Dead Space: Extraction appears on the Nintendo Wii following the critical acclaim of its predecessor, Dead Space, which was released in 2008. However, unlike its predecessor, it has ditched the third-person action tag and instead moved towards the rail shooter genre. It's still very much about survival horror though, and it looks to expand further upon the already rich story of the Dead Space world.
Dead Space: Extraction is a prequel to the original title, and takes place around the same time as Dead Space: Downfall, the animated series. Initially it focuses on events at Aeris VII, and later moves to the USG Ishimura as the plot develops and it really helps to explain more about the Red Marker, Unitologist and indeed, the nature of the Necromorphs. To aid in the progression of the story, there is a main cast of four characters that create a good dynamic. However, there are many other characters that are encountered throughout the game, some of which are playable. This means that there is no set protagonist, and the perspective of play often switches depending on the situation.
It might sound a bit disjointed, but it actually works really well and enables for more specified dialogue that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. The story overall is solid, and has a good pacing. It also ends on the expected cliff-hanger, and it leaves some unanswered questions that will more than likely be explained in future titles. It really gives the sense that Dead Space truly is a franchise, but it definitely doesn't make this specific title seem light in any way. One specific reason for this is the return of audio files, video logs and text logs. Development of the story was taken seriously in this title, and it shows.
The gameplay in Dead Space: Extraction is pretty standard fare for the rail shooter genre. It's played out from a first-person perspective, and players just point at what they want to fire at, then pull the trigger. The controls are pretty simple though, and it's nice to actually find a game that doesn't try to overly-complicate things. On top of the generic firing, to perform the alternative fire, the Wii Remote must be tilted on its side. It feels a bit awkward at first, but after a while it feels quite intuitive, especially after the forced examples with the Rivet Gun.
Changing weapons is handled by the Nunchuck analogue stick, while reloading is performed using the Z button. It's also possible to do perfect reloads if the player has good enough timing. The C-Button controls the player's Statis move, which enables them to slow down enemies for a short period of time; perfect for dismembering them. Aside from that, the only other button is A, which controls the telekinesis-esque ability, used to grab pick-ups and more objects when required. All of the controls feel perfectly natural and refined, to make playing the game as easy as possible. It means that players can actually focus on the action, instead of worrying about what they have to be doing.
On the subject of action, this game is pretty intense. While it may seem relatively straightforward at the beginning of the game, things are vastly different towards the end. The game uses absolute aiming on weapons like the Rivet Gun, so there is no error adjustment for realism. This makes it perfect for dismembering the Necromorphs, which is the only way to truly defeat them. Unfortunately there isn't that much deviation in the enemies that appear in the game and killing them will start to feel quite routine. The bosses are quite unique though, but some of them do get a bit repetitive in their cycles. To beat one specific boss, the same set of pre-determined actions had to be carried out around 5-6 times and it did start to get a bit tedious.One of the main gameplay problems actually comes with the camera. Due to the increased number of enemies encountered later on, they don't all attack from the same angle, and the camera automatically changes its focus to target the enemy that it deems to be causing the biggest threat. It can get quite frustrating to line up a shot, only to have the camera move just as firing takes place. In Dead Space: Extraction, every shot counts, and the aiming needs to be quite specific - it's not something that enhances the gameplay.
There is a good amount of variety to be found in the weapons available, and none of them feel the same. The only real complaint about this is the lack of a) ammo capacity and b) ammo found around the levels. It would have been nice to experience some of the more imaginative weapons more often without the fear of not having enough ammo when they were actually needed, against a boss for example. It is possible to pick-up upgrades for the weapons though, which increases their performance as well as ammo capacity.
The graphics are pretty good, although some problems were encountered. Frame-rate drops were quite apparent when a lot was happening on screen, and a combination of the game's resolution and large crosshair meant that firing at enemies in the distance was quite challenging. The levels were generally well designed though, and the physics being displayed were definitely a high-point, especially during the parts that have zero gravity. It was extremely satisfying to shoot the tentacles off of a Necromorph, only to see them drift off into space. The voice acting is provided by some serious talent, and this is perhaps one of the reasons why the story is so engaging. There is a wide range of accents, but it only helps to make the cast seem more colourful and ironically, more unified.
One of the major downsides to the title though, comes with its length. The single player campaign can be completed in around 5 hours, and while it can be played co-operatively with a friend to add some replay value, it seems a bit short. It would have definitely been nice to be engaged by more of the story. The gameplay was also generally quite enjoyable and more environments, enemies, weapons and bosses would definitely have been welcome. To ease this slightly, there is plenty of bonus material in the form of digital comics that help to explain a bit more about the events that take place in the Dead Space world, as well as a Challenge Mode, which sees players aiming to set high scores in certain levels.
Dead Space: Extraction is a great addition to the Dead Space franchise from the perspective of its story telling. It's very engrossing and it's easy to invest interest in the great cast. However, the game's length is a real sore point, and while effort has been made to soften this with the addition of co-operative play, Challenge Mode and bonus digital comics, it just feels a bit underwhelming. There are also some problems with the gameplay that stop it being quite as enjoyable as it could be, which is a shame as all of the tools where there for this to be a huge hit. One things for certain though, Dead Space: Extraction is extremely gruesome and definitely deserves the hardcore tag.