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Redeeming the Rail Shooter: Dead Space Extraction

Dead Space Extraction is a game so good it single-handedly redeems its entire genre.

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Redeeming the Rail Shooter: Dead Space Extraction

Visceral Games’s Dead Space Extraction is a game so good it single-handedly redeems its entire genre. It’s a rail shooter, a genre in which the player only controls the crosshairs of their weapon while the game yanks you around, making you feel you’re on a roller coaster. It’s a style that’s long been neglected as games worked toward more player autonomy, but DSE leverages the form’s restrictions to produce an experience so involving that it makes you wonder if the whole quest for player agency hasn’t been fundamentally misguided.

DSE has a complex backstory, previously developed in another game, a graphic novel, a series of animated short films, and a host of other media properties of the sort that a giant company like EA can marshal in the building of a franchise. It’s to the game writers’ credit that the layered story of religious cults, corporate callousness, and alien mutant zombies from spaaaaaaace works so smoothly in the background, driving the plot forward and motivating plenty of shocking twists without ever stalling the action.

And the action is glorious, one gore-splattered set piece after another. A rail shooter lives or dies by its intensity, and the aptly monikered Visceral Games have produced an experience that feels like riding through the best carny spook show of all time. By cheerfully flaunting the rail shooter’s control over the player’s view, the developers maintain cinematic control over the essential elements of a thriller—pace and framing—and they use it to shamelessly manipulate the player for maximum scares. The dismemberment mechanic carried over from Dead Space works great in a rail shooter context, forcing you to use your shots calmly and strategically no matter how many necromorphs are trying to drool all over your face.

DSE also makes more and better use of the Wii’s unique properties than any other game on the system, often with canny sadism. For example: This being an alien-infested spaceship, you naturally have to take plenty of leisurely strolls through dark tunnels full of monsters. You power up your charge-leaking flashlight by shaking the Wiimote, which makes a satisfying spray-paint-can noise when shaken and a comforting hum when charged. But of course, the Wiimote controls the crosshairs of your gun, so whenever you need more light, your weapon is out of control, and when you’re flooded with enemies and trying to keep your aim steady, the light you have to shoot by is slowly…going…out.

Equally unique is the game’s canny use of the first-person perspective. Instead of tying you to a single avatar, DSE shifts your point of view between a number of lead and supporting characters, wittily revealing your new identity near the beginning of each level. By creating an ensemble cast, the game can kill off anyone while keeping the story going, and you’re put on notice early that your character might be a goner no matter how well you wield a pistol, imposing a grim pall of existential futility on all the pitched battles. This would be almost impossible within the close identification of a standard first-person shooter, and it’s a terrific way to both expand the narrative’s scope and to impose a slight distance between the player and their avatar, which means the game’s characters can have more specificity than is possible when the developer has to allow for all possible player choices.

A lot of games have lately been moving away from the sandbox model and back toward the game as cinematic experience. Dead Space Extraction’s back-to-the-future genre resurrection suggests that the tools for immersive, narratively-rich, cinematic video gaming have been sitting unused for years, and it only took developers this good to realize gaming’s longstanding goal of creating the best action movie you’ve ever played.

Dead Space Extraction. Publisher: Electronic Arts. Developer: Visceral Games. Release Date: September 29, 2009. Platform: Wii. ESRB: Mature. ESRB Descriptors: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language. To purchase, click here.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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