Extermination Hands-On

Sony has enlisted the help of the makers of Resident Evil to bring its entry in the survival-horror genre to the PlayStation 2. We recently had the chance to play Sony's panic action game.

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Developed by Deep Space, with executive producer Tokuro Fujiwara of Ghosts 'N Goblins and Resident Evil fame at the helm, Extermination is Sony's first attempt at the survival-horror genre. Labeled as a panic action game by Sony itself, Extermination should bring all the shock and gore of the Resident Evil series to the PS2.

The game beings in 2005, when the US Special Espionage Unit "Red Light" is assigned to investigate Fort Stewart, a secret US military base located on the South Pole. As the game opens, a cutscene explains that an emergency alarm was reported three days ago and no further transmissions have been received since. The Red Light team is sent to investigate, but unfortunately, the engine of the C-17E supply ship that was transporting the team to the South Pole exploded, scattering the team members and limited supplies of weapons and ammo in the area around the base. You assume the role of Dennis Riley, who is occasionally assisted by his close friend and partner Roger Grigman. Together you enter the secret base through one of the air ducts. As the game progresses, you'll discover other members of your team and work together to overcome the various obstacles in the game.

The primary weapon Dennis uses is a customizable SPR4 machine gun. There are four different customizable parts to the weapon--the mount scope, the RA parts, the RUS A parts and the RUS V parts. In this version, the mount scope can be switched between a laser sight and a zoom scope unit. You can also attach parts on the RUS V, which adds secondary function to the weapon, such as a flamethrower or a grenade launcher. Players press the circle button to use the machine gun and the square button for the secondary weapon. The ammo on the machine gun can be replenished by going to certain areas, though none were available in the demo version we played. You can also choose between single- or three-round bursts for the machine gun. Other than the machine gun, Dennis can also use a combat knife--you use the circle button for the weak attack and the square button for the strong attack. Pressing the circle button three times consecutively also allows for a knife combo attack.

The game basically plays through the third-person perspective. Like in Resident Evil, you hold down the R1 button to assume a firing stance and then use the action buttons to fire your weapon. Unlike in Resident Evil, the auto-targeting system is not very accurate, and it sometimes has problems lining up with targets. If you have a zoom scope attached in your SPR4, pressing the R2 button switches to a zoom scope mode, which is similar to using a long-range rifle. Since close combat is so difficult at this point, it's often better to snipe at targets rather than engage them directly.

Players can perform "region actions" through the use of the D-pad or analog stick and the X button. Depending on the situation, region actions vary from jumping, climbing, hanging on edges, jumping off and grabbing on to ledges, dodging attacks, or shaking off monsters. Simple actions, like jumping, are relatively easy to perform, while more complex actions, such as dodging an enemy attack, are more difficult. Additionally, the length of your jump is not predetermined, so you'll actually have to gauge each jump as you're leaping. Unfortunately, in this demo there were no areas where you had to jump a dangerous gap, so we were unable to see exactly how this system will work. Also, the X button is used for both jumping and picking up items, so control can become somewhat confusing at times.

In Resident Evil, you fought against zombies and mutants. In Extermination, you will be fighting against creatures of biomechanical origin. Though what happened at Fort Stewart is not known, what is known for sure is it has changed the entire base into a biomechanical monster farm. Players will encounter former colleagues who have been mutated, security systems shooting toxic material, and even radioactive spills on the floor that can cause damage if you stand in them. Of course, you can always expect to see the standard giant-sized grotesque boss creatures scattered throughout the game. Some creatures even shoot toxic acid that will slowly eat away at your skin--the acid will gradually decrease your health and eventually turn you into a monster unless you're able to reach a healing station. The demo version only included consumable healing agents, and it still isn't known if there will be an item that can rid you of the mutating acid.

The graphics in Extermination are quite impressive. The game maintains a smooth and constant frame rate, and the movements are smooth and fluid. The game uses a generous amount of motion blur, and the effect does a good job of making everything seem more realistic. Surprisingly, the game doesn't have many problems with camera angles, and it doesn't use many of the overly dramatic Resident Evil-style camera angles that hide the detail of the room. The backgrounds and environments in the game are rendered in real time with 3D polygons, and they look much better than the standard prerendered backgrounds of the Resident Evil series. The cutscenes in between the game's levels use CG movies, with voice-overs and subtitles in Japanese. Extermination is not meant to be another Resident Evil game, and it's geared toward the Hollywood action movie style. Thus, the sound effects and soundtrack are probably more over the top and less spooky than the dramatic sound effects used in Resident Evil.

Extermination may have been inspired by the Resident Evil series, but the game is more than just another Resident Evil clone. With solid graphics, an interesting premise, and refreshingly different gameplay, Extermination may succeed in setting a new standard for the genre. Extermination is scheduled for a March 8 release in Japan.

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