There are times when you need to stand your ground, and times when it’s better to cut and run. Well, the soldier of fortune who stars in Extraction: Project Outbreak (Out Now, $0.99) would probably prefer to call it “fighting while running backward.” That’s precisely the key to survival when gangs of zombies are lunging for your throat, and your employer thinks it’s cool to air drop you in without backup. The one-man-army premise may be well worn, but Extraction does something rarely achieved: it’s blended casual accessibility into a complex genre, and to splendid effect!
Extraction is the top-down shooter you play with one finger. Tap-and-go leads the game’s hero through its narrow alleys and swamp bridges; he takes down targets in the order they’re swiped over, or he can lob a grenade over a wall with a quick drag-and-drop. The player equips him with a machinegun and a sidearm before each level, and tapping on unobtrusive icons lets him switch between these or reload on the fly. Extraction’s interface couldn’t be easier to pick up, but that’s not to say it doesn’t require any finesse: a “skill shot” system lets the player score critical hits by swiping over enemies at a carefully measured pace, and it’s vital to keep the soldier dude moving while managing his targeting and ammo, or else his enemies will close in before he can take them out.
Nor does Extraction’s simplicity deprive it of any depth. Credits earned for performance are spent on an extensive upgrade tree, where the player augments currently available weapons and unlocks more advanced ones. Automated droids, summoned from an inventory for serious backup during gameplay, are especially worth saving up for — a point made clear by the fact that the game lets the player toy around with one for free early on. There’s even an experience system and Level Up points that lend Extraction a bit of an Action RPG veneer.
And Extraction’s campaign is certainly massive enough to justify all that leveling up! The game’s 20 zones each serve as backdrops for multiple missions, with some popping up on old turf after the player has already pushed into new territory. This gives the campaign a significant nonlinear feel. Missions present a satisfying range of objectives beyond the usual extermination: armed and unarmed personnel may have to be escorted to a pickup zone, or an engineer may have to be guarded during the repair of some zombie-busting machine. An extraordinarily helpful minimap keeps the player from wandering around uselessly during tightly timed variants of these missions.
Extraction is everything you could ask for at $0.99 and more. Price-to-quality ratio aside, one thing does keep it from reaching utter perfection as an immersive gaming experience: its missions start feeling repetitive and gratuitous early on. This is a function not of their sheer number, but of their not being well framed by the game’s plot: the player has no idea why all scientists in an escort level should be retrieved, aside from the fact that each is worth a certain number of upgrade credits. A useful contrast can be found in Anomaly: War Zone Earth, where a little more oomph in the plot department let the player know exactly how each mission factored into the goal of fighting off an alien invasion.
Noticeable load times become a minor nuisance in Extraction, but one look at how crisply modeled the levels are and you’ll probably be as willing to forgive that as I am at this price range. On the aesthetic downside, the few types of environments on offer eventually blend together in the player’s mind, and the game’s soundtrack is equally limited. Extraction should clock in at a good four to six hours of tap-driven zombie blasting.
iFanzine Verdict: Very rarely do depth and accessibility mingle as well as they do in Extraction: Project Outbreak. Hardboiled third person shooter fans will find plenty of weapons to sift through and upgrade, while more casual players will have no problem learning the interface. If you have just a buck to spare, want a huge adventure, and can stomach one more round of blasting zombie-like foes, this is one well worth checking into if you haven’t already.
Do note: the previous version may have had significant technical issues on third generation iDevices judging from the App Store description and user feedback. The latest update rolled out as this article went to print, and it’s presently unclear whether those issues have all been resolved.