|System: PS3, Wii|
|Dev: Visceral Games|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: January 26, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Steve Haske
When Wii-exclusive Extraction first hit Nintendo's system back in 2009, much of Dead Space's mythology was still shrouded in mystery. Despite a straight-to-video prequel (showing Ishimura before the events of the original game), a comic mini-series (detailing the fall of Aegis VII), and Isaac Clarke's traumatizing journey through hell on board the ship itself, the narrative motivations of Unitology (and moreover why the church wanted the Marker in the first place) weren't revealed yet. Now it's 2011, Dead Space 2 has just come out and some details have been revealed—though not as many as you might think. Nevertheless, since Visceral has seen fit to re-release Extraction with Dead Space 2 and on PSN—complete with a slick new HD overhaul and Move compatibility—it's worth revisiting this early chapter in the series mythos, both from a technical standpoint as well as from a narrative one.
If you couldn't already tell from the screens here (or just didn't play Extraction for whatever reason), this isn't a survival horror game, but a light-gun shooter. (At the time of its development Visceral said they had built Extraction from the ground up to make use of the Wii's motion-sensing abilities, so a first-person perspective makes some sense.) Obviously, Extraction's design is equally as different, then, focusing on the intensity of combat (now somewhat retroactively reminiscent of Dead Space 2's combat design) rather than scares. Still, this is Dead Space— some scary parts are to be expected, even when the game is on-rails. Right? That depends on whether or not you've already played Extraction.
It's not that the game doesn't try. There are certainly some nail-biting events just by force of sheer numbers of enemies. But the nature of an on-rails game doesn't lend itself well to the kind of suspense and fear that the other games in the series do so well. Even with somewhat randomized enemy placement, the camera is generally pointing you in the right direction so it's less a question of where the necromorphs are and more one of whether or not you can kill them all before they kill you. It's still a stressful experience (or at least it will be for someone who hasn't played Extraction before), and for fans of the series, an entertaining one.
The narrative skews towards a different feel than the core games in the series, as well. The game initially takes place on Aegis VII, showing the immediate results of the Marker's excavation before four survivors escape to what they think is safety on the Ishimura. Although you spend most of the game playing as Nathan McNeill, a detective who was stationed on Aegis VII, later in the game the perspective shifts a few times to accommodate other characters, an interesting choice which I suspect was made to keep the script's events from feeling too homogenous.
Unlike the original Dead Space, which gave some context to what are obviously now Visceral's grander narrative intentions, Extraction's cast talks to each quite a bit. McNeill and the others try to cope with their worsening situation, sometimes comforting each other, sometimes fighting amongst themselves. It gives Extraction the feeling of a horror film with the typical band of survivors, and, much like the tonal change in design, it's gives the impression that you're waiting to see who's going to get picked off, and how, rather than seeing how everyone makes it. The next necromorph encounter is never far at hand, either, but thankfully Extraction's script doesn't succumb to too much of the expected—and actually has one of the most interesting moments in the whole series—unlike, say, the predictable script in a typified zombie film.