2008 brought us one of survival horror's best, spanning the 360, PS3, and PC. I of course speak of Dead Space. The game wowed with incredible graphics, even better sound, a chilling, engrossing story and an immersive setting. The end result caught a lot of people off-guard. Perhaps what threw people for a bigger loop was that with even all of the critical acclaim, EA didn't immediately jump into a sequel. Instead they've delivered a special entry just for the Wii, Dead Space Extraction, which I didn't quite expect either. The original's Resident Evil 4-like control scheme would have worked well with the Wii. However, an undesirable retooling would then have been necessary. Thus, the Dead Space team opted for the rail-shooter format, much like Capcom did with Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles. Now before you start groaning over another rail-shooter, read on to learn why Extraction is one you should definitely play.
It was wise on EA's part to design Dead Space Extraction to be a prequel to the 2008 title, so Wii owners that don't possess other platforms can still enjoy the experience without prior knowledge. If you're not in that boat, Extraction is a real treat. Like the pre-release comics and animated film, DSE provides another excellent piece to the franchise's universe puzzle. The events take place immediately before those of the first game. Isaac Clarke may not play a role, but it's awesome to play as several different characters that work on the USG Ishimura deep-space mining ship. While excavating a planet in deep space, a mysterious alien artifact known as the Marker is found, with one having been discovered on Earth years ago. The relic is responsible for a religious movement in the future known as Unitology. The cult's influence reaches everywhere, so even against the will of big-wigs back on Earth, the Marker is removed. That's when everything goes to hell.
Unfortunately those involved are ignorant to the Marker's mysterious powers, and slowly decline into insanity, becoming suicida/homicidal. It gets worse. This artifact also holds the secret of an alien life that thrives on dead tissue, mutating and twisting corpses into reanimated horrors that want to kill anything and everything. You must try to survive. Extraction's story follows a group of characters from the planet's surface, to their escape to the Ishimura, and finally attempting a mass escape. It's a desperate struggle with many intense moments that has you clutching the remote and nunchuck, ready for the next onslaught of mutated necromorphs. Those who finished the first Dead Space can appreciate this game; you see some characters from before and familiar locations on-board the Ishimura. Plus, the animated comics are unlockable on the disc. They're an excellent addition for those who may have missed out on them.
Gameplay amounts to standard rail-shooting. Most of the time, the engine has total control over where the camera points, though its execution is actually done very well. It's convincingly realistic in regards to the characters' perspective. That said; don't play this if you're prone to motion sickness. The shaking can reach Cloverfield levels. Fortunately, the view steadies when you're faced with a heated battle. Some items are tough to retrieve since your advancement doesn't often stop, but therein lies some of the challenge.
Like Dead Space, you can have four weapons active simultaneously, one of which cannot be changed. It's actually one of the new weapons, the rivet gun. Keep in mind that most of this gear is derivative mining tools; you can imagine they weren't exactly expecting this conflict. Thankfully many of the weapons work well in creating intentional industrial accidents. The rivet gun is essentially your fallback, and as such not as powerful as others. The fire rate is slow, but it works in a pinch thanks to unlimited ammo. Every original Dead Space weapon is present, with some additions like the standard-issue P-SEC Pistol you saw security officers toting around, and the arc welder. These too have limited ammo, but must be found, so you must be alert at all times. Acquired guns can also replace any you have active on the fly, which is nice. Finally, a new melee weapon can be used with a shake of your nunchuk—great for holding back enemies that come to close for comfort.
Extraction also sets itself apart from the usual rail-shooter recipe, despite it featuring what you expect. Strategic dismemberment is still vital, because necromorphs aren't your average enemy. To take them down quickly and effectively, their limbs must be your target. Hopefully your accuracy is as potent as your trigger finger in taking on this challenge. Other abilities from Dead Space have also carried over, like stasis—temporarily slowing down fast enemies, and kinesis—grab far away objects and/or pick up and hurl things at oncoming mutants. The only problem is the aiming reticule. It bears a lot of important information, like your ammo count and available stasis packs. Unfortunately, this takes up a lot of room, making shooting enemies difficult at times because your view is obscured.
DSE also tosses occasional branching paths your way, but instead of being the game-changing feature EA and Visceral touted it to be, you merely have a shot at more items or a slightly different route to the same destination. It's still interesting though. Gesture gameplay is featured too, including functions such as shaking enemies off, and even glow sticks to illuminate dark areas. The latter is a particularly fun mechanic because it heightens the tension. You may feel frantic to shake during an ambush so you avoid becoming mincemeat. More on the traditional side is the option to play cooperatively; having help to eliminate necromorphs is always welcome.
Last but not least, Extraction was hyped pre-released for its visuals and sound. Technical limitations are obvious by now, but DSE really holds its own against a superior older brother. This is encouraging from the standpoint of a Wii game. Most of the textures are well-detailed, and the environments are nearly as intricate as before. Animations are also superb, especially the facial animations of the characters that tag along. Dead Space Extraction is certainly in the Wii's upper echelon. Screenshots don't do the game justice. The sound is also very good. This time more emphasis is put on the music, which was skillfully composed. The voice acting is well-done too, which is a comfort considering the game is packed with it.
Don't let the moniker of "it's just another rail-shooter" turn you away from Dead Space Extraction. Be that as it may, the game was built from the ground-up for a console experience rather than an arcade one. The result is a technically-impressive and engaging cinematic experience that's only possible in this fashion. The gameplay, characters, and story work so well in concert that it's hard to imagine Extraction differently. It's also fairly long for the genre represented, around six hours. Not to mention you won't find all the upgrades playing just once, and the challenge put your dismemberment skills to the test. Shooter fans, and especially those of the original Dead Space, have no reason to skip on this game. It's nice to see an original title arrive on Wii instead of another watered-down port. Extraction is great any way you slice it (pun intended).