Sam Caldwell is about to have a bad day. He’s speaking to his girlfriend before going to work securing an unidentified alien relic to a platform in space. When the artifact reacts, it turns most of his shipmates into disgusting necromorphs. Caldwell is stuck defending himself with a lowly rivet gun, blasting the arms, legs, and heads off the spiny creatures.
Unfortunately, the player’s time with Caldwell is limited. He does not last long against the onslaught, meeting a grisly fate early in Dead Space: Extraction. It is an effective piece of horror, certainly breaking the cliché of the invincible hero, and setting the threat that any character is readily a victim.
The game shifts its focus to Nathan McNeil, and other crewmembers in the midst of this mutated attack. It matters little to the player. The characters minimal personality behind the on-screen cursor is hardly there, a generic worker thrust into a situation they have little control over. Ironic, considering so little is left to the player with Wii Remote.
Extraction is an evolution of the on-rails shooter, lengthier, meatier, and is about more than pointing. Visceral Games have crafted an atmospheric, brooding shooter more concerned with mood than action.
Level five begins with a 10-minute jaunt through a piping network inside the infected ship Ishimura. The player is alone, guided by minimal light. The only sounds are McNeil’s footsteps and the clanging of the necromorphs as they search for a way in. Every time the computer-controlled camera swings around to double check the environment, it adds to the growing tension.
Extraction is wise to spread the action thin given its limited roster of foes. Taking away the ability to move adds to a sense of helplessness, knowing you are stuck fighting instead of looking for a cheap route out of the assault. While the path taken can be immensely illogical (multiple times doubling back through the same area), the necromorph fight comes from a variety of directions, keeping repetition slightly cloaked by their movements.
Two scripted boss fights offer some relief, including one in zero gravity outside the ship that offers little sound (even though technically there should be none). The scorpion-like monster shakes the entire ship as it moves across the hull, creating a terrifying moment as the camera begins swinging in reaction to the jolts.
The camera is a secondary character, providing many of the cinematics with additional flair. The idea of hiding power-ups in the environment is a regular light gun genre mechanic, but takes away from the story. You pay more attention to the backgrounds to suck in ammunition or health than you do to the characters setting up the next struggle.
Extraction begins with the player using a rivet gun to actually secure something in place. Considering the previous game, where the only purpose it served was to sever limbs, it is refreshing to see the item used properly. When you are asked to rivet three items, you wonder if EA has fallen under the spell of the Wii and turned Dead Space into a job simulator.
Thankfully, the rivet gun is quickly turned into a defense mechanism, heads start flying, and arms are ripped out of their sockets. It’s good to be back in Dead Space.
Dead Space Extraction is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language.