Hyperbole is not uncommon on the back of video game boxes; claims that the game you hold in your very hands in the store is the “most exciting” or “mind-blowing” tend to be full of crap. For Dead Space: Extraction, EA studio Visceral Games went with “most cinematic action horror experience on Wii,” and for once a game’s bold claim is right on the money.
A prequel to last year’s excellent PS3/360/PC release Dead Space, Extraction takes place around the same time as the animated movie Dead Space: Downfall and immediately before the events of the original game. The fiction of the series is the stuff of campy space horror movies, but in a good way.
Taking place in the 26th century, mining colonists on the planet Aegis VII uncover a Red Marker, which happens to be one of the holiest relics of the large and somewhat powerful Church of Unitology cult. Bad things eventually start happening to the miners as people lose their minds and kill each other and themselves, reanimating into monstrous Necromorphs. A group of survivors of the colony disaster, our four heroes, eventually board the USG Ishimura, the “Planet Cracker” ship assigned to the Aegis VII operation, and predictably those pesky Necromorphs are making a mess of things up there too. It's campy but fun, like a really good B-movie.
Which is probably the best way to describe Dead Space: Extraction. By coupling strong storytelling with a deep understanding of the traditional rail shooter's key elements, Visceral has managed to create what so many developers strive for and fail in one way or another: an interactive movie. Unlike traditional genre fare like Ghost Squad and House of the Dead: Overkill, Extraction is heavily plot-driven; a little less than half of the story mode is character interaction and generally not shooting things, and if you get into the fiction you won’t really care that you spend a significant amount of time witnessing events unfold.
Capcom’s Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles is the closest anyone else has come to this new-school take on the genre, but it didn’t pull off the immersion like Extraction does; quick-time events, a constant HUD and short cutscenes broke the cinematic illusion, as did other game-y things like upgrading weapons outside of the missions. The closest to a QTE that Extraction comes is its melee attack, there’s no constant HUD (and the one that is there fits organically in the world via your RIG) and the camera never leaves the eyes of a character. Control over movement may be extremely limited, but in this case it adds to the storytelling.
There are twists and turns to the deeper-than-it-appears plot, and you’ll bounce between several different characters to see their story play out and, occasionally, end. There’s an underlying sense of dread as to who is going to make it out alive, if anyone, that adds a bit of welcome tension to the story. It’s not a scary experience, really; the rigid structure gives a sense of hand-holding that doesn’t convey the same fear that you can get from the original game, but there are still some spooky parts due to the game’s atmosphere and oft-tense combat.
And even though it’s on rails, Extraction still has points of wiggle room for movement. In zero gravity areas you occasionally have the choice as to where you want to jump, and every so often you’re given free (albeit timed) reign to look around you for ammo, weapons and other collectables.
Players use a Wiimote + nunchuck combo to kill dead things dead again. The only control surprise is the inclusion of active reload; hit to begin reloading, and another timely tap in the “active” zone will let you reload in about half the time. It’s not difficult to pull off, and each weapon has this zone in a slightly different spot to keep things interesting. The shake-to-see glow worm is only used in certain areas and stays illuminated longer than you’d expect; you’ll still have to give it a good waggle from time to time, but it doesn’t feel forced. You can also hook up a Zapper if you want, but there’s really little point — since you need to shake the nunchuck for melee, all you’d be doing is crippling your trigger and throwing off your aim by holding the large peripheral with one hand.
Steady aim is vital as Necromorphs won’t go down by just shooting them in the torso or head, instead requiring you to also blast off their limbs for the kill. Arms come off fairly easy, legs take a little more firepower, and usually isn’t a problem with one or two enemies coming at you. Increase their numbers, though, and combat gets hectic as you balance what you’re shooting, when and where. It’s a great twist on the usual fire-away combat and yields wonderfully gory results.
