Review by nintendosega

"When the game actually works like it's supposed to, it ends up being one of the cooler horror games on the system"

Back when EA announced a Dead Space game was in development for Wii, nobody knew exactly what to expect, and its reveal as a rail shooter wasn't a decision originally greeted with open arms. I really didn't care either way; I couldn't stand the original Dead Space and its trial-and-error gameplay, painfully illegible text (on an SDTV) and wasn't a huge fan of its control scheme. So this so far Wii-exclusive prequel being on rails (the game automatically moves you forward while you control the shooting) actually removes many of the flaws (I found) with the original and keeps intact what it did well, which is its very creepy atmosphere.

What Works:

Even though I didn't expect to, I liked Dead Space Extraction. I hesitate to call this a light gun game because though it's on rails, it spends plenty of time showing characters standing around talking, there are sometimes big gaps between enemy encounters, and the emphasis on going for the limbs of your enemies instead of just shooting the crap out of everything makes this unlike any other light gun game I've ever played. Dead Space: Extraction puts most of its focus on some incredible visuals (for a Wii game,) as well as its story and characters, and a very creepy atmosphere complete with whispered voices and hallucinations, (a recurring theme in the Dead Space series,) blood on the walls and floor, and many other creepy touches. It's admittedly not nearly as creepy as the PS3/360 Dead Space but it definitely presents a scary/intense atmosphere.

Some annoying (and predictable) characters aside, the story's actually pretty cool, and the adventures both onboad and offboard the Ishimura are really compelling as these characters fight for their survival (and their sanity) as they fend off monsters in dark outer space settings. The voice acting I found to be pretty hit-or-miss, but it's certainly better than what you'll find in the Resident Evil rail shooters, as is the script.

Like most of these games, 2-player is where this excels, (as always on Wii, online play is apparently too much to ask for) and a second player can drop in and out whenever. As you progress through these levels you can pick up ammo, health packs, weapon upgrades, and even new weapons altogether. You can only hold 4 at a time (only 3 of which can be switched out) so you have to choose wisely. Some of these weapons, like a flamethrower and a gun that shoots a gigantic line across the screen, are really cool. There's also a skill you'll need to make use of, which freezes enemies in their tracks, and when the game's difficulty finally begins to ramp up towards the end, you'll need its help very frequently. Some cool mini-games, like riding a mine cart-like device and throwing explosives at trip mines before you hit them, make appearances from time to time. The game could definitely have used more of these, as they're a lot of fun and further set Dead Space: Extraction apart from its genre.

Another cool feature is that the game will from time to time go into segments where you'll have a limited time to look around the environment yourself (unheard of in a light gun game) and you can quickly move the camera anywhere in the room to look for any hidden secrets you may have missed. It's yet another innovative feature that hopefully the genre sees more of.

When in dark environments you must shake the Wii Remote to activate a glowstick, always a nice touch, and there are some cool electronic trace puzzles that are a lot of fun. Dead Space Extraction makes great use of the Wii remote and nunchuck for one of the most well thought out light gun games on the system.

The framerate can be sketchy at times, so while this is definitely not the smoothest rail shooter on the Wii (that award goes to Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles) this still runs a lot better than, for example, House of the Dead: Overkill.

Dead Space Extraction is one of the more unique (and best-looking) games on the Wii system, and I'd easily recommend this to all Wii owners looking for some fun lightgun action except for some pretty big flaws that nearly sink the game.

What Doesn't Work:

First of all, it's pretty short. And while a short length isn't necessarily a dealbreaker on its own for me, Extraction feels like it's missing a last act. It's one of those games where a character says, "glad it's over." And you're thinking, "no it's not," and, surprise, it actually is. The ending comes pretty much out of nowhere, with the final boss just being another version of an enemy you've fought already and there's very little sense of any closure. I realize they're trying to craft a big "world" around this series (they've already got comics, a potential movie, anime, the upcoming Dead Space 2, etc.) but that doesn't mean that each game shouldn't feel like its own complete installment.

The game's also insultingly easy at times, even on Hard mode (there are "harder" modes available, but in what's becoming an increasingly annoying trend in gaming, those aren't unlocked until you've beaten the game,) and while the last 2-3 chapters finally provide a fitting challenge, the rest of the game feels like you can almost play through it with your eyes closed, which is a bit disappointing.

But the flaw that made me downgrade this from a potential "8/10" is the game's tendency to freeze. I've never had a game do this before. Occasional game freezes, while probably the most annoying thing that can happen when playing a video game, are probably unavoidable with disc-based entertainment, but Dead Space: Extraction literally makes an obstacle out of it. The game unfortunately doesn't save during chapters, only after them. And we're talking some 15-20 minute chapters here. And so when the game freezes on me (which it did in 2 out of the 4 play sessions it took us to beat it...50% of the time, in other words) it's even more discouraging due to the need to repeat large portions of the game again, hoping it won't once again lock up. And I really don't think it's the Wii, because in the middle of playing this we also started and completed Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles, sometimes playing it for hours at a time, and that game never even once froze on me.

Nothing says "buzzkill" quite like having a room full of people excitedly watching/playing the very entertaining and intense Dead Space:Extraction like it's a horror movie and then having the game suddenly freeze in the middle of a level, causing the speakers on the TV to emit a loud, shrieking noise that's easily scarier than anything in the game. To the game's credit, I guess, it makes entering doors scarier, as you're never sure if the game will freeze during the process. And every time the iffy framerate causes the game to briefly stutter during gameplay, there's actually a terrifying sense of "OH SH.....phew. Okay...never mind. Didn't freeze," throughout the room. Probably not quite the feeling the developers were shooting for.

Verdict:

Alright, on that note, it's probably a good time to wrap this review up. The game's a lot of fun. The atmosphere's incredibly scary and surprisingly nice-looking for a Wii game. Framerate sometimes suffers as a result but it's not game-breaking; what is is Dead Space: Extraction's unfortunate tendency to lock up during gameplay, a flaw that drags the game down into the 7's, as does a very abrupt and anti-climactic ending. Still, when the game's actually working right, it's a pretty great experience overall and one of the more unique light gun games on the system. I wouldn't recommend it for $50, but Dead Space: Extraction's got a lot going for it and will hopefully be used as a map for the genre going forward.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/14/09

Game Release: Dead Space: Extraction (US, 09/29/09)


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