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Hardcore survival horror comes to the Nintendo Wii. Revisit Aegis VII to discover how it all started, before the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games played out. This on-rails light-gun shooting game sees tensions rise and psyches stretched as players discover the beginning of the necromorph debacle. The dark brooding art style of the Dead Space combines with the familiar weapon set and Wii console controls to recreate that frightfully wonderful experience once again.
Dead Space: Extraction fills out the story before the events of Dead Space on the 360 and PS3 consoles, and the animated film Dead Space: Downfall. Here, we encounter the descent from sanity to madness, from security to fear. And this is well delivered. Even the usual desire to skip cut-scenes fades as players are drawn into the disturbing and well-told events of those early days on Aegis VII.
In one of a handful of similarities with the Metroid Prime games, players take the role as the female heroine and help her battle to find a way through the carnage of bodies and architecture. The on-rails nature gives the Dead Space: Extraction sharper pacing and a real sense of energy. Story sections give a chance to regroup and catch breath before plunging on into the next mission.
The focus is well and truly on the shooting as players use the Wii-mote to aim, and can leave other movement to the game's preset mission paths. But unlike older light-gun games, such as Time Crisis, the camera here isn't locked to a rigid path. Instead our view of the world is much more like a First Person Shooter with glances, pans and zooms to give Extraction a filmic sensibility. The combination of sections where players can explore and look around, along with this camera style give the Extraction a real feeling of freedom that at times even outdoes the excellent House of the Dead: Overkill (another gory shooting game on the Nintendo Wii).
Dead Space: Extraction bristles with novel ideas and cleaver uses of the Wii console's technology. As the levels get darker players rely on their glow stick for visibility. This light source is charged up by one of the best video game interactions I've encountered. A simple shake of the Wii-mote increases the glow with a satisfying rattle emitted from the controller's speaker. This sounds straight forward but means players have to make the fearful choice between shooting and visibility. It builds tension incredibly well and brings to mind the wonderful door mechanisms of Metroid Prime Corruption.
Perhaps the best judged feature though is the drop-in cooperative play - something so lacking in Resident Evil 4 on the Wii. A second player can grab a Wii-mote and join the shooting action at any stage. This not only adds additional firepower and tactics - timing reloads and the like - but also makes puzzle sections a collaborative effort as players take it in turn to solve each element.
Sat playing the game for an evening with friends, we enjoyed sharing our frights and gross-out moments as we battled through each level. Ironic shouts of joy for each head-shot and dismemberment felt all the more gleeful as we embraced the horror of Extraction's plodding foes. By the end of the evening there was a real sense of having played a hardcore shooter, all with just the Wii-mote and in the comfort of the living room.
Dead Space: Extraction could have gone so wrong. Bringing the nuanced experience of Dead Space from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles to the Nintendo Wii could easily have been a big mistake. All credit goes to the developers for not only making the tough decisions where they had to - like biting the on-rails bullet - but also for obviously committing resources to get every ounce of visceral performance from the Wii console.
The result is a hardcore survival horror game in the true sense of the word. Not in and of itself groundbreaking, until you remember it's on the Nintendo Wii. Genius.
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