. Some long time rail shooter fans might object to all the story and depth given to the characters instead of being just mindless mayhem, but I loved it. Later one when things happened to characters, I found myself caring for them, even if I saw what happened to Lexine in particular coming a mile away. What I did not see was the final battle. You really have to give McNeil a hand for what he went through…or an arm.
Nate McNeil is a vastly superior character to Isaac Clarke, and when it comes to the overall plot and storytelling aspects of both games, Extraction blows the original Dead Space out of the water.
There are two extra modes in the game besides story mode. You’ve got Survival Mode, where you try to make it through these unique levels as fast as you can all while earning a high score. Co-Op Mode lets you play either Story or Survival with two players with the second player being able to have a special 2P control scheme.
In all, I’d have to say Extraction is the second best entry into the Dead Space franchise storywise. As the first best is unlockable as you advance in the game, you’re definitely in for a treat here if you’re a fan of sci-fi/horror hybrids.
Story/Modes Rating: Great
Okay, although the graphics are pretty good at times I have to say i really hate the lack of variety when it comes to the colours used in this game. It’s pretty much just dark red, brown and black for 95% of the game with a little bit of night vision green thrown in on occasion. As such it can be really hard to make out what is background, and what is lethal killing machine. I don’t like that. In fact, I hate that. We’re talking about an alien world, futuristic technology and strange mutated Necromorphs. A little colour goes a long way. Even Alien and Event Horizon knew that. I was really disappointed with how dull everything looked because of the lack of variety here.
Human models were realistic, especially for the Wii. The game doesn’t look as good as say, The Umbrella Chronicles, but I really enjoyed the character designs. Oddly enough, the monsters were a bit dull and repetitive compared to the original Dead Space. This is probably because more are thrown at you in a limited amount of time. That plus the muted feel of the graphics dragged things down a bit.
In regards to gore, Extraction has quite a bit. Although the varied and violent player character deaths from the original are absent, your enemies can be dismembered and it’s a bit odd to see limbs flopping around or heads exploding on a Wii console. Even with HOTD: OK, the violence was cartoonish and exaggerated due to the game being a grindhouse parody. With DS:E the violence is quite realistic and detailed. Well, as realistic as fighting mutant alien zombies in space can be.
I wasn’t too impressed by the overall visuals, especially compared to other rail shooters for the Wii, but what’s here gets the job done, and that’s what matters.
Graphics Rating: Above Average
There’s not a lot of music here, but when there is it fits the creepy atmosphere of the game perfectly. You’ll generally hear music most prominently with the menus or during the talking head sections of the game. It’s a nice touch, but as with most horror games, if you’re paying too much attention to the score, you’re going to end up dead.
Voice acting was excellent save for Lexine, whose actress couldn’t keep her accent constant. One second it would be American, the next Scottish, and then British. I’m surprised it actually got through quality control, it’s that sloppy. Everyone else though does a great job on conveying a full range of emotion, from anger to disgust, to outright fear.
Sound effects are great too. Although most of the Necromorphs have the same shrill battle cry, it’s still creepy each time you hear it. Weapons are the really nice variety as each gun has its own unique sound. From the electrical crackle of the Contact Beam to the crackling of the flamethrower, you’ll be impressed with how different each weapon sounds.
The only thing I miss from the original game, was how well it used a LACK of noise to induce creepiness or enhance the setting. Due to the more arcade-like nature of Extraction, this piece is lost.
Sound Rating: Good
4. Control and Gameplay
Dead Space: Extraction‘s gameplay is far more complex than your normal rail shooter. With most games in this genre, it’s just aiming, shooting, reloading and occasionally using a special weapon. Not here. With DS:E, there is a lot more you have to keep track of. Although I was annoyed by having to keep track of so many things in a usually simplified genre, I found myself really enjoying the controls after a few chapters and taking advantage of some of the unique options introduced here.
For starters, there are control schemes for both the Wii Zapper and the Wiimote-Nunchuk Combo. I’ve found I’m not really a fan of the Zapper for any games, including Link’s Crossbow Training, which it came with. The Wiichuk combo works quite well with everything responding quickly and without any lag or accuracy issues. I still find the Wiimote-only controls to be the best options, vbut this is only available if you are the second player in a co-op setting. This mode lacks the defensive melee attack, but I like having either a hand free or a second hand to steady the gun, especially as throughout the game, your characters shakes like it has Parkinson’s, which can get VERY annoying.
So let’s talk control specifics. You aim with the Wiimote and then press B as the triggers. Instead of firing off screen like with most rail shooters, you use the nunchuk’s Z button to reload. Now reloading can take a long time, especially compared to other rail shooters, but if you hit the Z button a second time during the reload process at the right point in the bar (which the game calls “the sweet spot”), you’ll reload instantly. This is kind of a fun mini-game if you look at it that way. However, sometimes the game will miss your second click and so you’ll reload at the normal super slow rate when monsters are ganging up on you. Bleck.
