EA's Dead Space challenged survival horror preconceptions when it launched last year, boasting spectacular graphics, nail-biting action, and strategic dismemberment. EA was so confident of Dead Space's appeal that it began work on a Wii version even before the original game had shipped, and we got to finally try out the cooperative mode of Dead Space Extraction ahead of GamesCom.
The first thing we noticed about Extraction is that it has forgone the third-person view in favour of a first-person perspective, which comes as no surprise given that the game is an on-rails shooter. Despite the change, Dead Space has lost none of the tension and terror that made it so appealing to begin with--there are plenty of tense scenes filled with violent monsters. The original game replaced the traditional heads-up displays in favour of placing information onto protagonist Isaac Clarke's suit. Because Extraction is played from a first-person view, that approach isn't possible, and the HUDs have reappeared. In keeping with the minimalist ethos, however, you can switch these off to keep the clutter to a minimum. The second thing we noticed is the amount of graphical detail that has gone into the game, making it one of the most visually impressive games we've seen on the Wii so far. There are frighteningly realistic looking monsters, detailed environments, and great energy-based weapon effects, which all serve to give you a more visceral experience.
"If you've played the original Dead Space you're going to get a unique perspective on Extraction," producer Rich Briggs explains. "You can say 'Oh, that's why the ADS cannon is offline' or 'That's why a certain section of the Ishimura blew up.' Fans will get a different backstory, based on having played the original Dead Space," he said. Briggs also told us Extraction will have more intense "dementia" moments--when your character experiences vivid dreams, including distorted voices, shadows of nonexistent creatures, and creepy writing on the walls. Because you don't control the camera directly, EA can create tailor-made experiences in the hope of making things even more frightening than before. Extraction takes place on the Age of Seven mining colony, as well as the USG Ishimura orbiting above the planet. The game introduces you to a new cast of characters who will need to confront the horrors that lurk around every corner.
The gameplay, like most horror shooters, revolves around collecting weapons and items and then using them to kill necromorphs--Dead Space's terrifying alien monsters. Of course, it's not that simple, and balancing limited ammunition, reload times, and swarms of monsters is key to survival. The game also includes Dead Space's limb dismemberment and zero-gravity gameplay, while the Wii Remote offers some new ways to experience the universe. Turning the remote sideways activates an alternate fire option for your current weapon, while shaking it executes melee attacks. Recorded voice logs will also play through its internal speaker.
The demo we played was the one shown at Comic-Con, but this time it was cooperative play. The demo took place in the seventh level in the game (there are 10 in total), which is titled "Life and Death." We were introduced to a new playable character at the start of the level, scientist Dr. Howell, who gives a video update revealing that she has left the hydroponics bay and has taken the tram to the shuttle bay in her hope to find other survivors. Naturally, things don't go according to plan, and within moments you're faced with necromorphs. Extraction offers drop-in/drop-out cooperative play, and we went into battle with the help of a fellow games journalist.
The first area is a dark, cold room that contrasts with the warm glow of what appeared to be a furnace room below. Howell immediately suffered a bout of dementia, and before long, several necromorphs had appeared. We moved into a larger room packed with more necromorphs, which were bristling with sharp appendages that looked perfect for stabbing. Playing with a partner means you have some help when taking care of the enemies, and each player gets three stasis slots to freeze an enemy momentarily. You won't be able to share items such as health packs, however.
We eventually ran into another survivor on the Ishimura, called Lexine. While we don't know much about story yet, Briggs told us that her survival is of paramount importance. It appears that Lexine has come from a colony on the planet and is trying to find friends that she became separated from. Unfortunately for her, Howell informs Lexine that she saw her friends being attacked by necromorphs and didn't think they had survived. Howell agrees to help Lexine look for her friends on the condition that they then find a way off the ship.
Before making an escape, though, we had to confront a boss. Known as the brute, the huge bipedal monster required complex teamwork to defeat it. Like other enemies in Dead Space, the brute has yellow weak points on its joints. Our strategy involved waiting for the brute to charge us, freezing it just before impact, and then using regular firepower to weaken it. When you freeze the brute, the camera automatically moves around to its side, giving you the best angle to attack its exposed weak spots. You get only a small window of time before the stasis wears off, however, so you need to act quickly. It eventually became immobilised and fired venomous sacs at us. We then used our grabber tool to throw these back.
Dead Space Extraction will be unleashed in North America on September 29 and in Europe on October 2. For more information, check out our previous coverage and stay up to date with everything happening at GamesCom at gamescom.gamespot.com.