I’m in a shuttle hurtling through space towards the USG Ishimura. It’s a familiar sight for anyone who’s played through Dead Space, and while I dread going back onto that ship I can’t wait to see what awaits me this time.
I’m looking around admiring the sights and sounds and then it hits me- holy shit, this is on the Wii.
I’m at Visceral Games, formerly EA Redwood Studios, where I managed to sneak a quick look at a demo of Dead Space: Extraction before the Dante’s Inferno Community Day starts up. I’m obviously a huge fan of Dead Space (review here) and was very curious what was going on with the Wii prequel. Many people slam on-rails shooters for their simplicity and repetition but I’m a fan, have been ever since Time Crisis appeared at a pizzeria near my high school and sucked up all of my quarters. More and more developers are realizing the Wii’s the perfect system for the genre- the remote just lends itself to a light gun shooter so incredibly well. But there’s never been a shooter as serious and dark as this on the Wii yet.
In this beginning section the graphics are so good that I was seriously fooled for a few seconds into thinking this was on a next-gen system, and sure, it’s a little jaggy here and there but the graphics are absolutely stunning for the system. Wait till you see the character models and lighting!
The story takes place before and during the events of the first Dead Space and will be familiar to anyone who’s read the comics or watched the unfortunately rather poor animated film. This demo (which will be shown off to folks at E3) starts off about a third of the way into the game as you’re escaping off of the mining colony in a shuttle. Hurtling towards the USG Ishimura you’re hailed by the ship who warns you to stay back, because they don’t want you getting the rest of the ship infected. Of course you don’t listen, and you continue on your path (Seriously, would you go back to that colony full of monsters? I don’t think so.) which prompts the Ishimura to start trying to shoot you down. It’s your job as gunner to intercept a few barrages of missiles that fly your way. It feels a bit like the asteroid section of Dead Space, and as you aim your remote on screen you see the gun outside following your aim.
After getting through relatively unscathed with my ships still at 80%, I crash landed on the ship and suited up, preparing to head out and take care of whatever’s out there. It’s soon obvious that there was no reason for the Ishimura to fire on us in the first place, because it’s already infected with whatever hit the colony.
So of course you are once again attacked by twisted and reanimated corpses from the ship, and the best way to deal with these necromorphs is to take them apart limb by limb. The Wii remote is perfect for the quick, accurate aiming the game requires and the way they implemented secondary fire for each weapon is ingenious- you simply turn the remote sideways gangster-style. This works best for the plasma cutter since of course the secondary fire changes the horizontal laser into a vertical one. After a little practice it soon becomes second nature to shoot off an advancing creature’s limbs, and, more importantly, tons of fun.
As far as weapons go you have every single weapon from the first game along with a few other like a bolt thrower, which shoots arcs of energy from enemy to enemy and is great in a crowd. You can hold up to four weapons at any time, all mapped to the d-pad. The game uses both nunchuck and remote, because you will be able to use the analog stick to look around the screen during certain sections. Good for finding items, weapons, and logs. Yep, there will still be audio, text and video logs that advance the story.
The controls are pretty perfect here. The z button is for reloading, and there’s a little Gears of War-style reload game that can either give you a fast reload if you hit the button again at the right mark, or hinder you as you jam your gun. It makes reloading in a rails shooter more exciting, especially when you have creatures clawing at your throat.
You have stasis and telekinesis powers as you’d expect, the former great in a pinch as you can slow down groups of enemies with it, the latter used to grab items. You’ll be able to upgrade weapons automatically by picking up the same nodes from the first game, which will help give your gun a bigger clip or do more damage, which you’ll definitely need since ammo’s in short supply and the enemies are very vicious.
But how to scare people in a horror game that’s on-rails? Once again the team thought up a great idea- complete darkness! You’ve got this little glow worm thing that lights up once you shake it, but of course gets dimmer and dimmer till you give it another shake. This makes for some incredibly tense moments as you won’t be able to see too far even with the thing lit up completely. There’s nothing worse than being in a room full of enemies but not being able to see where they are, especially since the sound is so creepy.
The game sounds like Dead Space,
and there is really no better way to praise it. Everyone knows that the
sound design for the original game was some of the best around- there’s
a reason it ran away with a ton of awards. The music is just as creepy
this time, the screeches of the Slashers just as unnerving. The
character dialogue seems about as disposable as in the first game, but
that’s easily ignored.
After the dark section the lights came back on again and you ran to an broken elevator, and since you’re the engineer of the group it’s your job to mess with the circuit and get it working. You know what that means- minigames! Here you’ll have to use the remote to trace a circuit without hitting the sides or any of the hazards on the way- sorta like Irritating Stick. It’s not so bad though and apparently one of the more simple games that will pop up here and there.
There are multiple paths to encourage repeat playthroughs, and the way they’re implemented is pretty clever. Remember how in Dead Space you can click in the left analog stick to see the path to your next objective? At various parts in the game the character will stop to get his bearings and light up two different paths, and you have to click the one you want with the A button. Nice way to keep things different each time you play.
The route I took led me to the mess hall. In the original game it’s covered by Corruption, full of bodies, and while there’s some destruction here it’s before the events of the first game, and still fairly empty. Time to remedy that. Slashers and Scorpions popped out from everywhere and I tried in vain to take them all down. Your character eventually jumped down to a lower level and it’s here that an Infector came flying by the screen. I went nuts trying to take it out but missed completely, and much like in the first game it grabbed a corpse and created another Slasher to attack me. I switched to the flamethrower and took advantage of its secondary fire to engulf both in glorious flame. Nice.
After getting out we finally made our way to a locked door which popped open and some guards from the USG Ishimura poured through. One of your teammates shouted for them to relax but it was too late and BLAM, someone popped a bullet in your head. You fall to the ground and see the people yelling as the screen goes black.
And that’s it for the demo! They’re not saying if that’s the end of your character (apparently you will control multiple people) but it looks like it.
They’re also not showing off any of the zero-gravity sections just yet, although they’re promising great things, and of course the game can also be played through entirely via co-op (two reticules on one screen).
Anyone expecting this to be another silly game like House of the Dead: Overkill or Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles will be very, very surprised. This is a Dead Space game, simple as that, one that takes advantage of the Wii’s strengths and yet retains that brutal, violent flavor that we all know and love. Consider me considerably goddamn impressed.