…a surprisingly complete Dead Space experience on the Wii. Other than a switch from a third-person to a first-person on-rail shooter, Visceral Games compromised very little in bringing their survival horror franchise to the Wii. Extraction serves as a prequel to Dead Space. The story revolves around a group of space colonists from the Aegis VII colony who are fighting against the infection of Necromorphs created when the Red Marker was removed. You’ll experience the evolving terror from the perspective of four playable characters which, spoilers aside, leads to twists and turns not often possible or nearly as effective in games featuring a single playable protagonist.
Whether you choose to go with the default Wii Remote/Nunchuk combo or hook up a Wii Zapper, the controls are responsive and well organized. There’s very little “waggle” going on with the exception of charging a Glow Worm or fending off face-to-face encounters with enemies, and the less “waggle” the better. The arsenal has expanded to include a security-issue P-Sec Pistol; the Arc Welder, a tool that fires a stream of electricity capable of arcing to nearby enemies; and a Rivet Gun, the go-to tool when you need to solder connections and circuits around the ship. Returning abilities include the time-stopping Stasis and the ability to grab, hold and throw objects using Kinesis. You’ll even get to lace up your gravity boots again for a few instances of zero-G, though such sections aren’t quite as thrilling as the original Dead Space since the oxygen in your suit is unlimited.
Considering first- and third-person shooters have been hit and mostly miss on the Wii, it was an excellent decision to take Extraction on-rail. It’s a little too shaky-cam at times and the scare tactics aren’t quite as emphatic as I’m sure the developers would have liked, perhaps due in some part to the limitations of the console, but ultimately the on-rail perspective provides a solid base for the limb-dismembering action and serves well in presenting this compelling tale. Besides the Story mode, there’s a Challenge mode where you’ll earn points fighting off wave after wave of Necromorphs. All of the chapters and stages from the Story and Challenge modes support split-screen co-op for instant drop-in play. Co-op works well for Challenges but I’m not sure the Story mode benefits from having a second player present. It’s better experienced alone in the dark.
What Doesn’t Work
Dead Space: Extraction takes place in a very dark world, and I mean that quite literally. I had to boost the brightness up a couple of notches and I still found some the environments to be ill-lighted. You can use a Glow Worm – a phosphorescent light, which you charge by shaking the Wii Remote – to illuminate your immediate surroundings, but you only have access to it in designated areas. I don’t understand why you can’t use a Glow Worm any time you feel it’s too dark. Trust me, they’ll be plenty of times when you won’t be able to see enemies until it’s too late and they’re right on top of you. If the developers were worried players would use a Glow Worm all the time, it could have been made part of the inventory system. As it stands, it makes little sense why you can use a Glow Worm in certain areas and not others. In addition, if you’re using the Wii Zapper setup, it’s a little awkward to have to shake your weapon to activate a Glow Worm. Shaking the Nunchuk would have made much more sense.
The way you pick up ammunition, weapon upgrades, med packs, audio logs and other items is by using Kinesis. This works perfectly well on the odd occasion when you’re given the freedom to look around and investigate your surroundings, but when the on-rail camera shakes around it becomes a different story. At times the camera will pan around to reveal an item, only to quickly pan back before you have any chance to pick it up. It’s frustrating when you're low on ammunition and you don't have nearly enough time to pick any up. Soon enough you’ll be constantly pressing the Kinesis button just in case there’s an item to pick up, and that's just not good for gameplay.
The Bottom Line
The Dead Space franchise has made a very successful transition to the Wii. The atmosphere could have been a little creepier, seeing as the on-rail camera and built-in Wii Remote speaker should lend perfectly to a good scare, but there are enough chills in the well-told story and thrills in the action to keep Dead Space fans and newcomers alike glued to their light guns for the six to seven hour campaign. As far as mature-rated games are concerned, Dead Space: Extraction is one of the best you’ll play on the Wii this year.