Version tested Wii
Say what you like about the Wii, but if on-rails shooting is your idea of gaming bliss, there's no better platform for getting your RSI-inducing kicks. Having been pleasantly surprised by the reboot that the likes of Resident Evil and SEGA's over-the-top House of the Dead have experienced, the idea of one based on Dead Space made a whole lot of sense. Full of gruesome, mutated creatures, and grim, menacing environments, it lends itself perfectly to the shooting gallery scene.
Set about three weeks before the events of last year's survival-horror shooter epic Dead Space, which came out on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, Extraction broadly shares the same chilling environments, meaty weapon selection and cast of spindly Necromorph enemies, but ups the interest value no end by crafting an intriguing new storyline that sheds new light on how the USG Ishimura mining ship became overrun with this mutated menace.
Kicking off planetside with the discovery of the infamous Marker relic, it takes all of about five minutes before mass hysteria sets in. Apparently beset by violent hallucinations brought on by being in proximity to this deified relic, most of the 1000 inhabitants in the mining facility try and kill each other for no apparent reason.
Somehow, the main protagonists in Extraction manage to remain unaffected by this inexplicable madness, and so the game focuses on the trials of four characters as they try to figure out a means of escape. By switching between Nathan McNeil, Gabe Weller and Lexine Murdoch (among others), the game's tense and absorbing narrative criss-crosses in a satisfying fashion as you explore the increasingly treacherous innards of the Ishimura in an attempt to locate an escape shuttle.
Gameplay is straightforward, yet it's a refined familiarity, borrowing numerous elements from the original Dead Space in abundance while wrapping them around the well-worn demands of a typical on-rails shooter. As you'd expect, the action is viewed entirely from a first-person perspective, while movement is taken care of automatically, leaving you to focus almost entirely on the firefighting aspect - an area Dead Space: Extraction wastes no time in getting straight to.
No sooner does The Marker appear, and people start losing their heads - literally. Armed with body part-separating weaponry from the word go, you can target limbs in exactly the same way as was possible in the original, and soon the environment is awash with bloody chunks.
Controls are standard on-rail fare, albeit with a few game-specific tweaks, such as the ability to use telekinesis to grab and/or throw items in the vicinity. For the most part, you simply aim the reticule and hit B to shoot at the screen with the Wii remote, while the nunchuk stick takes care of weapon-swapping, with reload and stasis control mapped to Z and C respectively. Motion controls are kept to a minimum - you need an occasional shake of the Wii remote to throw off enemies who get too close, but otherwise the most you end up having to do is swish the nunchuk to perform a slash attack, or shake the remote when you need to activate your light stick in the dark.
Elsewhere, alternate fire is possible by turning the Wii remote on its side, allowing you to, for example, shoot vertical beams of death with the Line Gun, rather than its default horizontal alignment. In terms of pure combat alone, Visceral Games has done a fine job replicating all the key elements that made the original's so frantic and exciting. As a result, the game feels less like a cheap spin-off downgraded to the Wii and more of an essential companion release that fans of the original will be delighted by.
Getting the feel of the combat right is one of the game's triumphs, and in this area it's no less than exceptional, with no end of heart-in-the-mouth moments as you fight off wave upon wave of determined and deadly Necromorphs, targeting the limbs to stop them in their tracks. At first, shooting their legs from under them might seem like the answer - that is, until you realise that they'll simply crawl towards you and whip you in the face with their tail instead.
When several enemies are in play, often the best course of action is to fire a stasis beam at one or more of them to slow them down, allowing you precious seconds to dispatch something else busily trying to chow down on your face. For the most part, enemies are the exact same ones you faced in the original, including the lovely ones with the exploding puss bags on the end of their arms.