Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dead Space Extraction, no really

At work, we have My Game is Better Than Your Game, in which people nominate games for the company to buy, add to the library, and generally spend all week playing during lunch time until we get the next one. Everybody votes on the nominees and majority wins, so it's often a game that is super popular, but sometimes it's something that is kind of weird and about which everybody is curious but on which nobody wants to spend money without checking out first. So last week, we got Dead Space Extraction.

I actually really liked Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, which follows the same kind of formula: take an existing franchise and make a prequel or midquel (I just made that word up, but it's true, right?) that is heavily story-based and involves pointing a Wiimote at the screen and slamming the B trigger. While the on-rail shooter genre deserves criticism, I think they have their place. For one thing, have you ever watched somebody play a game really carefully, exhaustively exploring every area, and you just sit there like, "dude c'mon, blow some shit up already?" This is often what spending lunch hour watching a QA tester play a game is like. You can't do that in an on-rails shooter.

The production quality of Dead Space Extraction is pretty high. It's a really good looking game for the Wii, though that may be because it's really, really dark. It's definitely Dead Space; the assets are right out of the original, just blurrier. The voice acting is pretty good, though in the five missions I saw, there's too much of it. You spend a lot of time watching what are basically cutscenes and listening to dialog, with some shooting necromorphs in between. The shooting captures the feel of the original Dead Space fairly well; you can't just blast everything, and you have to aim and wait for clean shots. There's even a stasis shot that freezes enemies for a short while, so it's a common tactic to freeze one enemy, take out another, then return to the first. Overall, it feels like the game succeeded in doing what it set out to do.

Using the line gun to mow the limbs off of multiple enemies is much more pleasing in Extraction than the original game. This is where the Wiimote interface shines. Turning the Wiimote sideways to activate alternate fire is something I've been waiting for every since I heard this game was in the making. For everybody who turned their hands sideways to blow zombies away gangsta style in Chronicles, this game is for you. ... Okay, was it just me who did that in Chronicles? Never mind.

There is co-op here, though it's unapologetically fictionless. Instead of one reticle representing your character's aim, there are two, with two sets of weapons. You share the same health and weapons, though you have different ammo counts, so there's either some negotiation for resources, or perhaps just competition, depending on who you're playing with. The hacking mini-game is also co-op; you take turns completing steps in the game while the other person fends off attackers. This keeps the tension going very nicely and involves both players equally; if you're going to have a mini-game, this is way to do it.

I found the game a bit slow, but then again, we were playing in a well lit room with twenty cyncical and outspoken game developers, which is definitely not the right environment for this "guided experience." It deserves a dark room and a big TV, and the willingness to let yourself be guided. If you're the kind of person who loudly berates horror movies for being unrealistic, you probably won't enjoy this, but if you enjoy being scared, this will do it.

My biggest complaint is the method by which you obtain ammo and other items; you have to hover over objects to pop up a label for them (much like the original game) and then use the A button to fire a glowing yo-yo that springs out, grabs the item, and pulls it back to you. The fiction for this is that it's the telekinesis beam, but really, it's a glowing yo-yo, and it's pretty annoying, especially since you're constantly spamming it during conversations to try to open lockers in the background and steal ammo from your partner. Chronicles' method of handling this was much less intrusive, and Extraction, which does a much better job of building the mood, really suffers because of this.

Also... unless we missed something, save points only happen at the end of missions, about thirty minutes apart. What is this, Resident Evil?

I'm definitely picking this us as soon as I'm done with Brutal Legend and Demon's Souls, and maybe even sooner, though switching the TV from Component 1 to AV 2 is pretty inconvenient, so we'll see. But if you are at all intrigued by this game, it's worth a look.

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