When I first saw the trailer for Second Extinction my eyes instantly lit up. Turok crossed with Left 4 Dead really did seem like a match made in heaven, and it made me question just why this concept hadn't been tackled before. Both franchises have been dormant for quite a while now and this seemed like a great way to keep the gameplay of both beloved titles alive in a new and exciting way. The co-op shooter has been available since last October on PC within Steam's Early Access, but it has now arrived on Xbox consoles via the Preview Program, allowing console players to finally get a taste of the carnage.
This is the part of the preview/review where I would often delve into the game's story, but Second Extinction doesn't really have one. After watching a brief cutscene, you are just thrust straight into the action with little explanation for the many mutated dinosaurs that are trying to shred you apart. Some further context is given through radio chatter during objectives, but don't expect some grandiose origin story here. There is no campaign present either and the bulk of the game is just completing objectives with your buddies and trying not to get gobbled up along the way.
There are two core modes within Second Extinction and these are Mission Select and Expedition. Mission Selection is pretty self-explanatory, as it enables you to select between several different types of available objectives to help stop the unfolding dinosaur invasion. These include exploding a mine full of dinosaurs with carts strapped with dynamite and uncovering the outcome of a missing expedition group. Expedition, on the other hand, is much more relaxed and enables you to explore the map, completed side quests, and gather materials at your own pace.
Within its present state there are five different character classes for players to choose between and these all have drastically different weapons and special abilities. For example, there's Rosy, a pretty ample lady who wields a minigun and has supportive abilities that heals allies within her radius and Ortega, a lightweight and nimble fighter who's weapon of choice is an assault rifle. What I really like is that all of these classes really compliment each other and you have to approach the action in a different way depending on who you play as.
The core shooting here feels fantastic and there is a whole slew of options present when it comes to upgrading your arsenal. There are six weapons present and these can be enhanced through three separate skill trees (Impact, Stability, and Handling). To allocate points into these skill trees, you'll need the right amount of materials that are dropped from slaying different types of dinosaurs. This creates a pretty addicting gameplay loop similar to Monster Hunter, where you have to seek out powerful beasts to get the right materials.
I also have to give credit to the designs of these mutated dinosaurs too. From huge imposing T-Rexs to raptors that spew acid in your face, there's a great variety of threats and they require you to be strategic, as many have specific weak spots that need to be exploited. The heavily armoured Ankylosaurus cannot be damaged unless you land a well-timed grenade hit to flip it over and land some shots on its belly, for example. I can't fault the overall design of the enemies, but what I will say is that they respawn annoyingly fast. When playing, my co-op partner had to quickly respond to a text, and we found ourselves swarmed by regenerating dinosaurs every minute or so.
There is currently only one snowy map to explore that houses all of these different objectives, and whilst its sizable, I found myself craving more environmental variety. I also found exploring this one area to be bogged down with tedious amounts of walking between objectives, as there are no vehicles and everything is greatly spaced apart. The long stretches of walking and dino encounters along the way just feel like tons of unnecessary padding and surprisingly, this actually made up for the majority of my time during missions.
Something that I was disappointed to find out is that the game is practically unplayable within single player, which begs the question, why is it even an option in the first place? When playing solo, you'll find yourself overwhelmed by the waves of attacking dinosaurs and things are even tougher, as you don't have a companion to revive you when downed. I get that Second Extinction is designed to be played with friends, but I wish that the difficulty could have been scaled based on the number of players present, just like Monster Hunter games.
The potential is certainly there for Second Extinction to mutate into an unstoppable beast of its own, but there are several foundational issues that developer Systemic Reaction needs to address first. The game currently only features one map and it's gameplay is held back by tedious amounts of walking and seemingly never ending waves of enemies. On the positive side though, the gunplay is solid with plenty of upgrades present and the attacking dinosaurs are well designed and require you to take a strategic approach when encountering them.
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