In [Dead] Space, no one can hear you scream
Dead Space Extraction is the prequel to 2008’s next generation survival horror game, Dead Space. For those of you unfamiliar with Dead Space, it’s a sci-fi themed survival horror game reminiscent of “Aliens,” “Event Horizon,” “The Thing,” and the more recent “Pandorum.” In the original Dead Space you play the part of Isaac Clarke, an engineer responding to a distress call from the USG Ishimura, an interstellar mining ship. The Ishimura is designed to literally crack open planets and asteroids so it can extract the precious minerals within them. Planet crackers like the Ishimura have over a thousand crew members and are supposed to be bustling with activity, but by the time Isaac docks with the Ishimura in the original Dead Space the ship appears to be deserted. Unfortunately, while most of the Ishimura’s human crew seems to be gone, there’s no shortage of deformed monstrosities called necromorphs stalking the decks and ventilation system of the Ishimura. Necromorphs are scary beyond belief and are exceptionally hard to kill. Unlike the venerable zombies of the 20th century, decapitation necromorph’s serves only to enrage necromorphs, not stop them. You’ve got to cut off several of their limbs and even then they’ll still wiggle their way towards you. It’s as gross as it sounds and why Dead Space and its prequel more than earn their mature ratings. In the original Dead Space Isaac pieces these facts together the hard way–coming across the occasional crewman’s log and dodging necromorphs in his attempts to get the hell off the Ishimura. Dead Space Extraction takes place 3 weeks before Isaac lands on the ruined and derelict Ishimura and tells the tale of how the Ishimura’s crew met their grizzly fate.
Walking a mile in someone else’s space boots:
Dead Space Extraction spins a wild tale within what’s traditionally been a very limiting gameplay genre–the on rails shooter. Good examples of traditional on rail shooters are Time Crisis by Namco and House of the Dead by Sega. The movements of your onscreen avatar are not in your control, but you do control what they shoot. On rail shooters can be pretty fun, albeit somewhat mindless. Shoot, reload, repeat. Dead Space Extraction elevates the genre with some of the highest production values to be found on the Nintendo Wii and certainly the strongest story found in any on rail shooter I’ve ever played. First, the story of Dead Space Extraction is told from the point of view of multiple characters, ranging from colonial miners early in the game, to scientists, soldiers and security officers later in the game. Second, the quality of the video and audio presentation compliments the story, with liberal use of a shaky camera effect and creepy sound effects. You feel like you’re looking through a character’s eyes as much or even more than most first person shooters which give you full control of character movement. It’s a very immersive effect that’s complimented further by the Wii’s unique motion controls. In the dark confines of a tunnel? Shake the Wii remote to activate a flare to light the way. Alien necromorph trying to chew off your face? Shake the Wii remote to knock it off you. You’ll pick up audio logs that you can hear by bringing the Wii remote to your ear like a cell phone. It’s immersive enough to make you forget that you’re on rails most of the time. At some points in the game you get to pick your path, but oddly those instances served to remind me that I was playing an on rails shooter, breaking the sense of immersion within that story chapter.
Dead Space Extraction is not without flaws, but they are somewhat minor in light of the total quality of the presentation. One thing you’ll notice about Extraction is the giant targeting reticle. It’s big enough to obscure some of the action on screen and is at odds with the amazing atmosphere the artists made for the game. It’s a co-op game, and should you opt to play with a friend, you’ll have to contend with two gigantic targeting reticles, which makes the experience more gamey and consequently less scary. Similarly, each character through which you view the game seems to be pretty handy with a mining laser or a military issued blaster, which may be par for the course in futuristic mining operations. But they are all equally adept at using telekinesis to grab objects as well as hitting necromorphs with temporal stasis blasts to slow them down long enough to strategically dismember them. So, while on the one hand the story is beautifully told through the point of view of several characters, on the other hand these characters all basically play the same. It would have been nice to have some character specific skills to add a little more variety to the gameplay, but I’m nitpicking.
But is it Scary?
Some reviewers didn’t think Dead Space Extraction was scary. I don’t think it’s as scary as the original Dead Space, but I definitely found my fair share of tense moments. I was tense enough that I found myself shooting at shadows and flickering lights. Extraction’s atmosphere is dark, claustrophobic and always creepy. You never feel at ease outside of the first few minutes of the game. Best of all, the story, script and voice acting are all top notch unlike the B movie dialogue found in most other on rails shooters adding to the immersion and the intensity. Trust me, when characters scream in Extraction, it’s invariably of the blood curdling variety. The game is co-op, and I definitely found it much less frightening with someone sitting next to me blasting aliens. So if you’re looking to scare yourself, then you might be best off playing through the story mode solo. It’s a fun co-op experience though, especially if you and you’re partner in crime are into sci-fi fantasy.
Trekking Across the Dead Space Multimedia Universe:
Dead Space Extraction is part of a growing Dead Space universe. In fact, Dead Space Extraction is not even the first prequel to the original Dead Space. Dead Space Downfall is a high quality animated feature length film and chronicles the final hours of the Ishimura’s crew. There’s also the Dead Space 6 issue comic book prequel, which you can find at your local comic shop, or better yet on the Dead Space Extraction game disc. That’s right, the 6 issue comic is an unlockable bonus on the game disc. It’s even better than the original comic because EA took the time to add professional voice talent, music and some motion to the comic. It’s great addition, and puts Dead Space Extraction down as a definite “buy” in my book. Dead Space Extraction can be found new for $30 at some game outlets, and with the included comic series it’s easily worth the money. It’s also one of very few adult themed games on the Wii. There’s nothing wrong with games like Mario Galaxy or movies like “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” for that matter. It’s just that sometimes you might be in the mood for “The Shining.” Dead Space Extraction does a great job of filling that horror niche on the Wii.
Dead Space Extraction is published by Electronic Arts, developed by Visceral Games and rated Mature. It earns its mature rating, with a lot of cursing. But wouldn’t you swear if you just saw your friend being eaten by necromorph?
FTC Advisory: I purchased a copy of this game. In addition, I don’t receive affiliate fees for anything purchased via links from my site.
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