Dead Space Extraction Preview
We chat to EA Redwood Shores' Steve Papoutsis on the highly promising Wii debut of Dead Space.
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One of the most reassuring things we saw in our demo session with Dead Space: Extraction was the 18+ PEGI rating on the trailer. Co-developers Visceral Entertainment (formerly EA Redwood Shores) and UK-based Eurocom aren't letting the Wii's bouncy lifestyle branding interfere with the serious business of squirting so much blood and guts around you're practically sponging it off the screen. "We don't make the ratings - we have to submit it - but we're not holding back. It is Dead Space", comments Steve Papoutsis, Visceral's Executive Producer. "Dead Space is real space, real terror, and if some people get their arms blown off then shit! It happens."
It probably does, at that. More than once, we shouldn't warrant. Such by-the-by bursts of violence were the original game's bread and butter, and there's no evidence that this Wii follow-up will tread a lighter path. The developers aren't letting the platform's relatively feeble specs hold them back, either: Extraction's dripping, flickering, hard sci-fi interiors may be blander and fuzzier than their PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 equivalents, but we're betting you'll still throw the controller at the ceiling when some hideous, sewn-together hulk of reanimated corpse-flesh stampedes round a corner to plunge a four-foot fingernail through your gizzard.
Papoutsis trots out the argument, always worth trotting out, about audio-visual impact being less a question of hardware as what the developer wants to achieve with it. "We want to get the same great atmosphere, and put the same emotion and expression across that you might have seen in Kendra and Hammond in the original Dead Space. So we made a priority. It's not to say people can't do that, it's just where do you want to focus. And for us we really wanted to nail the atmosphere. Dead Space has won numerous awards for the visuals, the audio, the gameplay... We've got a big road to hoe to get to that."
It's nice to be reassured, given the steps the game does take away from its predecessor, that atmosphere still comes top of the developer's agenda. Where Dead Space gave us a Resi 4-ish third-person view and fire-flee-reload-fire combat rhythm, Extraction is an on-rails first-person shooter with much-pimped offline drop-in/drop-out cooperative support, its linear design broken up here and there by branching paths and free-look puzzles. The game's set once again aboard the Necromorph-plagued colony spacecraft U.S.G. Ishimura, some time before previous protagonist Isaac Clarke's visit and the events of the spin-off flick Dead Space: Deadfall.
Predictably enough, Papoutsis stays tight-lipped on narrative specifics, but he does reveal that the two games have plot points in common (they also share a story-telling crux in the form of text logs discarded by the Ishimura's crew). "Let's just say that there's definitely connectivity between this game and Dead Space, and maybe other stuff." Was that a suggestive twinkle in your eye, Steve? Or are we just pandering to journalistic cliché?
Also predictably enough, Papoutsis is keen to stomp any hardcore gamer hissy fits over the motion-sensing control scheme before they arise. "We're really trying to avoid making up nonsensical, waggly controls for this game," he declares, as Audio Producer Sharif walks us through part of the fourth chapter. The basics seem inoffensive. You point and click with the Wii remote to shoot, reloading with the face buttons. Twisting the remote 90 degrees switches to your weapon's alternate fire, and you can shake the nunchuck to throw off any Necromorph that cop a feel. Limb removal, rather than a headshot or full auto fire, remains the alien-exterminator's method of choice.