Has Dead Space been Bettered by its Wii Offspring?

October 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

It’s clear by now that the Wii is a wholly different beast from the other two ‘current’ generation consoles. A weird control scheme, coupled with hardware that can’t compete with the big boys has meant that developers seeking to make the same game on the Wii as on its two older siblings have quickly found themselves hitting dead ends.

EA have realised this quicker than most, and Dead Space Extraction is the perfect example of this. It celebrates the fact that it’s on the Wii rather than trying to get around it, and it manages to feel truly at home on the console.

Even more surprisingly, whilst playing through it I started to feel like it might even be better than the original. Here’s why:

It’s shorter, and it uses this its advantage

The original Dead Space could soak up a pretty decent amount of hours. Although the game never felt too repetitive, it was hard to shake the feeling that there wasn’t really enough story to cover its entire length.

Removing one obstacle to your escape of the ship would inevitably throw up another, and so you could never really tell if you were actually getting anywhere nearer to your goal. For all you knew there were countless more missions awaiting your completion before your escape was possible. There were points when you could lose sight of the end of that game.

Extraction may be shorter, but this lends itself to a much tighter, more focussed experience. You’ve always got this goal to work towards, and the game avoids throwing up more obligatory obstacles in front of you to lengthen the experience. In other words, it feels like you’re constantly making progress.

This shorter play time length also means that alternative gameplay styles take up more time proportionally than in the original. Though you don’t have the freedom present in its predecessor, the sequences played in zero-gravity are as mind-bending as ever, and there are even a couple of vent-crawl sections, which have more than a whiff of Ridley Scott’s Alien about them.

My point is that although there was more of everything in its big Xbox and PS3 brothers, Extraction takes the cream of the crop, which leads to a faster paced storyline, and more variety in what you’re doing on a moment to moment basis, which makes up for the lack of freedom in your progression.

There’s a bad guy to focus your hate

I’ll keep this short to avoid spoiling the story for you, but at some point in the game you’ll have someone to fight against rather than just something. Although the original does this as well, the twist is handled much better here, there’s a personal connection, and a much deeper resulting level of hatred.

It’s crazy, but at least it used to be normal

Normality in the first Dead Space lasted just about long enough for you to get separated from your squad. You have no real experience of how this world was before the necromorphs made their appearance, no vision of normality to compare it to.

It’s pseudo-sequel does things differently. You see things as they’re meant to be twice during the course of the game, and this gives you a much better idea of the universe in which the fiction is set. It makes you miss the way things used to be, acting to incentivise your completion of the game in an attempt to return to it.

From a more subjective standpoint it’s a much nicer way to begin a game. You’re not floating through space towards what you know will be your doom, you’re doing your job, something we can all relate to.

This stuff is happening NOW

Dead Space was a game played in retrospect. You’re working your way through corridors, mess rooms, hospitals, and mining sites, all deserted, all empty except for your enemy. There’s always this feeling – a feeling I felt at any rate – that the interesting part of this story has already happened. The outcome of the struggle has already been decided, and guess what? We lost.

Extraction gets to be the same as this, but at least there’s a fleeting moment at its beginning where humanity still has a chance, and still has fight in it.

A story’s worth doesn’t come from its beginning or its end, but from its middle, which Extraction manages to present in ways the original failed to.

Your not just a man in a space suit

Although Dead Space’s aim was undoubtedly to make you, the player, more the protagonist than Isaac Clarke, it was hard not to have your sense of immersion blasted off into space when he refused to react to anything going on around him.

This isn’t a first person shooter, the Half Life model of storytelling simply doesn’t work as well here. It just feels plain weird to see Clarke treat the messed up environment he’s in with the indifference that he does.

Seeing someone kill themselves by repeatedly bashing their head against a steel wall? No reaction. Witnessing your crew members get killed off? Nothing. Finally seeing your girlfriend, after witnessing so many other messed up acts, and after so much time apart? Yes you guessed it, no reaction.

On the Wii it’s completely different. You play individuals that actually speak and have a voice, people who’ll react to what’s going on around them and hold conversations with their squad. These are people that help your understanding of what you’re experiencing, and people you can empathise with.

When I’m playing a game I’m not going to get connected to a man in a suit, I’m going to get connected to the man himself. Dead Space: Extraction manages to do that, and it’s story benefits tenfold as a result.

Oh and audio logs totally play out of the Wiimote’s speaker. It’s pretty awesome.

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