• Dead Space: Extraction review - Nintendo Wii

    It's a tough life being a miner in a videogame. You can pretty much guarantee that eventually you'll end up being attacked by space monsters, or crushed by a giant foot. In Dead Space: Extraction, it's the space monsters.

    This is a whole new take on the rail-shooter genre. Whilst most depend on constant manic action and a rapid trigger finger, Extraction is almost like a film in that there are short bursts of carnage, seamlessly interspersed with plot development, object manipulation and lengthy periods of tense build-up to the next shooting gallery. If it had to be a particular film, it would be Aliens, with a standard-issue space-base, few survivors, scrambling around in air vents with flame-throwers, character deficiencies and critters dropping out of the ceiling. So a great basis for a game then!

    Although the plot is fairly gripping, the real star of the show is the combat, so, whilst the tension-building down-time does work well on the first play through, there are several times when you will wish it would skip to the next action scene. Games like this are normally designed for repeat play, but playing through this again loses some of the appeal because the plot and dialogue isn't strong enough to counter the lack of action. It's recommended to play through on a harder difficulty level the first time through to get maximum tension (and thus enjoyment).

    Being a mining operation, initial weapons are rudimentary, albeit powerful, so taking out the weak-points on the attacking horde requires precision work with a rivet gun. To help slow some down whilst picking off their limbs, there's a per-enemy stasis gun always equipped, which recharges itself very gradually a careful aim is required to survive. As the plot progresses and introduces new characters, some of them become playable and weaponry opens up, allowing for military hardware as well as more imaginative mining equipment. Special mention goes to the Ripper, which works like a charm on the Wii. Holding a spinning blade and thrusting the remote in 3D to slice specific limbs is immensely satisfying. Each weapon can be rotated through 90 to work in a significantly different way, effectively doubling the weapon types. Trying out all the different options is a definite plus and switching between them in a fire-fight when about to run out is particularly exciting, especially when combined with the stasis running out. In this genre, control accuracy is essential; especially here, since individual limbs are shot at, so it's gratifying that the aiming is spot on, and when gravity affects some ammunition, it is clear how much offset is needed to be bang on.

    To keep you on your toes, various pickups are littered around the levels; weapon upgrades, new weapons, ammo, audio/text logs and health must all be grabbed as quickly as possible with a kinesis tool. This can also be used to pick up objects and throw them at enemies, especially useful if exploding charges are lying around. Grabbing all the power-ups in time is one of the best bits of the game because, with the camera moving around constantly, it's often quite tricky and sometimes they are only visible very briefly. Every now and then, there are zero-gravity sections that require you to launch across an area outside the ship. Combat mid-"air" is tricky with less camera movement and scenery whizzing by.

    Whilst the cinematic experience does well to keep you interested the first time around, the enemy variety is less compelling; Sin and Punishment 2 has more variety in just one stage than the whole of Extraction. Most of the enemies are seen in the first couple of chapters, with later chapters only really providing a small handful of boss battles and faster/fiercer versions of monsters seen earlier. This does become repetitive when they attack in ones and twos, but when the swarm becomes more intense, variety is forgotten and survival via quick shooting and even quicker thinking is all that matters. You will become lost in the dense shootouts, barely having time to marvel at the superb graphics, perfect soundtrack and perfect use of sound effects. A shame then, that these sections are left until the later chapters, because they represent some of the best gaming available anywhere.

    Playing through unlocks some nice animated comics and the challenge modes, which are wave-survival efforts with score multipliers. The challenges are well designed in terms of locations and waves, but whilst they definitely get the adrenaline pumping, they do emphasise the lack of monster variety again. If this doesn't bother you, then there's a whole lot of replay value.

    Fans of the original Dead Space should note that this is a prequel and will love seeing many familiar locations and weapons, as well as the overarching background plot being fleshed out. Anyone that likes rail shooters should give Extraction a shot, because whilst it doesn't always hit the spot, when it's on full throttle, it's a terrifying ride.

    Score: 7/10