Dead Space's gutsy debut on Xbox 360 and PS3 last year divided opinion like an arc welder through necrotic flesh, with a vocal surge of support pushing it up to a healthy 10th in the Eurogamer Readers' Top 50. Atmospheric, gory, and very nearly genuinely frightening, Dead Space is a title which probably deserved greater success than it saw, despite EA's belief that it will get there. A continuation of the IP was almost inevitable, but the choice to turn it into an on-rails shooter for the Wii was a little surprising. I spoke to Steve Papoutsis, executive producer, to find out what challenges the team faced, and whether there's been any squeamishness about bringing 'strategic dismemberment' to the 'family' console.
Eurogamer: Why bring Dead Space to the Wii?
Steve Papoutsis: Doing a Dead Space game for the Nintendo Wii was a no-brainer. It's a great system that has helped evolve video games. The motion controls the system offers provide developers with an all new tool box to leverage in the games we make.
Another big reason why we wanted to do Dead Space: Extraction on the Wii is that we had a lot of untold story and wanted to give Wii players a chance to experience a Dead Space game.
Eurogamer: What can you tell us about the new female protagonist?
Steve Papoutsis: Her name is Lexine, and when we started working on the story we wanted players to really like her. It's important to us that she comes across in a way that makes gamers enjoy being around her. The actress we have selected for Lexine is a bit of a secret for now and I hope to talk more about our entire cast in the near future.
Eurogamer: How does Extraction fit in with the stories of the original Dead Space and Downfall?
Steve Papoutsis: Extraction takes places about three week before Dead Space. Fans of the animated feature and comic may recognise a few names and locations as they are playing but Dead Space: Extraction does feature an all new story and new locations.
Eurogamer: What can you tell us about how the co-op will work?
Steve Papoutsis: Co-op will let players enjoy the entire story with a friend. One of our big goals with this feature was to make sure friends could join in on a session at any time without making the current player back out to a menu screen. Player two will be able to press a button and join in mid-session and start blasting apart Necromorphs.
Personally I really like the strategy our mechanics allow for in co-op. When I've been playing I like to focus on slowing the enemies down with Stasis and using Telekinesis to knock them back and damage them while the other player focuses in on strategically dismembering the s*** out of the Necromorphs.
Eurogamer: Has anything been toned down to fit with the Wii's demographic, or are you sticking with the levels of gore and horror from the original?
Steve Papoutsis: No tone-downs here! Dead Space was about delivering on a terrifying experience complete with gore filled moments. Extraction will remain true to that goal as well.
Eurogamer: Will we see much of the planetside colony in the game?
Steve Papoutsis: Absolutely! Extraction will feature a good deal of action on Aegis VII in all new environments. Fans of the Comic and Downfall may recognise some spots. However, this is the first time they will be appearing in a video game.
Eurogamer: What did you make of House of the Dead: OVERKILL, another on-rails Wii shooter? How do you feel your two game compares?
Steve Papoutsis: Dead Space: Extraction is a guided first person experience - we have branching paths, areas of player controlled camera, zero-g, dismemberment, stasis, an array of unique weapons, TK, and a few other surprises that evolve the genre in many ways. Overkill was fun and, yes, it was a pure rail shooter. We have added so much to Extraction that comparisons to it should quickly fade away.
Eurogamer: HOTD was celebrated for its sense of humour, inventive level design and its replay value, which is often a problem for on-rails shooters. What were your main considerations in adapting Dead Space to Wii?
Steve Papoutsis: As I've mentioned, we have a diverse set of features and mechanics, co-op, a great new story, dismemberment and on and on. We took Dead Space's mechanics, added more, and evolved the genre just like the original Dead Space evolved the action/horror genre. Dead Space won over 60 awards worldwide and we are bringing that same design team, commitment to quality and some absolutely amazing visuals to Extraction. I assure you, this is no dumbed down version of Dead Space, this is a high quality, fantastic addition to the Dead Space Universe.
Eurogamer: You've said that you're confident that you're pushing the Wii hardware further than any other team has previously, but technical limitations were obviously going to be an issue. Can you elaborate on that and talk about problems encountered, dodged and overcome?
Steve Papoutsis: No problems at all with the hardware, we freakin' love the Wii. We're just so confident in our very talented team that we can do some things that others haven't been able to.
Eurogamer: Although EA was commended for its new and less risk-averse development strategy in 2008, Dead Space was one of a number of games that struggled to bolster a damaging third quarter. Has that had any impact on Dead Space Extraction's development? Is EA looking to hedge its bets again?
Steve Papoutsis: It hasn't had any effect on Extraction. Dead Space has won over 60 awards worldwide and it was a success in so many ways. Extraction is for the fans, both Wii and Dead Space fans. We expand the fiction and story and are creating a brand new Dead Space experience designed specifically for the Wii.
Eurogamer: Finally, where do you expect Dead Space to head once the curtain falls on the Wii version?
Steve Papoutsis: Can't say right now. We are heads down and focused only on making another great Dead Space experience. We aren't thinking about the next game, we're thinking about this game. It looks and plays fantastic right now and we can't wait to unleash the next wave of Necromorphs on the world!
Dead Space: Extraction is slated for Autumn 2009, exclusive to Wii.