Who knew an alien infestation could be so boring?

User Rating: 5 | Dead Space: Extraction WII
Dead Space was one of the more pleasant surprises of 2008 for me. The sci-fi nerd within me ate up the world and characters, while my horror-buff side adored the lighting and sound, and got easily immersed in the atmosphere. Sadly, neither of these two was very satisfied with the recently released Extraction.

The most glaring problem is, well, the game just isn't that scary. This doesn't lie in the 'guided experience' (light-gun shooter, for those who don't speak PR) setup of the game. No, in fact, a rail shooter is rather the ideal setup for a horror game. Since the team can limit exactly what you can see and when you can see it, it should be easy to build tension and deliver some really killer moments. Instead, Extraction relies on cheesy, boring and predictable creature pop-ups, only slightly more frightening than a ghost in a haunted house ride screaming Boo! It's a big step down from the sophisticated scares of the original, and the game suffers because of it.

So there's half of the Dead Space experience that Extraction's missing. But hey, there's still the story. Right?

On paper, it looks good; tell gamers what happened immediately after the marker was found, before all hell broke loose on the Ishimura. But Extraction suffers from the same catch-22 as many prequels: If you haven't played the original game, you're going to be totally lost. If you have, you already know exactly how it's going to end. Since none of the characters can survive Extraction, many are boring and clichéd, included only to be killed off later. The few who perhaps show some faint glimmer of true personality die cheap deaths, far before it can be properly developed.

That doesn't mean the story is thin; in fact, there's far too much of it. I'd estimate the amount of time spent listening to your characters chatter as opposed to the time spent shooting, or interacting with the game in any way, really, is about 5:1. Yeah. It doesn't help that all the conversations seem to be along the lines of 'Aaah, there are zombie/aliens after us, what's going on?'

The combat itself is excellent, though, and the mechanics used in the original game seem to work really well in this context. Necromorphs aren't your typical enemies; they can survive headless, and to kill them you'll have to shoot off their limbs. Without legs, the creatures have a hard time getting to you but without arms, they won't be able to do as much damage - the choice is yours. You still have Stasis (bullet-time) and Kinesis (think Gravity Gun) at your disposal, and they can be used to perform some really gruesome kills.

The arsenal is just as much fun as it was in the original, with all the old favourites like the Plasma Cutter and Flamethrower along with new selections, like the Rivet Gun. Every weapon has an alt-fire, each useful in specific scenarios. A small pet peeve of mine - to switch to alt-fire mode, you have to twist the Wii remote ninety degrees, which will screw up your aim. This isn't helped by the fact that your character seems to be the cinematographer from Cloverfield (a man who really does deserve to be ripped apart by aliens). That said there's not much challenge to be had. I played through the game solo, on Hard, without dying once. You're practically tripping over ammo and health pickups the entire time.

Extraction is quite the looker, and many of the locales from the original have been recreated faithfully on the Wii. Character animations and lighting in particular are great, though some of the enemies stutter on the transitions. There aren't as many great sound effects this time, and they're nowhere near as harrowing as they were in the original. Many of the characters have irritating, most likely invented accents that grate within the first few minutes.

Maybe, just maybe, a really devoted Dead Space fan could make something of the fractured narrative, audio/text logs, and amateur motion comics. Even still, Extraction feels strangely unfinished and most definitely disappointing. But hey, with Dead Space 2 in the works, maybe the game will finally get the sequel it deserves.