Game Review: Dead Space Extraction

Dead Space: Extraction

Continuing my opening theme of October zombies, we turn this time around to zombies of a different sort. Zombies are bad enough, but once you take our favorite little flesh-eaters and stick them on a space ship, you’re in for all sorts of bad news. This time I’m reviewing Dead Space: Extraction, a Wii-exclusive prequel to the popular Dead Space.

Alright, so to begin, in all honesty the bad guys aren’t “technically” zombies. The game refers to them as “Necromorphs”—various kinds of alien nasty evolved from dead human flesh. On a space ship. In space. So for all intents and purposes: space zombie. Fast-moving, wall-climbing, excessively hungry space zombies.

The game proceeds through the eyes of a number of different characters, all attempting to survive the madness that has befallen both the distant world of Aegis-7 and the massive planet-cracker ship “Ishimura” hovering in its orbit. Spoiler alert: Several don’t make it. Also, they’re apparently following the Star Trek “red shirt” philosophy on life span here, because if anyone who’s not one of the main four characters makes any appearance whatsoever, they’re pretty much destined for the great beyond.

Starting with the game itself, I want to say that the plot continues in the same vein as the first game. If you liked it, you still will. If not, well then why are you reading about this game anyways? At any rate, the story keeps you on your toes. Different characters have different motivations and there is the ever-looming worry of what big, dark and evil groups are constantly plotting behind your back. No true new developments are uncovered, though some old bits are fleshed out.

The game is a first-person rail shooter, and when it comes to the Wii, that generally makes me cringe. However, to my admitted surprise, the game works well with the concept. Dead Space was a game based on “strategic dismemberment” of your opponents—and it’s a concept that translates well to this arcade-style shooter.

The only problem is the same one that stalks every other aspect of the Wii: the bloody controller. The buttons and controls are simple enough and there’s a flow to the process of swapping one weapon for another to properly slice and dice your opponents, even in the heat of battle. However, for aiming purposes, if you don’t have a Wii-zapper, you might as well not even try. As I said, these zombies move very quickly and, especially in boss battles, you have to be very precise to do your damage right.

To steal a quote from my brother, if you choose to just use the Wii-mote and the nunchuck you’ll often find that your sights of you gun have this nasty little tendency to “flail around like a pregnant yak tripping on acid.” It isn’t pretty. So I hope you’ve either a much steadier arm than I, or have invested the pretty penny in a Wii-zapper (you have to be able to justify the purchase somehow).

Visually, the game’s at the higher end of the Wii’s capabilities. It may not be as pretty as its predecessor was, but as far as Wii games go, it looks quite pretty. In a dark, morbid sort of way. The atmosphere is engaging, and appropriately dark, creepy, and lonely—the perfect feeling for a derelict ship, slowly drifting through the infinite black. Shooting the various necromorphs is a very satisfying experience. The variety of weapons and the satisfyingly crunchy sounds of a job well done add to the realistic devastation of your assault.

The game is fairly short, though. If you’ve nothing else to do, you could probably beat it in a single day. At several points in the game, however, you are asked to choose between several different paths to take. All end up in the same spot, but each may have little surprises or tidbits of plot you may not have gotten otherwise, adding a little replayability to the campaign. The creators also thankfully played up on the arcade nature of the game and tossed in an arcade mode—just you and a buddy against waves of the undead, running and gunning for points.

My real beef with the game, however, has to do with the lighting. I understand the need for a creepy atmosphere. I accept that. But at points, you simply cannot see what you’re shooting at. Sure, you’re given a glowworm—essentially, a green glow stick—but you can only use it at certain times, and many of these aren’t battles. At other points, when you can barely see the railing in front of your face, it’s not available. So you’re left firing blindly off into the distance, hoping you’re lucky enough to land a few shots before a space zombie takes a healthy bite out of your face.

Then there’s the auto-targeting. Oh the auto-targeting. Enemies can come at you from various angles at the same time, but the game doesn’t let you turn yourself to deal with them how you see fit. Oh no, it tries to be helpful. God help us. Most of the time, I’ll admit, it’s not so bad. The camera focuses in on the closest enemy, you blast it, it’s dead. Good for you. However, if you get any sort of aerial combat—especially near the latter parts of the game, you’re royally shafted.

Either the camera focuses on every little enemy on the ground and completely ignores the flying beasty gradually taking chunks out of your hide, or it constantly twitches between the two, leaving you dizzied as your screen reddens with a series of unfortunate and unavoidable bludgeonings to your character’s head.

Overall, I have to say it’s a pretty good game, especially for the Wii. It has its problems, but the good outweighs the bad, and it’s a must have for any Dead Space fan. Plus, it’s an actually mature game for the Wii. I’d like to hope that means there’s more to come, but I suppose I shouldn’t hold my breath for that.

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars

~ by Chris G. on October 5, 2009.

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