Very few games are so good that they can inspire carbon copies. When Resident Evil came out it was so amazing that everyone tried to jump on its bandwagon. There was so much jumping that it sparked a whole new genre title, survival horror, which, for the most part, means Resident Evil rip-off. Since then the only people that have been able to create decent rip-offs are Capcom themselves and Konami. Everything else has fallen into survival horror obscurity. One of the main reasons for this is that they have deviated from the formula that makes Resident Evil games so popular: high levels of suspense and gore inlaid with intelligent puzzles and great environments.
Now Sony, who hates being outdone on their own system, has released their foray into this genre with Extermination and in true Sony fashion they have taken someone else's idea and tried to improve on it while maintaining an air of originality (see NFL Xtreme and Syphon Filter). There is no denying that this is a complete Resident Evil rip-off possessing some of the greatest and worst aspects of the RE series. However, there are enough original elements to justify saying that this is a worthy enough game on its own.
The game takes place in the frozen wasteland of Antarctica where a group of scientists and military personal are working on a top-secret military experiment when something goes horribly wrong. They have created a biological weapon, a virus that reacts and spreads when it comes in contact with water. Needless to say this could be hazardous to the health of people who like living. You are part of a highly specialized Marine unit sent in to figure out what is going on, rescue any survivors and blow the place up.
The game starts out pretty slowly with mostly tasks of finding information and navigating various areas, but the action heats up in no time. Your enemies are not zombies but rather infected monsters that look like a cross between the creatures from Alien and that stuff you used to look at under the microscope in science class. All of your favorite RE types are here from the dogs to the one-armed creatures that swipe. The big difference here is that some of the attacks have the potential to infect your character with the virus that is running rampant. Too much infection and you will become one of them. Too bad this results in death and you don't get the opportunity to play as one of the monsters.
The only advantage that this game has over Resident Evil is the gun. Each marine is equipped with a huge customizable beast of a gun that can be upgraded modified and completely altered. Attachments include a shotgun, a flame thrower, night vision, and a sniper zoom. At any time in the game the weapon may be changed to suit the situation. This is much better than having a set number of weapons and items that your character is allowed to carry. There are two ways to aim the gun, first person mode and auto-aim a la Syphon Filter. The biggest pain in using the gun is that your character cannot move while shooting, an annoying unnecessary trait of the RE series that pains me to see it make it onto other games.
Other than the gun and the flesh-eating bacteria the game is Resident Evil in a scientific compound. There are keys and cards that you have to find to open doors, people you talk to, and others that make you wonder if you can trust them or not. The story is pretty thin and there are no surprising or interesting twists or turns. There are just a lot of rooms filled with protozoan bugs. The music tries to be suspenseful and it is, but not at the right moments. There are triggers for the music to swell and give the impression that something horrific is going to happen. Then, in a feat of anti-climatic action, the suspense is lost when nothing pops out.
It is hard to get away from comparisons but the game seems to make no attempt to separate itself from Resident Evil. It's design, characters, and plot are all reminiscent of creations in the RE series. Don't get me wrong, things could be a whole lot worse. After all, the gameplay is smooth and the levels are all in 3D (not pre-rendered). It is not too hard or too easy, and there is a fair amount of suspense. I guess, if you have to pick something to copy, you may as well pick something successful. After all trying to make their own Metal Gear Solid has sold millions of Syphon Filter games. It is too bad Sony hasn't come up with anything original lately though. After giving us such original titles as Twisted Metal, Pa Rappa the Rapper, Jet Moto, and Gran Turismo, you would think that they still have creative juices left. Maybe not.
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