Delayed Reactions – Dead Space: Extraction
While trying to make sense of my true reactions to Dead Space Extraction, I find myself at a bit of a loss. Dead Space Extraction is a very immersive game. I really get the feeling that I’m witnessing moments of pure terror in the hostile and hopeless expanse of space. It’s a hauntingly beautiful and well presented narrative. But that strength creates a larger conflict: I’d almost prefer to experience this story…minus the gameplay.
Dead Space: Extraction takes place just before the events of the first game. My team has discovered a strange marker on the surface of the nearby planet. We’re currently attempting to bring the marker back to our station. Once aboard, though, things begin to get a little hairy. My co-workers start mumbling to themselves as we walk through a filth-covered room. They become paranoid, and fearful of each other, as well as me. Then I realize this filth… is alive! Suddenly my co-workers attack me. Left with no other choice, I drag my crosshair onto the screen and fire back. Flashes of horrible images fill my vision. I scramble for the elevator. As I reach it back up arrives… but not for me. As the security team steps off the elevator, they see me, a rivet gun in my hand, and all my colleagues dead around me. Who truly went crazy? Were my co-workers really trying to kill me, or was I hallucinating. The ‘backup’ doesn’t give me the chance to figure it all out.
All this was very exciting, but the one thing that kept me at arm’s length from really feeling engrossed in the scene was my own interactive presence. The cursor seems to take up a distracting amount of the screen with barely any transparency, and while this might just be my dislike for rail shooters in general, it took me out of the scene so much it was difficult to project myself into what was happening. I felt like I was shining a laser pointer at an otherwise entertaining movie. I really miss the light gun technology we used to have. It would have cleaned this game up for me greatly (though keep in mind, if this sort of presentation doesn’t bother you, then Dead Space Extraction is a great way to get your rail shooter jollies). The characters, story, and setting, however, intrigued me and I wanted to know more: I wanted to continue to see what happened.
The player only has a few places where they can actually make decisions in the way the scene plays out (aside from the pointing and shooting interaction). A thin line will appear on the ground at about four to six different times within the game indicating a forked route. It seemed very out of place, as though it was occasionally reminding the player that they are, in fact, participating in the game. The only other time that the player is in any control of their mobility is in the zero gravity rooms (sort of). Upon entering a zero-g room, a circle will appear on an adjacent surface. Once lit, the player then clicks the mark and the character goes there. That’s it. There’s no deviating from these predetermined routes.
Player one and player two have the same basic mechanics, as well as the option to drop in and drop out of co-op at any time. There’s shoot (with alternate fire being a gangster style sideways position of the wiimote), melee, pick up items (though good luck doing so if your character isn’t in the “take a look over there at that really useful ammunition” mood) and a temporary freeze shot, a recharging weapon that, while incredibly useful, I found myself neglecting. The player can pick up explosive canisters too and shoot them at the enemy, but because of the player’s lack of voluntary movement, it’s somewhat difficult to really use them effectively (though it’s a lot of fun when you do).
While the player doesn’t actually have much voluntary movement, that aspect doesn’t really detract from the player’s experience. The game is linear. I found myself drawn to linear games that carefully craft the story from moment to moment. And nothing can craft an experience more carefully than a rail shooter. Every nuance of the action and where you’re looking is planned out in the hopes of eliciting a specific reaction. As much as I enjoyed the mood, characters, and dialogue, there were surprisingly not many scares for me. This will change depending on who is playing, but for me, I get the feeling this game really requires surround sound to get into the scares. It sounded rather flat from my couch.
Overall though, I really enjoyed the game. It’s a short experience, clocking in at 8 hours. And because of how tight the linear narrative is the replay is always going to be the same. You can up the difficulty if you want, but it’s always going to be the same content. At a $30 price tag though, it’s not too bad if you compare it to a similar movie going experience. The game really does play more like a movie than a game. And I can safely say it is a good thing and a breath of fresh air to see cinematic presentation done so well in a video game. It makes me wish more games strove to challenge camera conventions.
Great cinematic camera work.
Engaging story and characters.
Truly immersive presentation.
A cursor is no replacement for a light gun (though keep in mind, this is not an issue for everyone).
The game feels like it runs on auto pilot, especially when trying to pick up items.
The sound design, while good, doesn’t feel deep without surround sound.
Scare factor is underwhelming.
Very limited replayability.
For those who like:
Dead Space, Event Horizon, House of the Dead: Overkill, Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles, Survival Horror.