Believe it or not, we bloomin' adore videogames. After all, that's why we're here. So, while our first love will always be Nintendo, we do occasionally dabble in other formats to help feed our insatiable appetites. Although it didn't appear on the Wii, there's considerable love for the original Dead Space at ONM Towers, and the arrival of this prequel was greeted with a fair few pints of communal anticipatory slobber.
For those of you too poor (or too loyal) to indulge in multiformat gaming, let us bring you up to speed. Released last year, the original game was a third person survival horror adventure in the Resident Evil 4 vein set in deep space on the mining vessel USG Ishimura. You played as Isaac Clarke, one member of a small salvage team responding to a distress signal from the ship. You arrive to find the entire crew slaughtered and the ship populated by disgruntled, peckish creatures known, enticingly, as necromorphs. It was an absolutely cracking game, boasting near-unbearable tension, brilliant sound design and some thrilling set pieces.
Off The Beaten Track
Plotwise, Extraction is a prequel, exploring the events leading up to the arrival of Isaac. The environments, weapons and enemies will all be familiar to fans of the original but the gameplay takes a very different tact. Rather than a full third person adventure, Extraction is being billed as a 'guided experience'. Yes, we groaned when we first heard that too. Surely that's nothing more than a cynical way of dressing up a quick on-rails knock-off? Well, as it turns out, the tag is actually rather apt.
While Extraction's core gameplay is basically that of an on-rails shooter, this is a long way from the throwaway arcade action of House Of The Dead. It plays more like an interactive movie, with you spending just as much time passively following the plot as you do feverishly dismembering necromorphs. And this is no bad thing. The series' narrative is engaging, well written and very creepy, even if it is essentially a fairly shameless assimilation of Alien and Event Horizon. This is actually one of very few games with a plot worth immersing yourself in. Extraction is a prequel, so no prior knowledge of the original is necessary. However, as fans of the series, we absolutely relished the chance to get stuck into the backstory.
Space For Improvement?
We'll get straight to the point. We really, really enjoyed what Extraction has to offer. When the action comes, it's fast, furious and very exciting. Not only that, but it successfully manages to throw off the shackles of the point and shoot genre and add some real meat to the gameplay. There's a good variety of weapons to collect, all with unique strengths and weakness. They each have different firing modes and can be upgraded, adding a nice strategic element to the carnage. You can temporarily slow down time with your stasis unit, while pressing A activates your tractor beam, allowing you to suck up power-ups or pick up debris to launch at enemies. You'll frequently find yourself alone in the dark, at which point a shake of the Remote ignites a glow stick to temporarily light your way, nicely ramping up the chills. There's branching paths to choose from, some epic boss fights, cooperative play and a fun challenge mode which sees you take on wave after wave of enemies in a frantic score chase.
Sure, its very nature dictates it's a dumbed down take on a sophisticated shooter but it's a classy, atmospheric and very exciting action title nonetheless, pipping Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles and House Of The Dead to the Wii's best blaster crown. However, despite their admirable effort to produce an on-rails game with real depth, we've still got to haul EA up for their lack of ambition. The Wii can clearly handle a full third person adventure so why take the shortcut? Give us a proper Dead Space game and we'll give you a gold award.