EA doesn't believe in cushions. If you didn't know this before you turned up for their Spring Showcase event, your bottom would know it after spending the first half of a two-hour presentation perched on a rock-hard plinth. Not even the appearance of Steve Papoutsis, executive producer on Dead Space Extraction, would make you excited enough to forget it.
Papoutsis is excited, though. "A big thing I'm excited about is that we're going to show you guys the game today," he tells the audience. "It's going to be the first time we're showing anybody in Europe the game, and I'm really excited to see what everybody thinks." Everybody thinks it's not really that exciting if you've already shown it to the rest of the world, but never mind.
You'd be reminded of the cushions thing later on, while squatting on a fake ammo crate for 38 minutes while a man told you about his World War II game. It would then come as a relief to enter the Dead Space Extraction booth and see there aren't any unfeasibly uncomfortable pieces of furniture they're going to make you sit on. There's just Papoutsis, a telly, a bloke called Sharif holding a Wii remote and nunchuk, and a huge pile of glowsticks.
Everyone who visits the booth gets a glowstick, and not because Steve and Sharif never got over the early nineties and are determined to spread the Message of Rave throughout the world. It's because your character in Dead Space Extraction has one - except they're called glowworms, and they've got a serious purpose.
Specifically, they're used to illuminate dimly lit areas and make shooting evil alien baddies easier. But the fact you have to shake the Wii remote about to charge up the glowworms can actually make this harder, as Papoutsis explains. "It creates an interesting risk-reward dynamic, as you have to stop shooting to charge it. You can try to shoot without the light, but if you use it you'll get better visibility." Presumably, though, charging up the light alerts more enemies to your presence and attracts them to you? "Er, no," says Papoutsis. "That's a cool idea, though. I like that..."
The glowworm is just one of the new features introduced in Dead Space Extraction. This is no straight port of the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 game released last October, which scored a respectable 7/10 on Eurogamer. It's a prequel, set weeks before Isaac Clarke boarded the USG Ishimura. This time you're not alone, but a member of a group of space colonists who have realised something's gone very wrong in the Aegis VII mining colony.
What's more, Dead Space Extraction plays out from a first-person perspective. It's an on-rails shooter, in essence, with a control system specially designed for the Wii remote and nunchuk. "We wanted to do a game that made sense for people who have Wiis, and to create something that felt intuitive and fun," says Papoutsis. "We started out with the controls in our hands, thinking, 'Well, what do these things do? What do they do well?' Then we focused on nailing that part of the game."
One of the ideas they came up with was allowing you to switch between alternate fire modes by rotating the Wii remote. It's just a matter of twisting it left or right, which shouldn't interrupt the flow of button-presses. You can also use the Wii remote to pick up things with the power of telekinesis, and to solve puzzles.
All the weapons from the original Dead Space are present and correct, including the flamethrower, and the grapple is back; waggling the remote will shake off any enemies who get hold of you. There's also a melee attack, performed using the nunchuk.
Many of the enemies you face will look familiar - there are slashers, reapers and lurkers, for example - but there's also a host of new weird-looking things hoping to cause you trouble. "It wouldn't be a Dead Space game if we didn't have a bunch of giant monstrosities, pus-filled sacks and stuff like that," observes Papoutsis. Just like in the previous game, facing the monstrosities will be made a little easier thanks to your Stasis power, which lets you slow down time and dismember enemies limb from limb.
If it's still too much of a challenge you can rope in a friend to help as Extraction has an offline co-op mode. It's designed to be as accessible as possible, so the second player can drop in or drop out at any time. There will be plenty of opportunities to work together by taking on distinct roles - one of you might be solving a puzzle, for example, while the other provides covering fire. But what about a competitive aspect - will there be a points system so you can see who was the better player when missions are over? "I'm not talking about that today," says Papoutsis, with a twinkle in his eye. "Ask me next time."
Perhaps the most obvious difference between the original Dead Space and this prequel is visual. There's no doubt about it: Dead Space Extraction is a Wii game, and it shows. It's not that they haven't made the effort - full motion capture was used for the body animations. They even went for facial motion capture too, sticking more than 30 markers on each actor's face. It's a shame, then, that they still look weird and wooden compared to what we're used to from the more powerful consoles.
At least the monsters look good; properly horrible and very nearly scary, all dangling limbs and gaping maws and bits of flesh that clearly used to belong to something else. It's good to see a Wii game with real gore and a decent amount of violence. But will enough people agree? After all, MadWorld offered plenty of blood and guts and slicing people in half with chainsaws, and only 89,000 copies were sold in the US. Isn't Papoutsis worried he's going to all this trouble to make a game many Wii owners won't be interested in, or won't even be old enough to buy?
"As a game developer, what I worry about is making a fun game," he says. "I'm excited to be working on Dead Space. I worked on the original and what's important to me is delivering an experience that's in line with the Dead Space universe. I think it's important for us to make a fun game, and hopefully people will enjoy it."
Which is all very nice, but what if only 12 of them buy it? "If only 12 of them buy it, that would probably be pretty bad," concedes Papoutsis. "But I'm a gamer. I want a variety of different games. I love to play on my Wii, and all the other systems, so I want people to make stuff like this for me. There's a lot of opportunity with the Wii to bring in new design elements, and it's helping game designers to try different things. I just hope people continue to make games that are a little bit more hardcore."
Here's hoping Dead Space Extraction will be good enough to sell loads of copies. If that happens, perhaps more developers will feel that hardcore Wii games are worth the investment. And perhaps EA will be able to buy some cushions.
Dead Space Extraction will be released for the Wii this autumn.