There are ten weapons available, each with an actually useful alternate fire mode used by tilting the remote sideways. Kinesis and Stasis abilities are included and remain fun to play around with; Stasis allows you to slow down enemies and environmental objects for some slow-mo blasting, and Kinesis lets you pick up items or grab and fling loose objects. If you could wield it in Dead Space, it’s here and just as fun to play around with. There’s a few new arms but the classics are really where the good stuff is, and you’ll need to learn how to properly wield each weapon if you’re to have any hope of success at the series’ trademark strategic dismemberment.
You have four weapon slots; one is permanently devoted to the basic, unlimited ammo Rivet gun, and other weapons are littered around the chapters. If you find one and all your slots are full, you need to ditch another that you won’t get back until you find it laying around somewhere again. Your RIG (mining suit, armor, what have you) can be upgraded by earning stars based on performance at the end of each chapter and weapon upgrades are also littered about the levels. The node-based upgrade system of the original has unfortunately been nixed here, taking some depth away with it.
Extraction’s atmosphere is wholly engrossing. Gorgeous lighting effects, fairly detailed character models and the rich, biological, rusty ship interior all make for one of the visually strongest third-party efforts on Wii. As in the original game, text, video and audio logs are scattered throughout the levels and fill in the murkier details of the story without breaking immersion. Characters manage to convey emotion in a believable way through their facial expressions and body language, which greatly helps the story’s credibility. There are a few spots where the game slows down, mostly if too much is going on at once, but these occasions aren’t all that common.
Sound, one of the best parts about the original, is put to excellent use here as well; hushed voices, piercing shrieks and haunting music really drives home the “oh $#!?” element Visceral is gunning for. The voice acting is convincing and better than your average game, horror or otherwise. Even the Wii remote's speaker is put to good use via the audio logs; it may not be the best quality, but it gets the job done well enough.
In what seems to have become a hallmark of the horror game genre, the script slips in awkward and occasionally cringe-worthy lines that you can’t help but wonder why someone would ever say such a thing. Language often takes a turn for the foul and can’t be censored; it’s not as over-the-top as House of the Dead: Overkill, but sensitive ears still might want to steer clear. The dialogue’s overall cheese factor is not nearly as bad as the early Resident Evil games, but every so often someone utters a line that makes you unintentionally giggle — just like in a schlocky B-movie.
Most importantly, the look and sound of Extraction make it feel like a real Dead Space game, albeit a lower-res one. Veterans of the HD original will recognize a lot of the areas and get a kick out of learning why, say, there’s a barricade in one of the rooms, or why the Ishimura’s defense cannons are offline. Those new to the series obviously won’t catch all this, but on the other hand you’ll be more knowledgeable going into Dead Space.
Your replay mileage of the main mode may vary, as it really depends on how much the story clicks with you considering you’ll be forced to sit through the same stretches of inactivity every time you want to go through any of the ten chapters. If it doesn’t hook you, your enjoyment of this mode will likely be over and done with by the end of the five-ish hour campaign. There are a total of four difficulties ranging from “normal” to “impossible,” two of which are unlocked once completing the story mode for the first time, but if you don’t want to sit through the story elements then you might not bother with a second go.
Outside of the story mode there are extra score-based challenges where waves of Necromorphs gun for you as you traverse a small stretch of a level. These do a nice job of extending Extraction’s lifespan as they don’t play out exactly the same as in the main chapters, and of course you can always rope in a second player to make things more fun and competitive or try to collect all of the upgrades and logs scattered throughout the chapters. Six motion comics are also included on the disc that lead up to the events of the game, which is a nice touch to round out the package and the story.
There may have been some initial resistance to Visceral’s decision to turn Dead Space into a rail shooter, but the final product is so well-crafted that you can’t help but be impressed by the level of quality it delivers. Extraction manages to come through on its promise of a cinematic experience by embracing the genre’s limitations and bending the expectations of what an on-rails game can and should do, all the while playing to the Wii’s strengths and pushing its technical abilities to new highs. While the main story mode may lack in longevity for some, Extraction is definitely worth experiencing at least once, and it’s a title that horror and shooter fans alike shouldn’t miss.
