Dead Space was one of my favorite games in 2008. It combined a compelling story, quality first-person action, and some of the best ambience ever presented in a video game. Astoundingly, sales of the original simply did not reflect that title’s excellence. Fortunately, EA recognized what they had, regardless of sales, and has brought the experience to Wii. Rather than doing a simple port hack-job, the crew at EA’s in-house development studio, Visceral Games, distilled the essence of Dead Space, transitioning and tailoring the experience for Nintendo Wii. The result is a prequel that’s loaded with critical story elements, intense gameplay, thrills, and even some chills.
Because Dead Space: Extraction is a prequel, it fleshes out many of the details and events leading up to Dead Space. As such, any fan of the horror franchise really should play through this entry if only to familiarize themselves with the lore of the Markers and the underlying causes for not only the Necromorphs but the organization of humanity and the political and religious climate of the Dead Space setting. Like the original, a great story is told that will keep you engaged from start to finish.
Dead Space: Extraction is a “guided experience” – Visceral’s term for the on-rails game mechanic used throughout the title. While on-rails implies railroading and a less-than-deep gameplay experience, Extraction’s on-rails play is quite different. Not only do the developers allow you to choose branching paths through the story, but the locked camera angles provide for greater, cinematic story-telling and, at times, more chilling horror. After playing the game, it became readily apparent why Visceral coined the term “guided experience”, as on-rails connotes a stale and uninspired mechanic that simply does not encompass the breadth and depth of the experience presented in Extraction.
The major portion of the title is the game’s Story Mode. Players will have four different difficulties to play through. Rather than keeping you committed to just one difficulty throughout the story, the game is divided into chapters, so you can up the challenge at any time, or simply go back later and try your luck at a different setting. Play well enough and you’ll be rewarded with high scores, rating stars, and unlockables. Unlike many Wii games out there, you’ll find a lot of challenge in Extraction – EA really has brought a mature title to the platform, not only in terms of content but also in core gameplay.
While slicing through the limbs of bloodthirsty Necromorphs is a breeze with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, it can be trying with the Zapper peripheral. When not housed in the Zapper, the Wii Remote is held differently, allowing for the A button to come into play. Rather than using Z to pick up objects in the environment with Kinesis and Stasis, A is used and it is much more natural. This is also true of reloading and melee attacks – when using the Zapper it feels clunky. While I’m glad various control schemes were introduced, there’s really only one that brings out the best of gameplay.
Also on the control front, picking up ammo, upgrades, voice and text logs, and opening up supply crates is often a test. Collecting the vast amount of goodies strewn throughout levels is tricky business due to limited time and the lack of camera/movement control. The challenge is further heightened because all the while you’ll be mowing through Necromorphs, reloading your weapon, and activating environmental elements. The result is a frantic balancing act that amplifies the intensity of the gameplay experience in Story Mode.
While some may find this kind of action to be too much for their nervous systems to handle, I found it to be the kind of visceral, hardcore experience that made my palms sweat and my jaw hurt from clenched teeth. Regardless, I can see many Wii owners being intimidated by the gameplay. Also, other players who own multiple systems may never give the game a fair shake due to its Wii-exclusivity and the limitations of the platform that have shaped the direction of the title’s development. Nevertheless, Extraction’s Story Mode is a great offering that most who try it will love due to the stellar way the narrative and horror are presented and the satisfying gunplay.
As you work your way through the story, you’ll open up new weapons and upgrades and additional game modes and content. Challenge Mode is similar to what you might expect from a standard on-rails shooter such as The House of the Dead. This action-heavy mode will pit you against wave after wave of Necromorphs intent on bringing you down. You’ll earn points by slicing through each phase with well-placed, strategic dismemberment. Get through your foes efficiently and you’ll accrue point multipliers. Stay alive long enough and you’ll set point totals that’ll be difficult for your friends to beat.
Challenge Mode is a great mode for extending the play value of the game, it also will serve as a story-light, party-favorable gameplay experience. This is especially so when you consider the drop-in co-op aspect. A second player can hop in at any time by grabbing a Wii Remote and blasting away along side you. All chapters and stages feature this cooperative play element, and it even sports separate statistics tracking for each player is available for end of level/game comparisons.
In addition to Challenge Mode levels, players will also unlock extra content in the form of comic-like, cinematically-enhanced stills that further flesh out the story. While I loved this unlockable reward overall, I was a bit dismayed by the quality of the illustrations – they’re not bad, but they do appear as if they were hastily drawn on a napkin by a lone diner taking advantage of the lack of conversation by fleshing out a storyboard. Still, the dialogue and voice work presented as well as the zooming and editing breathe life into the drawings, making the overall experience quite appealing.
Graphically, the team at Visceral Games did an amazing job of bringing the outstanding, moody visuals of Dead Space to the less-powerful Wii. Though you’ll still find some jaggies and occasionally see creatures through solid walls, the visual experience is riveting – this is definitely in the upper echelon of Wii-specific titles out there. Likewise, the aural presentation that marked Dead Space is nicely captured in Extraction. The “panic-inducing audio” features excellent sound effects, quality voice acting, and eerie musical themes.
Dead Space: Extraction is everything EA promised Wii owners. Rather than getting a dumbed down experience, the developers were able to play to the console’s strengths, bringing an electric, scary, and polished mature entry to the platform. While I’m sure some will downplay the game’s excellence, it is a worthwhile title that non-Wii-owning fans of the franchise will be loathe to miss.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
This game is beautiful across the board. The team really took a lot of time to make it shine on Wii. Of course, the hardware is still limiting. I wish the extra content comic was more painstakingly drawn. 4.2 Control
The Wii Remote and Nunchuk configuration is very solid. Too bad the Zapper controls are such a step down! 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The eerie, terror-laden sound effects and musical themes are wonderful. The voice work is also quite good. 4.3
Visceral Games did a great job of bringing the Dead Space franchise to Wii. Fans of the series and mature Wii owners should really give this one a try. There’s lots of great gameplay that’s further extended by the Challenge Mode.
4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.