While it was a modest hit, Dead Space – the most chilling horror game of 2008 – never got the high sales or status it deserved. It had an astonishingly filmic design thanks to the lack of loading screens and HUD, lots of nightmare fuel and loads of good ideas sure to be stolen by lesser games. And next month, the second game in the series – Dead Space: Extraction – will hit the Wii exclusively. Odd, since the first game skipped the Nintendo system altogether. From what we’ve played of the near-final game, though, Extraction promises to take the cinematic aspects of the series to a whole new level while changing what people think of light-gun games.
The term "light-gun game" is a bit reductive for what we played, even if the screens make it look like House of the Dead in space. That’s what we were prepared for as we went into the demo, waiting to see just how many of the zombie/alien necromorphs would keep popping up as we tried to reach arcadey high scores. But the level we played – the sixth out of the 10 chapters in the game – had some quiet moments and dialogue that made the moments of battle even more intense. Extraction seems just as interested in telling a story as it is in scaring you.
As we started the two-player mode alongside one of the developers, we dove right into the level – literally – as Chapter 6 began with four characters falling into the never-before-seen water- and waste-management system of the Ishimura. We played through the eyes Nathan McNeil – a detective on the ship when all hell broke loose – as he led three other survivors through the knee-high water. But don’t count on him always being the lead, since the the character you play as changes with nearly every chapter.
As we crept through the creepy, dank tunnels, enemies popped up without warning when we least expected it – like in the middle of dialogue. For an on-rails title, Extraction has way more conversation and drama than Virtua Cop, which was evident as the group argued amongst themselves and reacted to the danger around them. Even in single-player mode, Extraction’s group dynamic makes it clear that this won’t be the solitary experience that Dead Space was.
The level’s length was another difference from Extraction’s fixed-camera brothers. We completed the entire chapter, including the boss that wrapped it up, in nearly 30 minutes, and that was with an experienced player leading the way. That isn’t too far from how long most chapters in the original Dead Space would take to complete. The section we played is reportedly of comparable length to the other nine, which put to rest our concern that this is some two-hour-long quarter-eater.
That said, we do question how much replayability Extraction has; even with multiple branching paths in each level, we wonder how many times we’ll feel like watching the same events unfold in basically the same way. At least the devs have added a good deal more with the extras; after a chapter is beaten, you unlock a challenge mode, which works like a remix of a chapter’s areas and – unlike the single-player mode - is just about clearing out enemies and trying to get the high score. Additionally, Extraction also includes motion-comic versions of the six-issue Dead Space comic-book prequel miniseries, with full recorded dialogue.
With our fears of an undersized Dead Space experience assuaged by this play-through, we’re looking forward to being scared by Extraction (especially after seeing the extras). Though the controls were a little sensitive for us on the first go, as we just missed vital spots on the boss a little too often, they seem like they’ll be easy to get used to when we play Extraction from the start. And as we wait for its Sept. 29 release date, this Wii-exclusive spin-off has a little less to prove.
Aug 28, 2009