A Space Odyssey

User Rating: 8.5 | Dead Space: Extraction WII
I'm certain I'm not in the minority when I say that when I heard Dead Space was coming to Wii as an on-rails shooter, I was less than thrilled. My initial response was, "why?" The port of Resident Evil 4 made clear just how great a game like that could work on Wii, and it seemed to me – and a ton of other folks – a wasted opportunity to simply dumb down what was obviously already a great survival-horror experience.

Now the dust has settled and the critics have weighed in. I'm still reliant on my Wii for console gaming (though a PS3 will soon be sitting under our Christmas tree), so I said to myself, what the heck! Let's try this out and see what all the fuss is about.

I first have to praise the absolutely excellent writing. Both the story progression and dialogue are topnotch. Everything feels organic and realistic in the sense of believable character interaction, and the premise, itself, is extremely compelling. I simply cannot understand how the unlockable comic episodes could be so grossly underappreciated. To me, the comics offer so much in terms of back story, and they make a remarkable counterpart to the gameplay; play through a chapter or two of the game, watch a comic episode, then jump right back in for more exciting shooting.

And as far as on-rails adventures go – and this most certainly is an adventure, not merely another on-rails shooting fest – I can now see why it's hailed as "the best" on-rails shooter for Wii. The shooting feels great, with visceral feedback and sound effects emanating from the Wii Remote, and there is some very interesting, and satisfying, strategy to it all.

Unlike other on-rails shooters on Wii, you'll be using both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and every single element of both controllers is utilized to great effect. Your telekinetic ability (for grabbing objects and such) is executed with the A button, and firing off your weapon is mapped to the B button. You can use your secondary fire by turning the Wii Remote sideways, and utilizing the stasis ability and object tossing together make for some great gameplay moments. My personal favorite mechanic, though, is the Perfect Reload. You press the Z button to reload, but if you press the button again when the reload gauge hits a certain sweet spot, your weapon instantly reloads; it's something you really need to master in order to stay alive, even on the easiest difficulty setting.

You are, of course, rated at the end of each mission, and stats play into a star system that allows you to level up your character. You can increase your weapon capacity and max health, so there's plenty of incentive to do more than simply flail and spray ammo when necromorphs are around.

Extraction isn't just a cut above the rest when it comes to presentation, it kind of sets a new bar on Wii. There are still some effects and textures that remind you you're playing a Wii game, but for the most part, the visuals are truly impressive. The character models are admirable, but it's the overall moody setting of the game that really scores here. As much as I appreciate what they've done with the game, I still think they could have made a better looking game that was still scary had they opted for a cel-shaded look instead – just my personal opinion.

The voice acting is decent in-game, but I've heard better. The comic episodes, though, are as good as you'll hear anywhere in any game. The music, sound effects and general fidelity are all excellent, and seriously, no one could ding this game for its production.

I totally wrote Extraction off the second it was announced, and even when it was on its way to me from Gamefly, I figured I'd have a bit of shallow fun with it, but nothing more. I'm a believer now, and when I finally greet the next-gen (this Christmas), I look forward to experiencing the first game as well. This one, though, is now a definite buy for me. I can't imagine how they could have made it better. Folks are getting a lot of bang for their buck with Dead Space Extraction.