I grew up on Survival Horror. From the first time I played Resident Evil at a friend’s house, to the moment I finished Silent Hill 2 and was left in shock at the ending. It is probably one of the genres of video games that is closest to my heart, sitting right alongside RPGs. So when the PS2 was first released and there wasn’t a Resident Evil or Silent Hill in sight, and games like Forbidden Siren were a long way off, I felt like something was missing.
That is, until I caught sight of this one game, sitting in the corner of the local GAME shop. It had a very different cover, and an intriguing name; Extermination.
Now, let me start by saying that it is not a game about Daleks. Instead, it was a brand new IP in the Survival Horror genre, developed by Deep Space, one of Sony’s many game development studios. And since Sony’s studios had done such an utterly amazing job in the RPG genre with The Legend of Dragoon, I had high hopes for Extermination. But looking back at it now, how does it stand up compared to others in the genre?
Taking hints from the likes of Resident Evil rather than Silent Hill, Extermination puts you in control of Sergeant Dennis Riley, a Marine and member of “Team Red Light”. After your plane goes down, you find yourself in a top secret American facility in Antarctica. Separated from your team, you have to find a way back to everyone, and also find any survivors.
The base plot is pretty generic, to be honest. There aren’t many twists or turns that you won’t have come to expect if you’re a fan of Survival Horror… However, the game does try very hard to ground itself in a sort of psuedo-science far more than it’s closest comparison, Resident Evil, does. With the idea of a bacteria that grows rapidly when in contact with water, you find a slightly more believable scenario than that of the T-Virus, although that’s mostly just because it is explained more.
Extermination certainly won’t be winning any awards from creative writing, with the dialogue feeling forced more often than not, and the overall story firmly resting on Survival Horror tropes. However, it is enjoyable, and detailed enough that it doesn’t take away too much from the game as a whole.
The first thing that needs to be said, when looking at Extermination’s graphic, is that the game came out in 2001! That’s 16 years ago, and also only a handful of months into the lifespan of the PlayStation 2. As such, developers in general hadn’t quite gotten used to the new system, so you didn’t have amazing graphical masterpieces like Final Fantasy XII yet.
Instead, what we got was actually a very solid 3D environment that felt, at the time, alive and breathing. The character models for the humans felt well proportioned and the animation was relatively smooth. Again, this wasn’t a masterpiece by any means, but it was good.
The only real negative comes from some of the monster designs and their attacks. A good example is the strange, worm-like creatures that spew green stuff at you. Oh, and I refer to it as “green stuff” because the animation of the attack was so out of place that it just looked like a pile of green paint was flying at you.
It’s also worth mentioning that the game did lack the feeling of dread and the atmosphere that a well crafted horror environment can create. This is a game that will “scare” you will grotesque monstrocities rather than a rising tension. As such, the game feels very bright and well lit for much of a playthrough, with only certain sections truly feeling disturbing. In short, the graphics were very good for their time, but were pulled down by the bright level design and sometimes poor animation of enemy attacks.
If there was one serious positive about Extermination, it was the gameplay. For the first time that I can remember, you were able to ump in a Survival Horror! This made for some huge changes in the way the game played compared to other games in the genre. For example, it allows for the developers to create jumping puzzles and platformer style sections that broke up the shooting and running away.
On top of that, the addition of an actual aiming system where you could target using the right stick on the controller was something very new to the genre as well. This allowed for enemies to behave far more realistically than in other games, simply because you weren’t limited to shooting in 3 directions; fowards, 45% up and 45% down. Instead, you had a much more fluid aiming system that meant you could attack enemies no matter where they came at you from. Resident Evil would go on to develop this further with the over-the-shoulder camera system in Resident Evil 4, but Extermination did it really well years before!
Another stand out addition that Extermination made to the genre, as shown in the screenshot above, was the ability to climb across parts of the terrain in real time. You could also strap a safety harness to whatever you were climbing across, hang down and shoot enemies from above.
Extermination had a lot going for it in terms of gameplay. However, there were also some significant drawbacks. For example, Survival Horror games tend to actually have some very interesting puzzles that you need to solve in order to continue. Extermination didn’t. Instead, it relied on the elements mentioned above, hoping to get rid of the need for puzzles. This didn’t happen, however, and instead we ended up just wanting to get our teeth into a decent puzzle.
The controls also felt somewhat dated, despite the inovations in aiming and jumping. The ability to modify your weapon was a nice addition to the game, but largely felt flat. Rather than being able to truly customise the weapon, you were handed very attachments at the perfect time to use them. This came across very forced…
Extermination is a game that has very good gameplay, but is also a game that could have had excellent gameplay, if it weren’t for the lack of puzzles, lack of weapon modifications and sometimes very difficult controls.
And That’s All Folks
In the end, Extermination was a Survival Horror game that was so full of potential, but just ended up using old tropes to add in a need for the new innovations that the genre was about to see. If you’ve played all of the PS2 Silent Hill, Resident Evil and Forbidden Siren games, and just want one Survival Horror experience, then pick up a copy of Extermination.
However, if you’re looking for a thought-proving game or one to test your puzzle skills, then this probably isn’t for you. Have you played Extermination before? Do you like horror games and movie? Let me know in the comments below!