Review: Dead Space: Extraction (Wii)October 6th, 2009 | Written by Josh Schwartzman | Topic: Reviews, Wii
Rail shooters in general have always been shallow, repetitive games, and although there have been diamonds in the rough that have exceeded expectations, the majority of these titles are described as nothing but “shovelware” to sell copies for systems. Dead Space: Extraction is hardly another shovelware title for the Wii, but it isn’t a diamond in the rough either. While the story and visuals are surprisingly good for a game of this nature, the action and horror sequences never really pick up, and for a series that is well-known for its scaring tactics, that’s quite a shame.
Dead Space: Extraction follows the events leading up to last year’s original title for the PS3 and Xbox 360. A mining team, sent to the planet of Aegis VII to excavate items, unwillingly activates a device known as the marker which unleashes deformed creatures into the open. Fans will know these creatures as necromorphs, abnormal aliens that sprout massive limbs all over their body. Naturally, a fight for survival ensues and this is where Extraction begins as you and your team of miners fight to survive as you make your way to the USG Ishimura for escape…does the ship sound familiar?
Because Extraction is a rail shooter you will have little movement of your character. In fact, the only movement you will perform throughout the campaign is your targeting reticule which you will move back and forth across the screen to shoot the necromorphs. While you can’t ask for much in a rail shooter, Dead Space’s targeting reticule is a hideous, bowling ball sized circle that engulfs much of the screen. If you have a friend playing with you on co-op, expect your field of view to be limited even further. What makes this reticule so daunting and unappealing is the fact that developer Visceral Games tried too hard to mimic what Dead Space expertly created. In Dead Space, players knew how much ammo and health your character had by simply looking at the lights on his back. A great theory that was executed beautifully in the game, but simply does not work in Extraction.
For various reasons, being able to see the enemies coming at you is key to survival. Having the reticule hinder your vision with info such as shooting style (spray or single shots), health and ammo makes the reticule look bigger than it should be. Some of these things could have easily been included off to the side on a separate HUD and probably would have given the game a much more authentic shooter feel. Fighting off the necromorphs who rush at you from up close is easy enough, but trying to hit the farther necromorphs on high platforms is frustrating because your reticule can simply engulf their entire body, making it impossible to see where you are shooting.
Necromorphs are unusual creatures mainly for the fact that they can regrow limbs once shot off and to defeat them you must be truly merciless in your attack. Many of the lesser foes require a quick blast to one of their arms followed by a shot to the head. The harder foes, when losing their limbs, actually become more enraged and charge at you with increased power. Sure it sounds frightening, but the game always shows you your next branch of attack and the camera always moves you to face the next direction where the enemies “flank” you. Flank is exaggerated given that you can see the enemies coming at you, but it’s supposed to be a situation where you are outnumbered and against all odds, which clearly you are not. Many of the battles require you to do nothing more but aim and shoot. You can see most of the enemies coming straight at you, doing nothing but shrieking and jumping to give away their location. Since the game places you in the exact location facing the enemies you never have to really worry about being attacked from behind or teamed up.
Part of the fun of Dead Space was the wide range of weapons at your disposal and Extraction is no exception. All of the weapons have simple, intuitive controls and simply tilting the controller sideways allows you to activate a secondary fire. The only exception would be the ripper, a bladed-gun that fires circular blades at foes, which is unreliable at times and can be hard to handle, but the rest of the weapons work well with the controller. Stasis and Kinesis powers have also been included again to allow your player to stop time, freeze enemies and pick up objects (similar to the gravity gun) and chuck them at enemies. While using these powers and weapons to your advantage is great fun, sometimes the game does not recognize when you use kinesis to slow down the area around you and the camera whips into a frenzy to keep up. While these moments happened only once or twice, the moments for which they occurred seemed often scarier than the actual battles against the necromorphs.
For what it’s worth, Dead Space: Extraction does look pretty solid for a Wii game. The character and necromorph models are nicely animated, the locations all have a sense of originality to them and the game has some impressive lighting to truly show off the shadowy parts of the levels. Despite all of these high points, the reticule brings down those merits some for its tacky design. Too much of it hinders the screen for you to enjoy what is going on, and the unusual shades of blue and red don’t match well with the dark and gloomy atmospheres. The sound is great at its attempts to scare you and the necromorphs all sound downright revolting and horrifying. The audio logs that can be found around the ship do a good job of advancing some of the story and the voice acting is high-quality for a rail shooter as well.
While there are plenty of good things to admire about Dead Space: Extraction, the lows outweigh the highs and what is left is an admirable attempt at reinventing rail shooters. The story shines as leading the way to the events of the original Dead Space and the visuals all look remarkable as you venture through the game’s ten gloomy and dark levels. But with a hideous looking shooting reticule, some hard-to-handle weapons and scary segments that are never remotely frightening, Dead Space: Extraction is a good weekend rental for fans to tie up loose ends with the story and nothing much else.