Dead Space Extraction

Review: Extracting a strange blend of game styles

Just another lightgun game for Wii? Not quite. While Dead Space: Extraction pushes you around its house of horrors on a shopping trolley and gives you a cursor to fend off things that leap out of the shadows, it's a long way from the likes of Ghost Squad.

The most obvious difference is the pacing. While typical gun games supply you with wave after wave of enemies to kill, this one frequently has a couple of minutes of, well, dead space, as your character clambers through air vents and looks around nervously. Scenes of prolonged action are placed considerable distances apart, and a large part of your time is spent walking around very slowly, waiting for the odd handful of creatures to suddenly attack.

So don't expect a thrill ride, or the sort of replayable shooting gallery you'd revisit for high scores. Extraction is almost closer to a massive interactive cutscene, and if that doesn't sound like the most exciting thing ever, it's because it most definitely isn't.

Dead wait
However, if you're at all interested in the world of Dead Space, whether via the classic survival horror game on other formats or the animated movie and comics, you'll get a lot of story-based enlightenment out of this prequel.

Extraction begins on the planet that you visit at the end of the original Dead Space, before everything gets overrun by mutant monsters and you escape to the orbiting mining ship Ishimura. Unfortunately, things are about to get just bad up there, though you'll find a few people uninfected by the mutation bug.

Most of the time you're accompanied by three fellow survivors who offer constant banter and give you something to look at when you're not scanning the walls and ceilings for beasties. The character models are really high-quality, with expressive facial animations and enough detail to be displayed at screen-filling size without looking crap.

When the monsters appear, your cowardly 'buddies' tend to hide behind you until you dispose of the danger and they reveal themselves once more.

Plenty of locations will be instantly familiar to Dead Space fans, but you don't always get the chance to admire the lovingly recreated environments in as much detail as you might like. The entire game is filmed in shaky 'nervous cam' and the view rarely settles on anything for long. As a simulation of somebody scared witless in a brief scene in a movie, it's quite effective. However, in a game where you'll want to grab every last bit of ammo from closets, crates and corpses, it's a bit annoying.

You might notice an item glowing in the corner of the room, when you're suddenly assailed by monsters. You'll shoot them all down, train your cursor over the thing you wanted to grab and - whoops! - the camera lurches away to follow some random noise in the pipework or talk to one of the characters behind you. Will it return to that spot so you can refill your weapons? Possibly not.Collecting items is, if anything, harder than shooting monsters. At least the viewpoint stays more or less fixed when there's a fight.

Get back here!
Extraction is built around a similar template to its parent game, which itself is a lot like Resident Evil 4 - explore scary places, never knowing when the next bad thing is going to burst out or creep up and tap you on the shoulder. That's a recipe for tension, heart-thumping fear and a game you'll be reluctant to play with the lights off.

Trying to replicate that in something that moves on rails doesn't work so well. In the original game you know full well something is going to make you jump at some point down the next corridor, and you force yourself to inch forward, fearing the worst. In Extraction all the decisions are made for you. Seeing your character stare down at his feet, wheel around sharply to focus on uninteresting things on the walls or crane his neck to check out a panel overhead is never scary, and the trick is repeated so often it gets boring.

Extraction is still worth playing just for its dark atmosphere and fine graphics, particularly if you're into Dead Space. But we found the Story mode way too slow to be worth seeing twice, and neither the script nor the acting are of a high enough standard to make it a legitimate contender as an interactive movie.

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The verdict

A game that doesn't know what it wants to be and ends up much less exciting than it should have been. Atmospheric but empty.

Nintendo Wii
EA Games
EA Games