I never even heard of this. The atmosphere looks amazing. I think I'll check it out now. Very nice review.
I'll pick this up very soon looks awesome!
I've been playing this on and off over the past week, it's very accomplished for a first Wii title from the team. I also was sceptical of this title going down the on-rails route but it actually works really well... a blend of Resident Evil Chronicles gameplay within a Doom 3/Half-Life environment. Very decent.
I've completed it and thought it was a really good Wii game.
The graphics are mostly really nice, save a few boring looking muddy corridor/tunnel areas and some inconsistencies with the character shadows, but on the whole really good for Wii. The controls are fun and responsive for the most part and being able to shoot limbs off the enemies and use stasis to slow them down etc is always fun. The acting is ok and gets the job done. The basic shooter gameplay is fun and gets better as the game progresses and you get more weapons and more enemies to kill etc. You'll probably only play the main story mode once but the Challenge mode will likely give you reason to return, and the bonus motion comics are pretty cool too.
It really does feel more like an "interactive movie", in a good way, than pretty much any game I've ever played.
Overall I would give it an 8/10
Thorough review, and pretty much completes my decision to pick this up, probably near Halloween.
i like that you warned about swearing, in a game where people are constantly being dismembered and gutted before your eyes in the goriest ways possible. wouldn't want a few F-bombs to scare off the squeamish...
I think the gore element goes without saying.
I also need to get this game. Why don't I have more money ?
I really like it and will be happily starting chapter 3 tonight. It would be interesting if they adapted the story of the original game to use the same engine/format for the Wii...
Nice review Jon!
Out of all the game developers EA is the worst, not gonna support them so I give this one a miss.
Enjoying this too. I bought on impulse and have not regretted since! Great atmosphere, a story you actually want to watch and listen to as the game progresses and a slightly panicky feeling through each level as you see your more effective ammo dwindle rather too quickly for it's own good sometimes! But plenty of pick-ups around if you're quick on your Kinesis button. A well recommended purchase in my opinion for anyone wanting something a bit more adult-like on the Wii.
@roro44: If you just want to blow through the story once, yeah you can probably manage to do so on a rental.
Does that zombie have blades coming out of its hands? scary...
I loved the HD original on the 360, I can't wait to see how it plays as a on-rails shooter. Thanks to this lovely review I shall take the plunge soon. Thanks Jon
I loved Dead Space on the Xbox 360, so I'm looking foward to this one.
@Strofan7: It's October, man. Halloween is right around the corner. Do you hate timeliness?
Nice review. This game is great and I'll have to say that the actual gameplay on the Wii looks a lot better than what you might think of from the screenshots. Ie. those "lightbulb" helmets don't actually look like lightbulbs at all when playing
I played the original Dead Space on the PC and I'll probably have to replay it once I finish this game.
I really want to get this, but it's doubtful I'll pick it up immediantly, as a five hour campaign is a little short for full admission IMHO.
assuming the entirety of the game can be drop-in co-opped? that's my main purchasing factor
great review, I will be looking to grab this in a couple weeks when Toys R Us has their buy two get 1 free videogame sale
Great review Jon, glad to know the game turned out so well! Looks like it's getting good reviews everywhere so this might tempt me back into space after that whole Ishimura episode!
For those of who you want to know even more, last month's podcast had a very enlightening review with one of the producers of Dead Space Extraction and is well worth a listen!
I did Ch. 3 and 4 tonight, what a cracking yarn, but definitely not for the kiddies!
@expa0: You do realise that the developer is Visceral Games and EA is the publisher, right?
Every single game that has had the cursed EA-seal has sucked, at least of the ones I've played. Because of that and their sucky licenced games, never again I will buy another EA-product (Not that anyone cares).
Definitely picking this up when it drops in price. Great review!
Even with everyone here saying how amazing it is and how un-like traditional EA horror games it is, some would still refuse to buy it? Wow, such pride, robbing them of an enjoyable gaming experience.... sad story.
