General game information
Game name: Second Extinction
Release date: October 13, 2020 (Early Access)
Store page: Steam
Genre: First person shooter
Developer: Systemic Reaction
Publisher: Systemic Reaction
Early Access trailer:
Zombies are everywhere in gaming, from fast-paced cooperative shooters like Left 4 Dead, to more methodical survival horror titles like the original Resident Evil. Dinosaurs, however, are not. It’s a weird thing, because for a short while, I thought they’d catch on (heck, Capcom had their own Resident Evil alternative series with Dino Crisis, and then they unceremoniously killed it, not even going for remasters now that we are two decades out from the last well-received title in the franchise). That’s why I got quite excited when I saw the first trailer for Systemic Reaction‘s Second Extinction, as it seemed to fuse the hectic combat of Left 4 Dead with hordes of good old unrealistic dinos, complete with different mutations and a “they took over our world and we are getting it back” storyline. Now the game is out in Early Access, and as you might expect, I’m definitely going to tell you what I think about it so far.
The basic idea of Second Extinction is that Earth has been overrun by mutated dinosaurs, and it’s up to the Extinction Unit (us) to do everything we can to take it back. This isn’t an open world game, but the playable area is big enough to feel like one at some points, and the insertion mechanism lets you pick a drop point when you start every quest, so there’s a fair amount of wiggle room when it comes to mission length, as there are side objectives and emergent gameplay opportunities waiting at every corner. The missions themselves are relatively straightforward (blow up this stuff, find out what happened to the previous crew who was sent to do the same job, scavenge supplies, etc. and then hightail it back to a shuttle station where you’ll have to survive for a minute or so while waiting for the landing craft to land and pick you up) and they are tied to a War Effort mechanic that changes sectors’ threat level depending on how well the community did while doing missions there. This isn’t exactly a novel concept, but it is one that hasn’t been implemented in a lot of games, so I was pleasantly surprised with it, even though it currently doesn’t affect things all that much.
The first person shooter part of the game is mostly great, with up to ten weapons available on the Early Access build that I played (not all of them are unlocked from the start, but you level up pretty quickly if you succeed at the missions you set out to do). There are four playable characters, each with their own abilities, and they work really well in co-op, up to the point where I’d recommend against trying to play the game solo, as it’s a far worse experience than the one you’d get with a buddy or two. There’s an upgrade system that lets you customize your arsenal with resources you get from slaying dinos (and it’s actually a lot better than it seems the first time you open the upgrade tab, as certain weapons are completely changed by some of the upgrades).
I do have an issue with the weapons’ hit feedback though, sadly. On the one hand, you can gib dinosaurs, and blow up pieces of them while they are still alive, leaving a gory mess after every firefight, and that’s pretty much glorious. On the other hand, when the gibs aren’t flying (and for some weapons, that’s the norm) you don’t really get a lot of feedback that your projectiles are hitting their intended targets, and the weapon sounds are very understated, something that leads to our arsenal feeling a bit underpowered, even if that isn’t truly the case. Grenades are the one item that doesn’t suffer from this curse (if anything, cluster grenades sound like they are a bit too powerful) and I hope that the development team is considering some changes here, as everything else is pretty much right the way it should be when it comes to gunplay (well, with the exception of sprinting cancelling reloads, I HATE that!).
There are enough different types of dinosaur to blow up that fights can vary wildly from one another, and I’m thankful for that, as cooperative shooters often tend to underestimate the need for enemy variety, throwing hordes of the same copy and pasted foe at you at every corner. Here, we’ll start fighting cannon fodder Raptors, but we’ll soon meet mutated variants that spit acid, shock the player with electrical pulses, boost their friends’ attack stats, etc. There’s also the classics, such as Triceratops and the T-Rex (which takes a while to go down, and can wipe out your team pretty quickly if you don’t think twice before throwing down).
The tech aspect of the game is very impressive, with a dynamic weather system making sure that missions don’t feel too samey even if they take place in the same location, and excellent performance across the board on my mid-range system (Ryzen 5 3600, 32gb, 2060 Super). Unfortunately, there’s no 32:9 support (though at least ultrawide 21:9 monitors got native support in the latest patch, which shows the developers are willing to implement such options). The four characters have a number of voice lines for select actions, but the currently available pool seems to be rather small, as I could hear my friend’s character repeating the same exact line every time they reloaded, and it can get jarring after a few missions.
Overall though, my Early Access impressions for Second Extinction are highly positive. Systemic Reaction‘s cooperative shooter looks great, plays even better, and seems to have a bright future ahead, going from the content available so far and the developers’ constant interactions on the Steam Community Forums.