Dead Space Extraction Updated Impressions

We head deeper into the USG Ishimura in our latest hands-on look at EA's Wii-exclusive sci-fi horror game.

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The bad news only gets worse for the USG Ishimura in the upcoming Wii-exclusive Dead Space Extraction from EA's Visceral Games development studio. This platform-exclusive survival horror game functions as both a prequel and side story to the acclaimed Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 original. We've seen the game a number of times so far (most recently, at GamesCom 2009), and yesterday, EA dropped by with an updated build of the game to show off a new level and give GameSpot an exclusive peek at the first boss in the game.

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The sixth chapter in the game takes place in the sewers of the USG Ishimura, where you'll play as Nathan McNeil, a security officer who will be responsible for escorting fellow survivors to safety. The chapter opens up with the quartet falling into the water system and being swept through a section of tunnels courtesy of some nasty-looking sewer water. Eventually, the four end up in a pool of standing water; they're chilly, on edge, and aware of the fact that things are about to get much worse.

Thus begins your tour of the Ishimura's sewer system, which involves a long snaking exploration full of alien Necromorphs to dismember and includes an encounter with a previously unseen Necromorph type known as the "water creep." Picture a long-stemmed flower rising out of the sewer mulch--only the stem of this rose is made out of thick, rotted Necromorph flesh and its bloom is a bloody mess of fangs and gore--and you'll have a decent idea of what a water creep looks like. They're slender and whip around quickly in the air, so they can be tough to hit with your weapon. An effective tactic is to use your stasis beam to temporarily freeze them, giving you enough time to take them out with a well-placed blast to the head.

Extraction is a rail shooter, which means you won't have much control over which way your character goes. That said, there are periodic points in each chapter where you can take a quick look around (ideal for picking up collectibles like audio and text logs or refilling your health and ammo supplies with pickups). In addition, you'll find the occasional branching path that will let you choose one direction or another. From what we saw, it looks like these branching paths end up in the same spot in the long run, though producers did say that you might miss out on an upgrade or collectible by taking one path over another (which just gives you an excuse to play a level over again). There are also sections where you'll run up against stiff defense from multiple waves of Necromorphs--some of which fire explosives at you. An effective way to take them down is to catch the explosive in midair using your telekinesis powers and fire it back at the bad guys.

About midway through the level, the group is separated when Lexine Murdoch--a surveyor from the Aegis VII colony--is attacked by number of swarm Necormorphs and falls into a vat of water. You dive in after her, but she's gone and presumed dead--and you'll discover her fate in the next chapter of the game. Incidentally, this chapter also introduces Dr. Karen Howell, Chief Botanist of the Ishimura, a character the player will control in the next chapter in the game.

Eventually, the group--now reduced to a trio with Murdoch's disappearance--makes its way through the sewer tunnels, encountering a strange hazy Necromorph mist that causes dementia along the way until the trio finally happens upon a huge open room. It doesn't take much experience with survival horror games to tell you that "big open room" equals "big ugly boss to fight" in short order. And sure enough, after a brief encounter with another of th Ishimura's crew, the big baddy appears--a four-tentacled monstrosity with a huge reach and bad intentions.

The law requires me to inform you, gigantic four-tentacled sewer beast, that I am armed with a pistol.
The law requires me to inform you, gigantic four-tentacled sewer beast, that I am armed with a pistol.

You'll need precise aim and a little creativity to take down this grotesque boss--you'll fire your weapon at a sensitive spot at the end of each of its tentacles to temporarily stun it. On either side of the room, you'll find huge industrial fans that will turn out to be effective for battling the boss. Using your stasis beam, you can temporarily freeze the fan blades and climb in behind the fans. With a little luck, the monster will send in a tentacle after you, and once the stasis wears off and the fans return to full speed, it will hack that tentacle to bits. You'll repeat that process for one more tentacle, then return to the water and use your telekinetic powers to toss barrels at the monster, blasting off its remaining pair of arms. As for its final evolution, if you've got the arc-welder handy (one of several new weapons in the game), you'll find it very effective--what with the whole electricity and water thing happening.

At the end of a chapter, you'll get a wrap-up of how you performed during the level, which will track such things as damage taken, med packs used, and puzzle failures, as well as number of shots fired, enemies killed, dismemberments, and more. If you've played a level cooperatively, a bar will also appear, showing which player contributed more to the level's success.

We've seen a lot of Extraction so far, and the game's grim atmosphere and impressive visuals continues to impress. The rail-shooter gameplay seems like a necessary evil considering the Wii's technical limitations, and that lack of player control might actually work in the game's favor by giving the developers a chance to better script payoff moments that might be missed in a more open game. We'll find out if Visceral manages to match the sustained tension of the brilliant original game when Extraction is released on the Nintendo Wii on September 29.

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