It's still a rail shooter. I'll buy it used and return it in 6 days, thank you.
@expa0 ea isn't the worst that goes to ubisoft and everyone been giving this game great scores hell even xplay that always trys to give wii games a 3out of 5 gave dead space a 4
There are vanishingly few publishers whose entire output is rubbish. EA have really upped the quality of their output with Boom Blox, My Sims (each subsequent game is getting better reception than its predecessor), sports titles and now this. I would never boycott a game publisher on the back of past experience alone simply because they're just packaging someone else's code!
I wasn't planning on getting this game, but it has been getting rave reviews all over the net so I will pick it up soon.
yup--got today. The first chapter reeked of "I'm soo, soo, soo glad I made this purchase!" Seriously--so engrossing from minute 1. Some of the best actual light-gun shooting action too.
Not my kinda thang, but i'm glad they've done a decent wii version of the series. Its been generally recieved well getting revw scores of between 84 - 90%.
Looks awesome. What's the ESRB rating?
M. A big, fat M. Oh yes, there is some language (the "f-bomb" is dropped more than once), but it should be pretty obvious it's M from the game's signature strategic dismemberment. So... it's not really a game for kids, to say the least.
Playing through this slowly, to savour it. Incredible game. We need more of this kinda stuff on the wii!
I'm playing through the Xbox 360 Dead Space, and it's been fantastic so far! I can't wait to play this one, too!
Great game, very cinematic with wonderfully detailed environments. Pick it up for Halloween!
I got this on Amazon for $19.99 with FREE Shipping!
For Black Friday, this game is 60% off at GameStop.
Started playing this game and am 1/3 of the way through. Have to say it's a great game, definitely worthy of a 9/10 rating. The story is deep, the extra materials are awesome, and the gameplay is very good as well. It's my first "on rails" shooter, so I'm getting used to it, but no complaints about gameplay at all. Definitely a great title and I hope EA brings more Dead Space titles to the Wii in the future.
I plan to pick this up once I get my hands on some cash. Great review, by the way...
Why on earth do you need to warn of bad language? I know censorship works that way, but are there honestly real people who enjoy games with this level of gore, but then gets offended at a couple of rude words? That disturbs me more than Dead Space itself!
Anyway, I've looked at many reviews for this game and I can't believe nobody has mentioned the diabolical camera work in a negative sense. Both me and my fiance found that the constant shaking and swerving around made us feel sick - and we play tons of games like this, for good periods of time, and never had a reaction like that, let alone both of us. And no, it's not the gore. The first Dead Space on Xbox is a lot worse, and it's not THAT kind of sick.
Not only that, the game emphasises accurate dismemberment of the enemies, and when you are playing with two players with enemies in the distance, this is difficult to achieve.
I could like this game, if they could present the cutscenes a tad more normally - this is what caused the motion sickness-type problem the most. (go into a room, LOOK IN 63 DIRECTIONS) Yeah, the game's immersive, it makes you feel like you have the Marker sickness as well. o.O
I was really sad about this as I loved the original Dead Space, and thought it would make a perfect co-op rail shooter. One of my biggest game disappointments in recent times.
$14.99 on clearance at Sears. Since there's a crapton of shovelware out there at this price, I figured at 15 bucks, this game was worth picking up.
Wow, what a game. Loved the original Dead Space and they did an awesome job of making DSE fit right in. The storyline is so compelling....it's what made me go from start to finish.
I haven't enjoyed an on rails game like this since Time Crisis on the PS1. Great characters, awesomely dense fictional universe, cool and creepy monsters. The heavy dialog creates a pretty slow pace for a shooter but I like that this games does it's own thing.
I was totally on board until I met the ending. Uhg.
It could have been so much better! I wish these writers had taken a course in story structure.
But, on the plus side, nice shirt.
Bought this one as a good Halloween treat for myself so I'll finally have a chance to experience DS in a little over week or so.
epic game and it's coming to the ps3
This was a great Wii game. It's like being in a R rated space horror movie. I recommend.
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