Jumping from 32-bit to 128-bit, the Survival Horror genre has exploded with clones, some that are better than others, while others just fantastic in their own right. Resident Evil is quite possibly the spark on the road that led to a flame of knock-off horror titles. In addition to the whole Bio Hazzard (Resident Evil) series, PSOne owners were treated to Silent Hill, a game I wasn't too fond off, but nevertheless it was the one game that gave Resident Evil a run for its money. RE-clones began to surface in the form of Fear Effect, and Fear Effect: Retro Helix, the latter of which was a poor title. Clock Tower, and its sequel also tried to blend in with the "in crowd," but failed miserably due to its poor gameplay. In spite of all of this, developers are still trying to create a survival horror title that delivers, but as Extermination proves, today is not that day.
Visuals are quite important in a horror title, considering the fact it takes polygons to scare you, because let's face it, can a sprite make you wet your trousers? Taking a first glance at Extermination, I instantly notice that the visual quality is certainly nothing to write home about. It's Dreamcast quality at best and that's not saying much. I remember reading a statement somewhere (not by Sony or DeepSpace), claiming the visuals of Extermination were that of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. I couldn't help but laugh and completely demean the statement all together. Saying Extermination comes close to looking like MGS2 is like comparing Katherine Harris (whom is usually referred to as Cruela DeVil) to Tyra Banks. Seriously though, Extermination is a pretty looking game, albeit it would've looked more impressive if it had been a launch title. And so with visually striking games like ZOE, The Bouncer, Onimusha and Final Fantasy X, Extermination is a thing of the past. The game does feature decent character detail, and good looking texture design, but most of it just seems plain ol' repetitive, and not quite varied enough. The characters for the most part are solid, very well build and include a wholesome amount of polygons, it's the texture variation that brings down the visuals. On a more positive note, the game's CGs are nice, although graphic (violent), but look sharp. It's not a horrid looking title, but it has no bragging rights either.
Trying not to fall in the manhole that most other horror titles have, Extermination is a slightly different approach to the genre, but the knife just isn't sharp enough to cut the cake. The story is two-dimensional, and doesn't have much going for it, it's a B-movie at best. The game stars Denis Riley, a U.S. Special Forces Marine, who has boarded a plane to the South Pole, Antarctica. His personal and primary mission is to rescue and find Cindy Chen, who was once a girlfriend of Denis' friend Andrew. He hopes she is still alive, despite the problems that the South Pole base is facing. No one has been able to reach contact with the unit for days, so the Special Forces "Recon Team" has been sent there to investigate. During flight, the team's plane goes down, luckily it does so near base, as Denis and his associate (Roger) survive, and find each other just a couple of feet away. Searching for a way into the South Pole unit, Denis and Roger find a ventilation shaft, which has a fan rotating and stopping every three seconds, which means timing is key. Making their way into the base, both characters learn that something has gone awry. After activating the power, Denis soon learns that a plague of virus monsters has spread throughout the location, and has pretty much wiped out everybody in sight. Or has it?
Extermination's gameplay is 3rd person, and camera problems are non-existent. The game plays at a fair speed, and never feels lagging. As Denis Riley, you of course will face inflicted damage to your self, but there's more than damage in the game. The first time you are hit by a virus-carrying monster, your virus meter will rise, when the bar reaches 100%, your health will begin to rapidly decrease, until you are dead. To prevent that you will need various health items to keep your heart beating regularly. You will be equipped with a weapon called the Special Purpose Rifle 4 (SPR4). The weapon can be modified to many other sort of guns including, grenade launcher, flamethrower, shotgun unit, zoom and night scope, or just a regular machine gun. You must place pieces of the gun together in order to form your desired weapon. Some guns come standard with a laser target while others don't. While this concept sounds great, it's somewhat annoying and leaves little room to be desired. Scouring for various parts can be a hassle at times, and I much prefer finding a gun instead of building one.
Extermination suffers from linear gameplay, the action seems to be set on a singular line and you as the gamer have to move along that one line. The result is boredom and a lack of motivation to continuing the game. As it is with 90% of survival horror titles, Extermination is relatively short. It's a week long game for some, but could be made into a weekend title for others. When playing the game, I kept on trying to imagine the title playing more like Syphon Filter. I came down to the conclusion that Sony needs to rebuild the game engine, and then re-introduce Extermination's Denis Riley to a new franchise, which plays in the vein of Syphon Filter, and not Resident Evil. Overall I was looking for more from Extermination, I was disappointed. If you are looking for a PS2 survival horror title, just wait two more weeks and get Resident Evil: Code Veronica X, that is if you haven't already played it on your Dreamcast.
Audio wise, the sound is probably the game's best field. There is a lot of voice acting involved with the game, and it's quite clear to understand. The responses are somewhat delayed, but still the timing makes the cut as average. The voices sound right, and are never muffled, but the background audio needs work, as it almost seems bemused. There is no soundtrack, or at least not much of it. The audio does nothing to create the atmosphere of terror, as some games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil have, it's a shame really. Overall, the game needed a lot more work on its atmospheric audio detail.
The control is a step away from the Resident Evil style layout, but there just isn't anything special about the controls. They take no time to get used to, but at the same time draw some level of confusion. At times you may hit the wrong button, hoping for a certain command when instead you will receive another one. The analog is of course supported, but the movements aren't greatly varied, so you won't be too impressed. But the flow of the game will not bother you, as the camera stays steady at a fine 3rd person perspective.
In the end Extermination feels more like a disappointment rather than an impressive title. The game doesn't have the feet to carry itself up, as one of the PS2's "decent" titles. Hardcore survival horror fans may like this game, but casual gamers should wait for Capcom's long awaited PS2 release of Code Veronica X instead, that is unless you haven't played the Dreamcast version. The visuals aren't what we've become so accustomed to on the PS2, and look more like 1st generation than 2nd generation. The gameplay feels dull and can get redundant from time to time, and the audio needs work. Like I said, just wait for Code Veronica, period.
8/13/2001 Arnold Katayev