I remember being excited about the possibility of light gun/rail shooters on the Wii after the system was first announced. Sure, I appreciate a more “real” gaming experience like Zelda or Resident Evil 4 much more, but I have very fond memories of playing games like “House of the Dead” or “The Lost World” in arcades and always thought that a similar experience at home would only be a good thing. In fact, with arcades almost completely extinct in the U.S. it’s now more important than ever to have quality releases of rail shooters for the home. The problem now, though, is that it seems we get too many rail shooters on the Wii. Honestly, after picking up “House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return” and “Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles” I felt I had all the light gun-esque gameplay I really needed at home. EA’s “Dead Space: Extraction” made me realize how wrong I was. It turns out there is plenty of growth in the genre. These types of games don’t have to all be exactly the same
The really strange thing about “Dead Space: Extraction” is that it feels like a console game, as opposed to something you actually would come across in an arcade. It feels like something you can sit down with for a couple of hours and be completely engrossed by. The story takes on a role of importance. It’s not Oscar worthy writing, but it’s entertaining and gives you more incentive to play beyond shooting more and more enemies, an act which would become boring and repetitive on its own. This game has actual pacing. There are moments where you’re soldering machine parts, barricading doors, reading character memos (a traditional survival horror activity), or moving objects with your semi-gravity gun style tool called Kinesis. There’s lots to do that doesn’t involve shooting anything, and there’s lots of watching too. While I feel “Dead Space: Extraction” is possibly the best rail shooter I’ve ever played it also feels like a really long cutscene at times. I’ve enjoyed the writing and direction, but if you can’t stand five minutes of character introduction at the beginning of a standard action title before you get full play control you’re really going to get frustrated with Extraction’s continual interruptions of combat with story and character development. The game likes to have so much more control than you do to the point where it will have NPCs kill themselves before you have a chance to do anything. But on the bright side, watching a character freak out and stab themselves is a lot more entertaining than watching a 30 minute cutscene regarding the philosophy of war.
The story mode takes you through many interesting scenarios that depict events leading up to the original “Dead Space” which is inconveniently not playable on the Wii. The story mode supports full two player drop in/drop out co-op. Now, despite co-operative play being a large source of joy in other rail shooters there might be less enjoyment here unless your friend is equally into the story. You can’t skip cutscenes here and go straight to the action. The first section of the game, in particular, involves no action at all for several minutes and requires you to perform manual labor with a rivet gun. However, the title becomes progressively more action focused as it goes on so if your partner isn’t a whiny baby you’ll have much more fun than you would playing through “Virtua Cop.” As a bonus, the game features a challenge mode in addition to its story mode. This mode plays much more like a typical arcade light gun adventure, featuring no dialog at all, just waves of enemies. So if the thought of going through a slower paced adventure with a friend didn’t seem doable to you then that’s what challenge mode will give you a more typical rail shooter adventure. The only real problem I’ve had with the title is its overly helpful battery warning for your wiimote’s battery life. It doesn’t merely pop up a quick message about your battery being low, but pauses the game to tell you, essentially showing you exactly what would happen if your batteries did die. A helpful warning is a cool idea, but this is really pointless as the game essentially simulates battery death to show me what would happen if my batteries die… thereby making me experience the exact issue they’re trying to save me from. It’s a little strange. This is made more annoying by the fact that it began warning me of my controller’s impending doom when, in actuality, I was able to play for several whole game chapters and end my session for the night without the controller actually going dead. So you’re going to want to make sure you have fresh batteries in for your play time or the game will stop you every few minutes to pester you.
“Dead Space: Extraction” is a fantastic surprise for me. I’m still slightly disappointed that EA opted out of an adventure with the gameplay of the original “Dead Space,” but they’ve created a rail shooter here that is leaps and bounds above all others. The game looks great and plays great. Its survival horror paced story mode makes the game one of the only rail shooters actually worth playing alone, and if you need instant action the option is still there. Branching paths also add to the story mode’s replayablity if a variety of difficulty modes are not enough for you. The game is an absolute joy and should not be discounted by Wii owners as just another light gun game.
[!/mrface5.jpg "Mr. Face say this game AWESOME. Mr. Face never wrong!")