For Unitologists, Aegis VII was more than just a mineral-rich planet from which the USG Ishimura would extract necessary resources for Earth. There, the discovery of the Marker was an unearthing of their most deified artifact: an object not only a symbol of their faith, but an instrument from which prophecy would be fulfilled. The devout amongst them believed in eternal life after death from another Marker's scripture, but what transpired after its discovery was more insidious than inspiring.
Gamers learned of the story last year when we were introduced to Isaac Clarke, an engineer sent to fix the distressed planet cracker. While his task was a simple one, he ended up having to escape hungry, alien creatures after surviving a rocky arrival. But what caused such horrifying events? It's with Visceral Games and Eurocom's Dead Space: Extraction where we learn of both Aegis VII's downfall and the Ishimura's infection. This on-rails shooter acts as a prequel to Isaac's misadventure, and it does so through spot-on controls, brilliant animation, and fiction that ties together the two games with memorable locales and characters.
While there is a lot to laud in Extraction, it's hard to shake the fact that it lacks the ability to evoke fear. By switching between protagonists in intense scenarios, you never get too settled with a character, keeping you guessing at what happens next in the story; but be it because of predictable scripted events or the Wii's inability to showcase disturbing detail, there's a missing sense of that eerie loneliness followed by frantic survival that was prominent in the game's older cousin. While it wouldn't make much sense to leave you ammo-less in a shooter where you have no real movement control to hide or runaway from encroaching Necromorphs, the incredible amount of weaponry leaves the game more an accomplished action title than thriller. Some slow down from an abundance of bodies exploding on screen also dispells tense moments at times.
Despite such shortcomings, when you look at the list of qualities the game excels at, it's hard not to appreciate the experience. The Wii may be diminutive in raw processing power in comparison to the 360, PS3 and PC, but Extraction is still able to provide some impressive, and mostly recreated, settings. Though you retrace the steps you took in Dead Space, as you make your way from the mining colony on Aegis VII to the Ishimura, you never feel like you're treading on old ground; events which take place in Extraction setup some of the incredible moments and scenery you see in the first game.
It's easy to get caught up reminiscing about Isaac's trials aboard the Ishimura, but there's even more detail in smaller things that draw you back to the game at hand: like the recurrence of deadened sound effects as you enter vacuums, or the way the camera believably moves about as you scramble through ventilation shafts. With all of this scrutinizing detail, it's a shame some apathetic voice-acting pervades an exciting, unpredictable and somewhat hammy story.
Regardless, sitting back and watching the story unfold through the first-person perspective may have overshadowed the action in the game if not for some of the best motion controls on the system to date. Strategic dismemberment fits in perfectly and feels more natural on the Wii as you repel waves of enemies in either the short (five to six hours) story or any of the 10 arcade-shooter (killing for points) challenges—near 1:1 controls, without the MotionPlus.
To fight your way to safety in either mode, returning weaponry is accompanied by a new three-shot, recharging Stasis device, which allows you to slow down enemies and key objects. Admittedly, it's not much needed save for a few battles or if you're quick with your pointing. Also, obligatory Wii-specific controls make an appearance as you shake the Wii-mote to batter off enemies or illuminate a Glow Worm in dark areas, and flick the Nunchuk to melee objects. Thankfully, these are kept at a minimum and are instituted sparingly—even resulting in one case of satisfyingly gruesome results. Only tracing mini-games used to activate control panels feel unnecessary. These, however, occur in few enough instances so as not to feel overly tedious.
The tight action is only made better by the inclusion of jump-in, jump-out multiplayer. Whether you compete for points in the Challenge mode, or help a buddy out in the story, playing with a friend doesn't feel like a tacked-on travesty. The added help does make the already too-few, too-easy boss battles less challenging, and it doesn't make much sense at some points to have two shooters, but the availability is welcomed.
Tight controls and an overall engrossing story told through equally as compelling direction and action make Dead Space: Extraction a benchmark for Wii shooters. Though it's short in length and doesn't make you want to leave the lights on, the game succeeds in bringing dark-themed shooter gameplay to a console that's overwhelmed by shovelware and mini-games. Extra content in the way of six voice-acted comics doesn't add much, and it would have been nice to see an archive of uncovered text and audio logs to mull over, but this is a shooter worth having in your Wii library.