Like modern rail shooters for the Wii, there is a grapple option. If a monster gets too close, you can escape their graps by shaking the wiimote and hitting A. The other thing shaking your wiimote will get you is the glow worm, which is a glow stick when you are in dark areas. This gives yourself a bit of light and visual perspective, as well as protection from monsters that like to strike when it is pitch black out.
There’re also a few new abilities for rail shooters (but not Dead Space itself) like Kinesis. This is short for telekinesis, and your character will use this for everything from picking up ammo and weapon upgrades to picking up debris or pulling out walkways when the power is cut off. This is kind of neat, but it doesn’t feel any different from how you normally pick up items in a rail shooter, save for you’re not spending ammo. Another aspect of Kinesis that you can you is to huck debris at monsters. This doesn’t come up very often but when it does, it at least buys you some time while you’re reloading your item.
The other new ability is called Stasis. The attack doesn’t do any damage, but it slows an attacker to a crawl allowing you to get perfect headshots or dismemberment blows in. This attack needs to be recharged, so I tend to use it only when I’m being gang-rushed or against just slaughter with the arc cutter like the leapers. This lets me get that perfect shot on their tail. This only problem with stasis is that it is triggered by using the C button which is right next to the reload button Z. When things get really heated, or when you’re brand new to the game, you’ll find yourself mixing the two up. This leads to pain and frustration. You’ll eventually grow out of it, but it’s one of only three real issues I had with the controls.
Another issue comes with solder puzzles where you have to draw a precise line to unlock doors or turn off traps. The problem is that you have to hold the wiimote perfectly still while drawing, which is easier said than done. If you have the SLIGHTEST quiver or shake in your hand, you’ll take damage if a trap is near that part of the line. Thankfully, after a few hits the trap will be turned off, but to be honest, I took more damage from these puzzles than I did from actual combat. Finally, while doing these traps, monsters may come at you. The game SAYS it will cover you or shoot them down, but it never does. I learned this the hard way while doing one of these puzzles because I actually believed my three comrades would shoot a gun while I’m saving them. Alas, no. it doesn’t happen. LAME. So then I’m taking damage from doing the puzzle AND I’m taking damage from monsters because I can’t defend myself. Why have three other people in your party if they don’t occasionally shoot. That seems really odd to me.
Besides these issues, I found Dead Space: Extraction to be a very solid game. I had a lot of fun playing it and the overall controls made it more interesting than your usual light gun game. Even people who prefer a full blown FPS to rail shooters will mine this to be a nice compromise between the two genres.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Good
My biggest issue with the original Dead Space is that is was basically a one shot game due to how linear it was and how everything would happen the exact same way each time without deviation. Boring. Here, you at least have the option of playing through each level with a second player or trying challenge mode. As well, you can go back to any chapter you’ve previously beaten to try and pick up power ups and collectables you might have missed the first time through. Of course, the game only tells you what you’ve missed at the end of the level and never again, so there’s no way to properly check. Boo. At least you can replay just to try and improve your score as well.
Because there aren’t as many modes or options as say, RE:TUC or HOTD:OK, Dead Space: Extraction is a bit weak in the replay value, but at least there are reasons to come back to this game multiple times unlike the original game.
Replayability Rating: Decent
There are four difficulty settings in DS:E, and although each is slightly tougher than the one before, none of these are particularly hard. In my first playthrough of the game, I died only once, and that was because I was purposely trying to die to see if I would get a nifty death scene like in the original. Unfortunately, no. When you come close to dying, enemies start dropping health for you, making it pretty hard to kick the bucket. Even when you do die though, you start back pretty close to where you died, if not at that exact spot, letting you continue onward. You have unlimited lives too, so a lot of the “challenge” might be gone to people who don’t care about getting a high score. However, death does lower your overall ratting, and playing on a higher difficulty setting raises it, so try the latter but not the former, okay.
When you beat each level, you’ll get a star rating from 1-5. I pretty much got 3’s and 4’s across the board on the higher settings. After you collect a certain amount of stars, you’ll level your character up and get things like more hit points. It’s something game-breaking, but it’s reason to repeat levels and max out your score.
As well, each weapon can level up. When you find a weapon, it starts at level 0, but as you find power-ups, you can get it to a max of level four. Each level gives you more power and a larger clip size. Some weapons are far better than other. For example, the Rivet Gun you start with has unlimited ammo, but it’s pretty weak until you max it out. Meanwhile the Arc Welder and the Flamethrower are hilariously overpowered and you’ll wade through scores of necromorphs with either of these at just level two.
The game still requires precision shooting like the original instead of mindless trigger-happy violence, so that’s something to be said for it. Still, it is a lot easier than the original Dead Space and most other rail shooters. This is a walk in the park compared to say The House of the Dead 2. With this in mind a bit of the scare factor is gone, but the vastly superior story and the neat mechanics make up for it.
