There’s no two ways about it: Wii usually gets the shaft when it comes to top shelf third party support. What system generally has the weakest version of a multiplatform title? Wii. What system gets a weird spin-off like Soulcalibur Legends, Castlevania Judgment or Dragon Quest Swords instead of a genuine sequel? That’d be Wii as well. So it’s fair to say when we heard it was getting a Dead Space prequel that was an on-rails shooter akin to House of the Dead, we were suitably skeptical. Imagine our relief then, when Extraction turned out to be one of the most memorable shooters we’ve ever played, mostly thanks to its gritty cinematic presentation.
Above: More like a 7-hour interactive horror movie
This is much more than a haunted shooting gallery, as the presentation, voice acting and exceptional visuals honestly make you feel like a part of the action. You’re not just moving along with a target reticule blasting grotesque monsters; you are the person, ducking and weaving, cussing in disbelief, shuddering with a shaky-cam guerilla style that immerses you in the world like no other game in this genre.
Nothing was sacrificed
Like we said moments ago, Wii usually gets leftovers passed off as new content. Not so with Extraction. Take for example the visuals, which are probably among the best on the platform. Top five, easy. Because there’s no player character to render or external world to keep track of, a great deal of horsepower is spent on making the lighting pop and the graphics stand out. Here’s a great shot from the first level compared to the HD 360/PS3 game:
Above: Not quite an even shake, but the effort is apparent
This carries over into audio as well, using all the same brilliant sound effects and music that made the original so specifically oppressive. Even the gore, which you’d suspect might be toned down or lessened due to hardware limitations, is actually quite brutal and upsetting. Our favorite moments should make that point quite clear:
Above: Self-mutilation, suicide, decapitations, it’s all here
It’s far more personable
You’d think the lack of camera control and interactivity would make this a less interesting game to play than the gruesomely atmospheric original. Strangely enough, we found Extraction more interesting because there’s so much more dialog between you and the other traumatized survivors. Of particular note are the faces and reactions of people in your group as you try to first escape the rioting colony, and then work your way to the Ishimura, the ghoul-infested spaceship setting of the first game.
Above: Eye contact and emotion make the crisis much more personal
The story begins right as an excavation team unearths a giant red marker on a distant planet – fans of the first game know it well. Once moved, it emits a piercing shriek and everyone loses their shit, slowly going mad and tearing into each other. By the end of the first stage, you are killed by a rescue squad, and then the story resumes with a detective (Nathan) trying to keep it together long enough to get out alive. All of this takes place before Isaac (hero of Dead Space) arrives at the Ishimura and finds the entire ship overrun with mutated walking corpses.
Above: The end of the first game is the beginning of the second
It all ties together nicely and helps make this feel like a deserved follow-up and not a cheap Wii cash in. It would have been nice if the actual mystery of the marker, the creepy Unitologist religion and the fleshy necromorphs were explained a little clearer, but ugh, we suppose they want to keep it secret a little while longer.
So, what’s wrong then?
After all that gushing you have to be wondering what’s holding this back from a 9 or 10. Well, flourishes aside, this is still a rails shooter, and as such depends on interesting enemies and two-player support for repeated use. The actual shooting is shaky at first (as the enemies are just deranged people), then becomes gory and intense once the multi-limbed necromorphs arrive.
Above: F*CKING KILL IT
A few more missions in and you’ll find the gunplay hasn’t evolved at all. Oh you have several weapon choices, each with alternate firing capabilities, but the same dismemberment strategy from the 360/PS3 title works on every single monster you face. After shooting 100 or so, it becomes tedious, even with all the usual Dead Space tricks like telekinesis and the baddie-freezing stasis blast. Honestly, toward the end, we viewed the shooting as a hassle and just wanted to watch the rest of the story.
Above: There are a few branching paths, but they’re slight
As for two-player, it’s certainly functional, but Extraction has the interesting distinction of being the only light gun-style game we don’t want to play with friends. It’s too personal, too “you and your team against the odds” to have someone else sitting beside you. Stranger still is the fact you’re both behind the eyes of one character with two targets on the screen, so in the story context it’s like you’re dual wielding two massive guns, not playing as two people.
There are also several instances where you and the crew and are slowly creeping through ducts and vents. It makes sense to take these weirdly obscure paths when the ship is packed with brain-eating monsters, but from a gameplay perspective it gets old fast. The first couple of times are fine, but after the fourth, fifth, even sixth time we really, really wanted out of the ducts, and not in a cool “channeling the in-game emotions” kind of way. It’s restrictive and drawn out, which leads us to the next point…
It’s not big on replayability
A rail shooter at its core, Extraction should be near-infinitely replayable. But as we mentioned above, two-player is awkward and ruins the mood, and the mission length (about 20 minutes a pop or more) doesn’t make for fast, arcade-style fun. It’s too intense, too long and too movie-like to play through more than once, as then you’ll know the twists and turns, and most of the enjoyment comes from the propensity of “oh shit!” moments.
Above: Oh shit!
If you’re an obsessive collector, there are plenty of text and audio logs to snag out of the environment with your telekinesis beam, each one explaining a bit more of what went down before the marker was dug up. However, due to the constant flinging and shaking camera, some of these pickups (which include ammo and weapon upgrades) are damn near impossible to nab the first time through. True, you could go back through and get them all, but if you miss it again, say nine minutes into the level, do you really want to restart and try again?
But what a ride!
In case our main point was obscured by those complaints, we’re saying this: Extraction is a hell of a trip exactly once. It’s kind of pricey to pay $50 for a game that’s best played alone and only one time, but consider it a true interactive movie (at around 6-7 hours), and that’s a deal. Especially if you feel inclined to play again and experience all over again these unlucky people slowly losing their minds and suffering absolute misery throughout the game. It’s an awesomely compelling downer.
Above: Kind of like Cloverfield
Post-game, you can watch the motion comic or try out the challenge rooms (more shooting, obviously), which are nice extras but pale next to the nut-busting pandemonium that permeates the single-player adventure.
Is it better than…
Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles? Hell yes. Both flesh out their respective franchise’s backstory, but Extraction comes off as a genuine addition, not a stiffly recycled zombie parade. Gunplay, pacing and plot are all better.
House of the Dead: Overkill? Yes and no. Both have outstanding presentations and feel cooler and slicker than most other rail shooters, though Overkill lacks the “OMG” appeal. However, it is a better two-player experience and lends to repeated playthroughs. Choose this for more straightforward shooting.
Ghost Squad? Well yeah. These couldn’t be further apart in terms of production values, though in Squad’s defense it’s an arcade port meant to offer nothing more than guiltless blasting. Fun, but not deep at all.
Just for you, Metacritic!
The action may always be on a pre-set path, but like any good rollercoaster, Dead Space Extraction gets your heart racing and adrenaline pounding even though you have no control. A far more interesting and emotional take on the light gun scene.