Fear.  Raw, unabashed, ever present fear. That’s the only way I can describe my state of mind while playing the original Dead Space. One of my favorite games of 2008, Dead Space was a breakthrough of sorts for EA. It seemed like one of the first steps toward shirking the “Evil monopoly out to buy everyone” guise that had for so long been their image.  Though subsequent playthroughs didn’t quite have the same spark, when you first booted up Dead Space, you were creeped out.  But in the best possible way.

Dead Space is a great example of what I like to call a gaming “experience”.  It can’t really be summed up by its gameplay elements alone, nor are they particularly important.  Rather, it is the atmosphere and characters that a game establishes that really give us a clear look at the experience as a whole.  Dead Space did this to “T”.  Now, that’s not to say that Dead Space was an incompetent game.  On the contrary, it showcased a truly fun and great gameplay mechanic known as “Dismemberment”.  The key was to aim for the limbs of your opponents, as opposed to just shooting wildly at their torso.  When it was announced that a prequel would be released for the Wii, as an on the rails shooter, I was skeptical.  Having played most of the OtR Shooters available for the system, I was thus far unimpressed with how the genre was being executed.  I was in for quite a surprise.

Dead Space: Extraction is a crucial example of a concept gone fantastically right.  Where as most OtR Shooters are generally very bare bones (You scoot along, you shoot some baddies.  Rinse and repeat), Extraction goes out of its way to make the experience seem like it matters.  This is done through the masterfully told story, which documents the events that lead to the outbreak of insanity that in turn led to the events of the original Dead Space.

EA has been aiming to introduce new and innovative features into their titles.  Not  surprisingly, EA strikes gold again here.  In the original, it was the endlessly nifty environmental HUD, which projected video and menu options in the form of a holographic display in front of Isaac, your character.  In extraction, it isn’t so much innovation as a combination of elements that make all the difference.  Little things like shaking the Wii to fend off monstrosities that get to close, or to turn on a glow light all add to the atmosphere.  Also, each weapon features a secondary fire mode, where if you turn the remote sideways, the fire-type will change.  You can also charge up your shots for stronger attacks.  However, be warned, you do this at your own risk.  Those few seconds it takes to charge that shot may very well be the last of your life, especially if the shot misses (Which is prone to happen).

Moving right along, let me just say that I’m astounded at how good the game looks.  As most of us in the gaming press can agree, we hate to say “For a Wii game…”, as that diminishes from a games quality, even if we’re trying to compliment it.  So instead of that, I’ll stick with this.  Dead Space: Extraction looks good.  As a console game, not just a Wii title.  Sure, the textures aren’t the prettiest things in the world, but other than that, the game really looks great.  I particularly like the way the camera moves when in cutscenes (Which are completely in-engine and look great).  The whole purpose of this game was to offer a cinematic experience that fans could enjoy, whilst spreading out the Dead Space love to another console.  It’s also meant to be extremely accessible, so as not to deter any potential players.

One of the quintessential components to a game like Dead Space is audio.  The original was praised for its incredibly creepy and atmospheric sounds.  While there is less opportunity to really admire the sound work for Dead Space: Extraction, due to the steady pace of the game, what’s there is excellent, and really fits the mood and setting of the title.  The voice work in particular is above average, and really serves the story well.  And the story is a very adequate lead-in to the original Dead Space.

The coolest part, for me, of Dead Space: Extraction, is the ability to do the game co-op.  From my experience, having a friend there to play the game with really creates a strategic experience, that requires some serious teamwork to complete.  For instance, you and your buddy will sometimes have to take turns tracing the outline of a circuit board, while the other fends off the insane parasites trying to kill you.  In the later stages, this gets very hectic, and only precise execution will get you through.

Overall, Dead Space: Extraction really surprised me.  What I expected to be a cheap cash-in on a blossoming franchise quickly turned in to joy at the absolute gem of an experience on the Nintendo Wii.  The only complaint?  Unlike classic OtR shooters, Dead Space: Extraction has essentially no real replay value.  Once you play through the story, there’s little reason to go back, other than to introduce those new to the story to this great prequel.  The first must own on the Wii for me in a long time, and one that you should definitely pick up.