Dead Space Extraction
For: Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC
From: Visceral Games/EA
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood and gore,
intense violence, strong language)
By Billy O'Keefe
For the second time in as many years, developer Visceral Games has attempted to conform a genre to the needs of its fictional vision rather than
the other way around. And for the second time in two years, it pretty well knocks it out of the park.
Part of that has to do with what "Dead Space Extraction" is in relation to "Dead Space," the thoroughly polished third-person horror shooter that was among the class of the Xbox 360 and PS3 last year. "Extraction" isn't a port of that game, but instead a brand-new chapter in the fiction that details the run-up to the devastation that sets the stage of the first game.
The change in storytelling methodology is significant: The original "Space" had you traversing mostly alone through mostly quiet corridors, but "Extraction" regularly surrounds you with a crew and even has you playing as more than one character when the story necessitates a change of perspective. That amounts to a significant increase in character dialogue, and "Extraction" takes full advantage by developing several intriguing characters (yours included) and funneling the entire production through a spectacularly energetic first-person presentation.
That first-person viewpoint is a byproduct of "Extraction's" understanding of the limitations and possibilities brought forth by the Wii platform. But despite the fact that "Extraction" plays like an on-rails light gun game instead of the free-roaming third-person game that preceded it, the new perspective and approach ceases to feel like a concession once it becomes clear how little has been lost.
The deadly Necromorphs from "Space" return, and nothing about the encounters — from their attack intelligence to the spot-damage approach needed to put them down — feels dumbed down or scripted. The inventive weaponry also returns, alternate fire modes and all, and some of the guns (the disc ripper in particular) are more fun to use because of the immersive nature of the controls. Kinetic and stasis powers lay freely at your disposal, and opportunities to use them are no more contrived here than they ever were in "Space." The only real puzzle contrivance is an occasional hacking mini-game, but even that manages to be exciting once it ramps up the challenge and consequence.
About the only place "Extraction" feels compromised is in the upgrades department. Instead of leveling up your character and weaponry to best serve your attack style, the game assigns upgrades automatically based on your between-mission grades and the items you pick up (if you're quick enough) with your kinetic beam while the action rages on. The reflex test is great fun in its own right, but the lost flexibility merits mentioning all the same.
"Extraction's" main campaign is exciting enough in its own right to merit multiple playthroughs, but Visceral incentivizes things with four difficulty settings and a challenge mode that turns the missions into points-based high score pursuits. "Extraction" also supports two-player co-op, which is always a treat, but there's something to be said for going it alone — and maximizing the story's creep factor — the first time through.
(c) 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.