Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dead Space: Extraction (Wii) Review

It's the month of Halloween, so it's the perfect time to be talking about our next game. It's the prequel to a severely overlooked game for the HD platforms. Why, we're talking about Dead Space Extraction for the Wii.

A Dismember to Remember: The Prequel

The original Dead Space was an excellent game filled to the brim with haunts and scares. Sadly, it completely bombed at retail. Now EA is taking the franchise to Wii, but this time in light gun shooter form. Visceral Games is a brand-new upstart company for EA, is in charge of the project, and they have tried their best to make Dead Space work on Wii. Is there space for yet another light gun shooter on Wii, or is this game dead in the water?

Dead Space Extraction is a prequel to the original Dead Space. It takes place before Isaac Clarke’s arrival on the space frigate Ishimura. A mysterious marker has been excavated, and ever since then the workers have gone crazy, macabre creatures known as Necromorphs have appeared and started massacring everyone in their sights. For the majority of the game you play as Nathan McNeill, a detective caught in the middle of this nightmare. With a team of three other people, Nathan and crew must escape with their lives... or die trying. In addition to the main story, there’s unlockable fully-voiced comics that tell some of the background story in the Dead Space universe. The story is one that will oftentimes mess with your mind, and it’s one of the Wii’s best.

Our cast of unfortunate heroes.

There’s a reason EA and Visceral Games are calling Dead Space Extraction a guided first-person action game and not a light gun shooter. Light gun shooters have far more action. In Extraction, there’s plenty of times where you’re just sitting tight listening to the characters ramble over and over to one another. During these segments you’re relegated to watching and occasionally being able to pick up some ammo in a faraway corner while doing so. This is one of the problems I have with the game. Yes, it’s very cinematic and cool the first time around, but replaying chapters and having to sit through all the exposition is nothing but a chore. That’s your true worst enemy in Dead Space Extraction– not the Necromorphs.

Speaking of which, the Necromorph creatures of the game aren’t your typical baddies. They won’t be put away by a well-placed headshot, oh no. Instead you’ll need to shoot off their limbs, effectively dismembering them. While it doesn’t come anywhere near the satisfaction of a glorious, cranium-crunching headshot in other shooters, dismembering enemies is still enjoyable enough to do. They come in various shapes and sizes and the eventual boss encounter. These aren’t very difficult as health-restoring tanks are littered liberally throughout the game, especially right before a boss. Faster enemies can be slowed down via stasis where they slow down to a crawl for easy pickings. When a foe gets up close and personal to your character, you can use the nunchuk to melee them back.

My, what big arms you have!

The single-player campaign of Dead Space Extraction lasts ten chapters total. Each chapter lasts anywhere from thirty to forty-five minutes depending on the difficulty and if you take a wrong turn somewhere. This is where another problem surfaces like a Necromorph through an air vent. There are no mid-mission save points. Yes, there are checkpoints, but there is no opportunity to save your progress while you’re in the middle of a chapter. This means you’ll be playing at least thirty minutes non-stop. If you’re not the type of person who can dedicate a half hour or more to a game in one sitting, then Dead Space Extraction is definitely not for you.

Dead Space Extraction puts you in first-person perspective as the game guides you around the levels with no control of movement of your own. The perspective will always be through your controlled character’s eyes. Occasionally, you’ll reach a fork in a road allowing you to choose which path you wish to take, but most of the time there’s one right way to go and one wrong way to go anyway which makes this a less enticing proposition.

This is a stick-up. Give me all your Necromorphs.

Playing through each chapter, there’s multiple little doodads to pick up and collect. New weapons and upgrades for said weapons, ammunition, and med kits of varying size and powers of restoration. There’s also text and audio logs which give a better background surrounding the story of Extraction. Unfortunately, once you collect them, there’s no way of returning to them to reread the messages. Sort of a silly oversight if you ask me (which you didn’t). The last thing a player wants to do while playing the game is read something to slow the pace of the game down, so why not allow players to look back at their collected logs?

You play Extraction with the Wii remote and nunchuk. The analog stick is used to cycle between four weapons. Many guns return from Dead Space to Extraction from the Necromorph-carving Plasma Cutter to the ultra-powerful flamethrower. Tilting the Wii remote to its side unleashes your weapon’s secondary firing function. To themselves, the pointer controls work just as well as any other game in the genre– though the cursor could be a little less obtrusive. You can reload at any time by pressing the Z button. Time the cursor right, and your shots will become more powerful a la Gears of War. Meanwhile, a second player can jump in or out of the game at anytime and play right alongside you, sharing the same screen. The only difference is that all the second player needs is a Wii remote. You use the A button to grab and hold objects and items, and you can unleash them across the room at enemies. One portion of the game will have you catching Necromorph projectiles and flinging them back at the enemy. It’s fun, satisfying, and it uses the powers of kinesis from the original Dead Space well. At certain times you’ll have to hack into a computer terminal to open a door. This instigates a mini-game where you have to carefully trace over a line while avoiding the many hazards surrounding it. If you hit a red object, you’ll take damage. Things get really interesting when you have to solve a mini-game like this while fending off a seemingly never-ending wave of Necromorph pursuers.

The large cursor can make things hard to see.

In addition to the story, there’s also a challenge mode which is much more action-oriented than story mode. Your goal is to fend off wave after wave of Necromorphs, attempting to get as high a score as possible, getting score multipliers, and all that jazz. There’s also three other difficulties to play story mode through on, but unfortunately these don’t seem to unlock anything of particular interest, so most players won’t find the point in playing them.

Presentation-wise, Dead Space Extraction definitely delivers. This is without a doubt the best we’ve seen from a third party on Wii, and that isn’t a backhanded compliment either. This game looks great, and it runs great, too. Everything up to the lighting to the character models and facial reactions to the foreboding hallways is wonderful to look at. The voice acting is superb as well. Visceral Games put a lot of effort into this game’s presentation, and it undoubtedly shows.

And boom goes the dynamite.

Overall, Dead Space Extraction is almost like the Metal Gear Solid of light gun games. There’s too many instances where you’re taken out of the action just so you can sit there and watch characters yap to one another. Visceral Games have done a terrific job taking Dead Space on the HD consoles and tinkering with it so it works on the Wii. It’s entirely faithful to the original. It’s not the best of the genre, but it is the best presentation we’ve seen. Unfortunately, presentation can only go so far as what you’re left with is an above average rail shooter. Nothing spectacular.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.0/10]

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