Somewhere in the not-too-distant future, dinosaurs have returned and it’s not the harmless thrill-ride that the Jurassic Park films would suggest.
No, these dinosaurs, beyond being ferocious and bloodthirsty, have strange and terrifying abilities. Whether they’re tunneling through the earth like the graboids from Tremors, spitting explosive slime-bombs or creating a toxic miasma that only they can survive, these dinos are powerful enough to wipe out humanity and drive the few survivors off-planet.
This is the premise behind Second Extinction, the new team-focused FPS from Systemic Reaction — a mini-studio working under the Avalanche banner crafting niche titles.
True to their charter, SE is a game with relatively modest ambitions, focusing on dramatic, hour-long experiences that force players through a series of dramatic setpieces while hopefully giving them enough of an adrenaline rush to keep them coming back for more.
Second Extinction‘s missions are built around basic, and therefore extremely replayable, narratives with random encounters dropped in to make . Players pick a class, team up with two other people to complete the objectives, racking up experience points to unlock new character abilities and gathering resources that they can use to upgrade their weapons.
The raid I tried had players searching for a disabled research ship. Our job was to find the ship, repair it so it could escape, and then finish the surveying job it started before calling for an extraction. Simple enough in theory, but missions are broken up into distinct chunks to make them feel more tactically authentic. After a terrifying drop-pod ride, my team had to travel around the map setting up sensors to locate the craft, then fight our way through hordes of dinosaurs on the way to it, and then finally scan a cave before sealing it off, hopefully containing the dinosaurs within.
While working our way through the objectives, my team kept encountering little side-missions — bases we could secure would enable respawning and resupplying, dinosaur nests that needed clearing out, and resource caches to scour for the crafting materials within. While the map is static, the optional events are randomly spawned with each new drop, ensuring that the same mission will never play out exactly the same way.
Also complicating matters is a dynamic risk system, which I only managed to see the barest example of.
The map is broken up into distinct zones, each one given a color rating based on dinosaur activity. According to the developers, Second Extinction will collect data based on how players around the world are doing in the fight against the dinosaur threat and average out the results, then use the data to regularly update the threat level. If enough people destroy dinosaur nests in a high-danger area, enemies will be thinner on the ground in the next update.
Likewise, if players keep running away from the monstrous mutant T-Rexes that hang out in a particular valley, their influence will gradually spread and raise the threat nearby. Since Second Extinction is still being tested with just a few players at a time, I wasn’t able to see the full system in action. But, if it works as the developers have promised, there’s a good chance players will feel like their actions are making a meaningful contribution to the overall war effort.
Second Extinction currently offers four characters to choose from, each with their own special abilities. There’s a tank, a support, and two soldiers. Players can mix-and-match main weapons and sidearms, along with cooldown-based support drops they can summon during combat.
The support drops are a nice feature, allowing players to resupply in the field or to airdrop mines in to weaken approaching hordes. Sadly, the supply drop type can’t be changed once a mission has started, which is one reason why it’s vitally important to coordinate loadouts with the other two members of one’s fireteam. On the upside, the drops can heavily damage whatever they land on, transforming resupply pods into an effective surprise attack. The dinosaurs, tenacious though they may be, don’t quite get the concept of air support.
From a technical standpoint Second Extinction is gorgeous, but a bit of a graphics hog. It’s PC-only at the moment, and I was playing with a 5-year-old graphics card which tended to chug every time more than a few dinos appeared onscreen. This problem was largely remedied by turning the graphics down because hordes of dinosaurs are the norm here. Of course, players with higher-end systems will get a lot more out of it, graphically, than I did.
At launch Second Extinction will offer four heroes, six missions, and a decent arsenal to unlock. That doesn’t sound like a huge amount of content, but with the randomized sub-missions and the way threat levels can change, I could see plenty of reasons to play the same handful of missions over and over again.
The developers predict more heroes, missions, and weapons to come post-launch, and I’m looking forward to checking it out once it’s live and there are scores of other dino hunters to team up with.