Balance Rating: Enjoyable
It’s nice to see the Wii single-handedly revive the light gun genre. It’s also nice to see how the Dead Space franchise has never done the same thing twice. Graphic Novel, anime, action game with horror elements and now a rail shooter. This is the most innovative EA has been with ANY of their franchises for nearly three console generations and I’m loving at how willing they are to take chances here.
While the first Dead Space was rather cliche and pretty much a hodge podge of homages to Alien and Event Horizon, even the game wasn’t that original in terms of “Undead in space.” Echo Night Beyond actually did it years before and it was both scarier and featured a vastly superior story.
Dead Space: Extraction however, is a bit more innovative by really turning the rail shooter genre on its head. For example, out of all the levels in the game, there are only THREE boss fights. However, these fights are long and intense. Usually in this genre you have a boss fight at the end of every stage and yet they’re pretty picks. Maybe two to three minutes max. Not so here. DS:E also gives you also sorts of new moves and things to do in a rail shooter, including a ton of story and some areas where you can look around freely for a limited amount of time instead of being guided on the rails.
This is another area where DS:E manages to surpass the original Dead Space, but also a lot of other rail shooters as well which have stuck to the same basic format much like a 2-D fighter or side-scrolling shooter.
Originality Rating: Decent
In the olden days, rail shooters used to be really short; only a half an hour in length if you played one straight through. This is mainly because it hurts to hold a gun shaped controller for that long. With RE:TUC and HOTD:O, a new problem occurred. Because these games were hours long, it was impossible to play them for long periods of time without hurting your wrist or elbow. Gone were the days where you could play a rail shooter straight through. Dead Space: Extraction falls under this category. I was never able to play more than three or four chapters in a row without needing to take a break. While, DS:E offers longer chapters then the other two horror rail shooters I keep mentioning in this review, a lot of the action in this game is broken up by talking and plot development, which lets you rest. Still, about 90 minutes of straight gaming is all I could do without wanting to give my wrist a break. However an hour or two later, I’d be right back at this game. I beat this the very first night I got the game, and that’s rare for me. I got sucked into the story, both as a critic and as a fan of the Dead Space mythos.
DS:E is a fast paced rail shooter that also intersperses its gory combat with a well told story and characters that outclass any found in the original game. This was a hard title for me to put down. This was definitely one of the three best titles I’ve played on the Wii so far this year, with the others being Onechanbara and Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout.
Addictiveness Rating: Great
9. Appeal Factor
You know what? Even with a ton of games like Umbrella Chronicles, Madworld, Overkill, Fatal Frame, and Cursed Mountain, the Wii has received a false reputation as being a system “for kids.” As ignorant and outright stupid as that claim is, here is yet another example of plebeians in need of just gore and nudity (Yes, you get to see Lexine naked.) getting a game they can enjoy on the Wii. For those of us who love a good story and/or solid gameplay, we’re in luck to because Dead Space: Extraction offers both in abundance.
Honestly, with a superior overall experience to the original Dead Space, EA’s marketing, the Dead Space brand name and some fun ways to use the Wiimote and nunchuk, Dead Space: Extraction really should be appealing to most gamers, aside from those that right easily or that lack depth perception. There’s very little this game does wrong, and it’s a game that any game, regardless of skill or age, should be able to beat and, more importantly, have fun with. Still, it’s not for kids with all the gore and profanity.
Appeal Factor Rating: Good
Compared to The House of the Dead Overkill, Dead Space: Extraction is really lacking in extras. However, the story is amazing and you get to unlock the motion comics, which have been the best part of the Dead Space franchise so far. That made me quite happy, as I long ago deleted them from my PS3 to make room for actual game stuff. For those of you who have never seen them, or who do not own the hardcover trade collecting the comics, these really are worth the price of admission in addition to a really fun rail shooter. Although it’s not the best rail shooter available for the Wii right now, it IS the better of the two Dead Space games and proves that EA has the first franchise of theirs that I have been able to get behind in years since well…Sim City. I went in not expecting much and came away impressed and hopefully that we’ll get a sequel to this game in addition to Dead Space 2. Hell, I’d actually prefer a second one of these.
Dead Space: Extraction will surprise you and it’s definitely one of the best games released for the Wii this year. Is it THE best? No, but it’s certainly a game worth adding to your collection.
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
Control and Gameplay: Good
Appeal Factor: Good
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
Dead Space: Extraction is a well made rail shooter that actually surpasses the original Dead Space in a number of ways, primarily with its vastly superior story, replayability, and the fun of being able to play the game co-operatively with a friend. The game’s graphics can be a bit weak at times due to the lack of any real variety and most of the game being the same three shades of colour for the entire playthrough, and it’s amusing to see Lexine’s accent change repeatedly throughout the game, but for the most part you’ll have a hard time putting your wiimote down once you pop this game in. I have to say, after completing this I’d actually rather have a sequel to Extraction than Dead Space 2. Here’s hoping that the franchise can prove strong enough (and popular enough) to give us both.