I loved Dead Space, the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC horror game that EA released towards the end of 2008. It combined stunning presentation, creepy gameplay and some neat mechanics to earn itself a worthy place in our top 10 games of 2008 list. So, when EA announced that the franchise would be coming to Wii, I got a bit excited. Then I found out it was to be an on-rails shooter and, well, I lost some of that enthusiasm. It's not that I don't like on-rails shooters, but I wanted a proper Dead Space game on Nintendo's console. The good news is that despite being a glorified light gun game, EA has delivered a proper Dead Space experience, and one of the most technically impressive Wii games to boot.
Extraction begins three weeks before the events of last year's game, which saw the USG Ishimura mining ship infested with violent aliens, and engineer Isaac Clarke attempting to survive after a routine repair mission went terribly wrong. Here the action focuses on four colonists on Aegis VII as they attempt to survive as others lose their heads - figuratively and literally. Things begin when a religious relic is found, but before the workers on the colony have had a chance to do so much as take a peek, all hell breaks loose: people start killing each other, and strange aliens appear - with a desire to slice you and all other lifeforms to pieces. It turns out that these Necromorphs, the very same aliens seen in the next-gen game, were in fact humans. It's a gripping tale, told with the kind of high quality cutscenes and voice acting that's not the norm on the Wii. And it's bloody violent too, with limbs flying within the first few minutes of play.
Much like SEGA's recent House of the Dead: Overkill, Extraction is on-rails but does more than simply copy the formula laid out by the classic arcade games of the 90s. The pace is superb, with the characters moving through the game world in a believable way, reacting to what's going on and giving the impression that you're more in control than you really are. The basics are very simple: point and shoot, either with a Wii Remote or with the Remote inside one of the many gun peripherals. There's more to it than that, though, with four weapon slots to manage (one being taken by the compulsory Rivet Gun), alien body parts to target (blast the legs off first, then go for the head), items to picks up all over the place, branching paths and the occasional free-look moment.
Weapons range from the limb-severing Plasma Cutter and the wider slicing Line Gun, to the electricity-spewing Arc Welder and the awesome Flamethrower. The weapon variety is great, and it's often hard to decide what to give up in favour of something new. Each gun also has a secondary fire, activated by twisting the Wii Remote 90 degrees, and there's a handy melee attack mapped to a thrust of the Nunchuck. For experts, there's even a Gears of War-style fast reload system, requiring two carefully timed presses of the reload button. Just as in the original game, you have the ability to use Stasis to slow down objects or enemies (which comes in handy when charged), and use Kinesis to grab and move objects.
In addition to these attacks and powers, you also have to shake the Wii Remote to charge up Glow Worm sticks to light your path, and interact with the occasional computer terminal by clicking on the interface and choosing which route to take. While seemingly minor things, these touches help the game to feel like a real evolution of the on-rails shooter. It's a far longer game than your average arcade light gun romp, too, clocking in at six to eight hours depending on how many times you die during the more tricky sections. There's even two-player co-op, which isn't anything special given you're just moving an extra cursor on the screen, but it's still a solid inclusion.
More so than any other on-rails shooter I've played, Extraction gets under your skin. I'm used to having to blast away a room full of incoming zombies, but the Necromorphs come at you in an unnerving way, shuffling from side to side, and it's easy to lose your cool. Blast a few shots into thin air and miss your timed reload and all of a sudden one of the abominations is laying into you with some kind of giant mutated crab-like claw.
EA has packed in loads of extra content too, including a challenge mode and some great video comic books, complete with voice acting. These are unlocked as you work through the campaign and are well worth taking a look at - offering the kind of added value that pointless character drawings and concept art can only dream of.
I've already touched on the presentation, but it's worth repeating just how great Dead Space: Extraction looks and sounds. The on-rails nature of the gameplay has no doubt allowed developer Eurocom (probably most well known for 2002's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) to get more out of the Wii hardware than if it had needed to create a fully interactive 3D world, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this is one of the most detailed, atmospheric games on the console. The audio is superb, too, scaring you even if there's nothing to be scared of, and creeping you out at every opportunity. Some of the voice acting comes across as a tad wooden, but for the most part it's easily on a par with the best heard in top class next-gen releases.
Dead Space: Extraction had me a little worried. I wanted to believe the experience would translate well to an on-rails shooter, but wasn't all that confident. I was concerned that the spectacular visuals, undoubtedly a key feature of the next-gen game, would suffer terribly on the Wii, and that we'd get another half-arsed game that clung onto motion controls as if that alone were all that's needed. I needn't have been so pessimistic, though, as Extraction stands shoulder to shoulder with SEGA's Overkill as a great example of the modern on-rails shooter, showing just what the Wii's capable of when developers put their minds to it.