Dead Space: Extraction - A Retrospective Review
Dead Space on the Nintendo Wii was a tough sell in the first place. This was a console that was associated with cute animals and tubby Italian plumbers, not murderous aliens. Then, there was the fact that a new game had to be created; Dead Space simply wasn't going to run on the Wii. In addition to all of this was a general mood from a good number of fans, I imagine, that this was simply EA attempting to cash-in on a large number of gamers that hadn't played Dead Space yet.
Upon its release in 2009, Dead Space: Extraction sold terribly. Poor retail figures upon its release made for a less than stellar opening week. Even a HD port released on the Playstation 3 two years later, and bundled with Dead Space 2, has not done much to alter the success of this prequel.
But was Dead Space: Extraction any good? It wasn't just good, in fact, it rivalled the original game in terms of elevating a genre. In contrast to Dead Space's third-person shooter perspective, Extraction is instead a first-person, on-rails, light-gun game. Rather than just make a bland arcade shooter however, Visceral Games instead went the other way, emphasizing the cinematic qualities that were present in the original game whilst tying them to a fun, responsive shooter experience.
Dead On Arrival
As a result, Dead Space: Extraction works much like an interactive movie. The pacing is spot-on, with the story taking place shortly before the events of the original game. Whereas in Dead Space we had to piece together the fate of the crew aboard the U.S.G. Ishimura, and the colony on Aegis VII, here we got to see it unfold right before us. The game's second chapter for example, saw the Necromorph infection devastate the entire central square of the Aegis VII colony, as survivors attempt to scramble to safety. By doing so Visceral Games managed to keep players who had played the original engaged: we'd never seen the aliens in these numbers.
Rather than just tie us down to one character, the developers instead had each chapter hop between a collective band of survivors, which again helped the plot maintain a great level of pace. Perhaps the most disconcerting moment is when you're left controlling Detective Nathan McNeil, who's armed with nothing but a P-Sec pistol. "How is this thing going to help" you think to yourself, as he and a colleague are lead to investigate a strange disturbance in the medical bay, shortly before the outbreak begins in earnest. And the best thing is, the gun is useless, it takes an entire clip to tear off even one Necromorph limb, but by leaving you with nothing else (minus a melee attack, and the ponderous Rivet Gun) we realize just why so few people survived the initial epidemic: not many would have been fortunate to have a Plasma Cutter handy.
And what happens when you get that Plasma Cutter? It works just as you'd expect it to. Turning the Wii-Mote on its side rotates the beam by 90 degrees, allowing the traditional alien amputations to commence. Of course, all of the other weapons have made it over as well, even though some don't function quite as well in the different perspective, such as the Ripper.
Still, it's commendable just how much power Visceral Games manages to get out of the Wii. Even the console's other features were taken into account, such as shaking the remote to mimic lighting a glow-stick, or having the audio logs actually be spoken through the built-in speaker on the controller. What's more, they took the effort to explore some areas that weren't unveiled in the original game, such as Aegis VII's sewer system: possibly the worst place to get stuck with a Necromorph.
To say how different it functioned from the first Dead Space, many of its problems are rather similar. Enemy variety still remained a weak point; a lot of the creatures don't seem all that different from each other, and Extraction's more action-oriented focus seems to make this more apparent. Then, there's the boss fights, they were surprisingly thin on the ground in the first game, and while they weren't necessarily worse on the Wii, they suffered from a similar lack of interesting monster design - all writhing tentacles and glowing yellow weak spots.
Despite that Dead Space: Extraction still remains one of the best games on the Wii that nobody played. Maybe it was a rather poor decision on EA's part to market such a game for this type of console, but there's always that niggle in the back of the mind that makes you wonder just what would the series have looked like had the spinoff become a hit in its own right.
Dead Space: Extraction was released in 2009 for the Nintendo Wii.
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