When EA released Dead Space last year it set a new bar for the horror genre. Its blend of immersive storytelling and creepy atmosphere combined to create one of the best experiences of the holiday season. Fast forward to now and Visceral Games has returned to deliver an alternative way to get the origin story behind the mysterious events of the Ishimura and its crew. Amazingly enough this time around the core game behind the mystery is an entirely different experience from its predecessor. Extraction is an on-rails shooter on Nintendo’s motion-controlled console that manages to defy the laws of common videogame perception. One: a solid on-rails shooter and two: a Wii game that delivers incredible visuals and a truly engaging story that doesn’t feel tacked on. Dead Space Extraction is another example of how to make a solid game that takes advantage of the Wii’s strengths.
The best part about Extraction is that the fiction here is rich, even more so than the original game in most places. Instead of following one main protagonist throughout the campaign, you will assume the role of various characters as you uncover the events that lead up to the original game. The best part is that you never know who will be the next to die, including the character you are playing as. The story is presented in such a way that fans of the lore will not help but get excited. The plot plays out with a combination of audio logs, files and the traditional cut scene, and will have you glued to your seat throughout the entirety of the 6-8 hour campaign. I cannot stress enough how enjoyable the experience is if you are a fan of the series.
Being a rail shooter does give the game limitations, but it also gives the developers a chance to control the pace of the action. As I played through the game it felt like I was on a ride at an amusement park; something the genre always attempts to do and rarely achieves. The opening tutorial mission does a fantastic job of introducing you to the control scheme and giving you an idea of how things work. If you have never played a rail shooter this will be an experience. You have no direct control over where you go or what you see. Sure at times the game will give you a false sense of security and let you peruse the environment, but the majority of the time control lies in the hands of the developers.
Visceral Games uses this to their advantage to enhance the horror aspect. Unlike the original Dead Space when something moves out of the corner of your eye, you will be diverted to it in Extraction. Things the team wants you to see are always going to be right in front of you. Unfortunately that also takes some of the joy of exploration and feeling of being alone away. This changes the way you experience Extraction when compared to the original, but not in a way that makes it any less enjoyable. The devs have constructed a steady pace that keeps things interesting and action-packed from beginning to end. The core gameplay is broken up by small puzzles that integrate the Wii’s motion controls, but the core shooting is usually front and center the majority of the game.
Navigating the world of Dead Space using the Wii remote is a new experience. Instead of seeing your character you now have an onscreen cursor that you can target enemies with. All of the weapons from the original game make a comeback, as well as an alternate fire by holding the remote gangster style. You can also use telekinesis by tapping the A button to pick up objects, move obstructions or even deflect enemy attacks. As I mentioned earlier there are also a host of puzzles that can be solved using the Wii remote to guide your way through circuits and the return of stasis that allows you to slow down time. Once again the team at Visceral has done a great job of not using the Wii motion controls for the sake of doing it. Everything makes sense when it is used, and you never feel like it is a gimmick. Overall the game plays just as good as it looks.
Speaking of visuals the first thing that came to my mind when I started playing Extraction was, “is this really a Wii game?” The visuals are absolutely astonishing when compared to other games on the system, and it looks great running in 16×9 480p. Character animations look fantastic and the detail delivered from around the Ishimura is incredibly detailed. This is by far one of the best looking Wii games I have ever played, and it makes me even more ashamed of some of the crap that I see plaguing the system. The voice work is also extremely well done. The narrative is expertly written and the actors deliver incredible performances with just a hint of cheese from time to time. Environmental effects are well done, but still lack that audio punch that comes from the original game.
The most amazing thing about Dead Space Extraction is that even with everything working against it, it still rises above the challenge. It has been a long time since I was this engaged in a rail shooter. Visceral Games should be commended for two straight out-of-the-park hits, and it only makes me that much more excited for the inevitable Dead Space 2. If you are a fan of the lore, or just looking for a solid Wii title that breaks the proverbial family-time mold Extraction is the perfect game for you. I would recommend this to just about anyone who enjoys a solid action title and great narrative.