Haven't I seen you somewhere before?
Mix a little bit of Dino Crisis with Metal Gear Solid and simmer until luke-warm, add a serving of Onimusha with a slice of Silent Hill, stir briskly, set in warm oven for one hour and serve with a garnish of your favorite grade-B variety survival-horror movies. Don't forget to slather it over with a heaping helping of day-old Resident Evil, and there you have it: Extermination. It's the most recent in an ancient breed of mildly entertaining vehicles which shamelessly "borrow" -- not only from all the popular horror /sci-fi movies ever made -- but from every other survival-horror game that has predated it.
As usual, you have to have some kind of military or civilian law enforcement training; this time you get to be a member of the U.S. Marines Special Forces named Dennis Riley. You have been sent to the obligatory remote and deserted location - this time it's a research facility in Antarctica and your mission there is to find out why they've lost contact with the outside world.
Of course, you know all hell's already broken loose long before you arrive and by the time you show up the place is crawling with a host of pernicious mutants with a "social disease" - a virus they are all too willing to give away. Is this sounding familiar?
Extermination is not heavy on puzzle elements. It manages to set puzzles in front of you in the form of locked doors and blocked passageways, but then it solves these puzzles on its own. If the solution to the puzzle is not obvious enough to knock you in the head, someone will invariably happen along and tell you what to do, or Riley himself will tell you. It may aid in the forward momentum of the game, but it removes any real sense of initiative from the gamer.
Everything in the facility has the virus and they all want you to have it, too. You will get infected with the mystery virus during the game and you will spend a fat chunk of time seeking a cure...only to be immediately reinfected. In addition to your standard life bar, you have an infection meter which basically indicates how desperately you need treatment before your vision blurs, you develop a gnarly back zit and then drop dead.
Gameplay consists mostly of running away from just about everything since your weapon will run out of energy in the least opportune situations. Although there are rechargers scattered throughout, it's not always convenient to retreat from an ass-whooping to juice up your gun.
Riley has a single firearm, the SPR4, a gun that upgrades into several more powerful weapons. Instead of lugging a bunch of guns around with you, you merely select which feature of the gun you will use. This is a welcome relief compared to games with goofy inventory management systems which make you have to leave weapons behind in order to pick up something as small as a lighter or key.
The bad thing about Riley and his gun is the fact that he cannot move while he's holding it upright. Yes, that's right. This wannabe action hero gets rigor mortis in his legs every time his gun is raised. That's one lame feature they should have left in Resident Evil's wallet when they were rifling through it.
When the gun is out of energy, you can rely on your trusty knife...but Dennis Riley is no Jet Li with a blade. He has a couple of stiff, wooden-looking attacks which are practically useless on some of the things you will come up against and just about good enough to get you killed a lot.
Though some features of the control were borrowed from Resident Evil and it's many clones (the right trigger aim, for example), Extermination departs from the standard RE-style D-pad control in which pressing Left or Right on the D-pad results in the character merely revolving in the same location. In Extermination, pressing Left or Right makes Riley turn and move in that direction. This gives Extermination sudden, jerky and imprecise control. There is no strafe button, no sideways movement and no opportunity to do a lot of fancy dodging when the poop hits the fan.
Control is focused on the X button. Everything from crawling to jumping to swinging to rolling is reliant upon this one button. It's the kind of streamlined control that makes it unlikely for players to get stuck. You can basically go up to any obvious looking object and press the X button and eventually you'll figure it out on your own. Unfortunately, it also dumbs the game down a bit and removes any element of exploration.
The graphics are your standard PS2 fare, but inconsistent and on the whole not very impressive, although the weather effects like the blizzard are well done. Apart from an assortment of nicely animated (though less than truly creepy) mutants, it is the camera which is, without a doubt, your surest and most able adversary.
Apparently locked in free-chase mode, the camera almost never faces the direction you are heading. When you enter a room you will find yourself looking into Riley's face or the top of his head. You have to adjust the camera manually just to see what you're doing and if you turn a corner you'll have to adjust it again. I don't know about you, but if I'm running around in a room full of contagious mutants, the last thing I want to be looking at is my own left ear.
It is no exaggeration to say that the camera will get you killed. For example, there are segments of Extermination that will have Riley maneuvering among steep, icy ravines'and we all know what happens when you're rock climbing in a blizzard and can't see where you're going.
Despite it's obvious problems, Extermination is not a bad game if you're hard-up for another RE clone. The multitude of enemies, unique implementation of the SPR4 and a few nicely done weather effects make for a solid experience, though this is ultimately undermined by the twitchy control, awful camera and lack of free movement. This is Resident Evil in a parka. But RE was a Playstation game and this game is several years and a generation beyond that - yet only chronologically. One thing's for sure, Extermination won't be winning any medals for Sony in the system wars.