Headed up by members of the team that created Ape Escape, Deep Space is a new group within the SCEI empire. Their first game, Extermination, is still very early in development but is shaping up to look like a cross between Syphon Filter and Resident Evil. Imagine a 3D action adventure with lots of pulsating, gooey-looking mutants and tons of firepower. As you'd expect it looks gorgeous.
With interest in survival-horror games at an all-time high, Sony now enters with its take on the genre. Developed by Deep Space, a joint effort between Sony and Woopee Camp (Tomba!), Extermination looks to mix traditional survival-horror elements with more action and a movie-like plot.
The game takes place in the year 2005. A special U.S. reconnaissance team is called to a facility based on the South Pole to investigate a state of emergency. Unfortunately, their transport inexplicably explodes just before they reach the facility. All but two of the team members--Dennis Reiley and Roger Griggman--die in the accident. The two survivors eventually make their way to the base and enter through a ventilation duct, but they soon find that they might have been better off dying in the crash--the base has been overrun with nefarious mutant creatures.
Producer Tokuro Fujiwara (Resident Evil) states that his goal for the game is to make it feel like you're controlling an action movie. His experiment hits Japan in March and should make it stateside this summer.
Extermination. A necessary part of life and, sometimes, crucial to survival. The dictionary defines extermination this way: 'To destroy completely, total destruction, eradication.'? There haven't been very many events in history that show us a good example of extermination, but those that do have made a tremendous impact. Many scientists think that the dinosaurs were exterminated by a large meteor that struck the earth, covering it in a suffocating dust blanket, not dissimilar to a nuclear winter. In a way, extermination usually redefines the very balance of nature, taking it to places it had never been before.
This game, Extermination, doesn't quite redefine anything about video games, but it does present a rather satisfying new take on an old genre. In Extermination, you play Dennis Riley, a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. Part of the special recon task force Red Light, you're called upon to investigate a distress signal sent by Fort Stewart, a secret military research base hidden deep in the arctic. You, along with a platoon of recon soldiers, are forced to bail out from your plane when it is crippled by a devastating explosion just miles from the facility.
As you and your partner Roger enter the base and attempt to rendezvous with the rest of your platoon, you'll be treated to a showcase of horrors as you learn the true extent of the infestation that seeks to overwhelm Fort Stewart, and why you'll have to stop the disease here, lest it break free of Fort Stewart,and run rampant across the Earth, exterminating all of humanity.
Just another day in the life of a marine, right?
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
For those of you who haven't played a title like Extermination before, you should know that its great-great-granddaddy is a game called Resident Evil. A horror adventure game, you control a single character exploring the confines of a haunted house. Groundbreaking for its time, it paved the way for games such as this one. Playing in a similar fashion, you control your character from a third person perspective (above and behind the character's head), with a roving camera angle that follows you as you move. You'll run, jump, and climb your way to success as you maneuver through the facility, and you'll be pleasantly surprised to note that your character is very mobile. Unlike many of its brethren, Extermination allows you to climb boxes, jump over crates, crawl through ventilation ducts, and even use pipes and ceiling pieces as monkeybars. A refreshing change indeed.
Throughout the game you'll encounter a myriad of bizarre, alien creatures all with one thing on their minds. You. As lunch. Fort Stewart has been infested by a strange bacterial called HO213, which causes both organic and inorganic matter to mutate rapidly as it is subverted by the bacteria. Essentially an escaped experiment given form, the things that this infestation does to people and machinery are hideous and usually quite gory. Whether out of self-defense or sheer terror, you'll have to destroy many of these creatures with your trusty rifle, which brings me to the next part of the gameplay.
Controlling your character in combat is very easy. The R1 button lets you raise your rifle and target around the room, locking onto any creatures that you can see in your field of fire. Auto aiming helps a lot in a game with as many enemies as this, and when you need that crucial precise shot, you can hit R2 to bring up a zoom mode, allowing you to place your shots wherever you'd like. Each of the attachments to your rifle (more about those later) can change how you fight, from giving you an additional weapon to use to enabling auto aiming even when you're zoomed in on an enemy.
The game itself requires you to explore the base, recover certain items, and complete special actions to progress through the game. At one point, you will find you need to lower a drawbridge, which is currently out of power. If you find the transformer room and reset the breakers, it might power the drawbridge, allowing you to cross. Once you actually start moving through the game, you'll also find that the camera can shift somewhat unpredictably, requiring that you get used to manually adjusting it a lot. Here's a hint, use the R1 button to get ready to shoot, and your camera will quickly snap back to behind your back, and will usually do a better job at it than the L1 (camera control) button will.
FMV & Other Effects
What Resident Evil-like game would be complete without judicious use of gory cut-scenes? Extermination only has a sparse few, but they're inserted at good times and are high quality, without breaking from the graphical look of the game itself. Their worst aspect (or best depending on how you judge it) is the quality of the voice acting and lip-synching. It's very obvious that the game was lip-synched with English voices, as their mouth movements don't match what they are saying at all. Combined with that is some of the most mediocre voice acting I've heard in a long while. However, if you're a fan of this genre of game, you might find that a necessity, as Resident Evil started the tradition with horrible voice acting.
For a Resident Evil-style title, the graphics are top-notch. Your character moves smoothly with a definitely realistic gait, through areas that are well-designed and proportionally correct. I took particular note of the scenery, as it was detailed enough to keep my interest while looking just like I'd picture a secret government base in the arctic would. The architecture was laid out well, making the game appear that much more realistic. They even have scenes that take place outside, during a blizzard, where you'll get the effect of snow and sleet obscuring your vision and hampering movement.
Extermination's sound effects were very minimalist, but I've found that I really enjoy that in a game of this sort. A horror adventure like this needs only two things to be enjoyed. First, a quiet, spooky soundtrack, and second, a dark room. With the audio portion of the game so creepy and subtle, and sound effects that weren't too unrealistic, Extermination was able to put me in the shoes of my character. While not that frightening (its only a PS2 game after all) I did get a slight spook out of some scenes.
Originality / Cool Features
Unlike most games of this genre, Extermination doesn't inundate you with a horde of weapons to collect, necessary to fight off the evil that infests the base. Instead, you're given a single gun, the SPR4, a brand new combat rifle, capable of infield alteration to suit a variety of mission roles. As you progress through the areas of the game, you'll be able to upgrade the rifle with new attachments such as a shotgun, missile launcher, and even parts that let you fire full auto instead of a three round burst.
Also, each enemy has a small glowing point on them. That point is their weak spot, the point where the infestation has taken hold. If you target that spot, you severely weaken the creature, making it much easier to kill. Given the sheer volume of monsters in this game, this was a welcome addition to normal gameplay. If the monsters do ever get their claws into you, they can slowly infect you with the bacteria, which, if left untreated, can kill your character. If you're infested and walking around, you'll find that certain actions (like immersing yourself in water) can actually worsen your condition.
Although it isn't the best game in the world, Extermination really strikes a chord in me for being such a good evolution of the horror adventure genre. It is fun to play and has an intriguing story, even if that story is a little obscure at times. Still, with all of its merits and drawbacks, I can only write so much in a single review. I didn't even get to mention the fact that each of the monsters you meet can 'power-up' making it harder to kill, and that monsters don't respawn, letting you 'cleanse' an area. I'm giving Extermination a big thumbs up, with only a few points shaved off of the top for minor implementation bugs.
One last note. Extermination is similar to a lot of other titles in this genre and I'm not cutting it for that. I think it brings all of the elements I wanted from those games to a single title and does a good job of honoring the genre that birthed it.