Since seeing this game at last year's Xbox showcase, one game I’ve been excited to play has been Systemic Reaction’s Second Extinction. Releasing in game preview (Beta) on Xbox Game Pass the other day, I’ve finally been able to give it a spin.
As a youth playing games on my N64 I used to look in envy at my cousins copy of Turok 2: Seeds of evil. Its distinct black casing alone setting it apart from the rest of the grey cartridges on his shelf. I didn’t have a huge number of games as a kid, but I did get to watch a large amount of them from my cross-legged floor spot in my older cousin's room.
I was a big fan of Turok, as a spectator of course, dinosaurs, guns and even some mystery in that of mutant dino hybrids that I can’t fully recall. I have since picked up a copy of this game at a bootsale, but having rare occasion to plug in the N64 it’s much more of a decorative piece than anything else.
I’m sure the graphics are terrible, not that this matters too much, but it exists in my memory as something awesome and I fear to ruin that.
Upon seeing a new game with dinosaurs and guns announced and what’s more as part of a subscription service I'm already on, I felt like driving to the nearest zoo, finding the reptile enclosure and yelling ‘I AM TUROK!’ loudly at the docile lizards.
As of right now I've only played some single player of this game, in the free roam mode. So, I'm not really using it to its intended purpose and true potential. I will be rectifying this over the weekend and will likely add an update to this article with fuller impressions.
But what I have played of it so far, I've enjoyed. There isn’t much too it, mostly it’s an open world of hills and old vacated facilities, of course with packs of raptors interspersed and ready to kill or be killed.
The combat is fun, I wasn’t sure at first in the tutorial mission if I liked the guns or not, as I felt they would benefit from a slight aim assist that many FPS games have. However, on getting into the game I realise this would be a mistake. The speed you need to maintain to not get ripped apart removes the luxury of aiming nearly. My main tactic being spray lead in general direction of the pack as I run backwards at full speed, leaping to the side when they dive at me, turning and repeating in the other direction. An aim assist would just be a barrier to this, as tracking my quarry from one place to the next while she teleports towards me benefits the quick turn.
Oh yes, did I mention they teleport. Or spit acid. Those are the two notable models of raptor I've encountered so far though I understand there are more. The first of those was responsible for my first death. As I tried to load up on dino eggs and got mobbed by too many for me alone to handle.
The game isn’t easy. I was in the low threat section when I died, though I do feel that it wouldn’t have been an issue with a squad. Refilling health takes some time. Rather than pressing down and getting an instant fix you actually need to get some space between you and the enemy first to get yourself back in the fight.
When I said there isn’t much too it, there is at least something to it, it’s not just an expanse of enemies. There are objectives dotted about and they’re different enough to stay interesting. So far, I've cleared out a location (fairly standard), collect dino eggs, drop traps down to lure raptors into, and attached boosters to cargo to send back into space.
That’s another thing I am enjoying about this, the drop. When you launch the mission, you start in an orbital ship and must climb into a drop pod. Which is then, of course, dropped. Sending you crashing to earth in flames. I’ve loved the drop troop concept since Halo ODST, I paid full price for Xbox 360 flop Section 8, and loved it. Dropping from the sky to deliver fiery vengeance is a power trip.
After completing my side objectives, I headed back to base for extraction, I anticipated climbing into some sort of pod and being boosted into the sky like the cargo I sent before me, but no. This becomes a survive the timer mission where a park load of raptors burst from out a ground hole and set on me. It was very nearly my second death, at last the drop ship curves in from the sky and lands near me, allowing me to jump into the loading bay. We take off while raptors are swarming the entrance and my gawd did it feel cool.
Despite being difficult this last moment was a highlight, it’s the Left 4 Dead level of mob waves I had been expecting with this game. Unfortunately, this was one of the few times it felt overwhelming. Which was good for being solo, and perhaps when you are with others the numbers of dinos increases. I do hope so.
There are some gripes I have with the game, ones I don’t think playing with friends will help fix, but hopefully that will be addressed before full release.
The lighting is hard to understand. If you’ve ever driven home before sunset, but not quite twilight, where despite there still being light in the sky everything feels shadowy, dark and hard to see. That’s how this felt. The visuals of the light cutting over the landscape is beautiful; I very much appreciate it.
But it’s actually hard to see what’s going on. This is something a brightness setting would fix; however, we are only given a Gamma slider. Which if I raise makes all the light glare, but everything else still is in shadows. Plus, the setting it wants for that might as well have been zero. I set it for twelve, with the usual ‘set this till you can barely see the image’ scale, I could still see it at zero but everything was far too dark then.
I am hoping some other maps of modes are played in day light, and of course hope that they add a brightness slider later on, but a daylight map would likely fix this negative for me.
I also am beginning to have an issue with ‘Game preview’ games. I know they’re essentially beta testing, but making that available to everyone means the hype for a full release is gone, we’ve all already played it. And I'd rather see the polished game release than a work in progress.
The same thing is happening with Grounded, I love that game, it’s fantastic. However, I'd love it more if when I first played it all the parts were there.
I’m hoping when this does get full release it will have cleared up some of my gripes with lighting, and add more enemy types and nest locations. As for now it’s a good game, and a game I’m very much going to have fun with. But it doesn’t feel top shelf yet.
However, one of the best things about this game is its Game Pass release. Not because of the lack of a price tag, though this is nice, but rather one of the more understated benefits that Game Pass has. That being any one of my friends who is in the Xbox Game Pass eco system can join me in trying out new games, without a downside to jumping in.
Before if there was a new multiplayer game that you wanted to play with your friends, you would have to hope they share your hype, or convince them to buy it. What if it turns out to be a shit show? You’ve cost yourself and your friends a wad of cash each to try something you aren’t going to play again.
Now, anytime there is a new (or old) multiplayer game I want to play with friends, we can just climb in for free. Or no additional cost at least. I’d have no chance of convincing my PlayStation centric partner to buy this game for his secondary Xbox One S. But I don’t have to. This morning as I played, he asked me if this game was multiplayer. To which I said yes and that I'd get it installed for him.
It’s so easy to share in the fun these days without fear of buyer's remorse.
Second Extinction isn’t currently as polished as I hope it becomes. And I'm yet to play it in its true intended mode, with friends. But it is already a lot of fun. And if you’re a Game Pass subscriber, I'd definitely recommend dropping in and Turoking some lizards.
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