From the Left 4 Dead series to the entire Call of Duty Zombies franchise, there’s no shortage of zombie hordes to eviscerate your way through. Surprisingly, the same disdain and wanton destruction is shared towards dinosaurs, because apparently the meteor didn’t do enough.
Unfortunately, these horde-based dinosaur bashing bonanza’s haven’t seen the same success as their undead counterparts. Often being relegated to the bottom of the Steam bargain basement, surrounded in other cheap tat that only surfaces during wallet-draining sales when sorting via the stores cheapest.
Second Extinction, has its sights set on bucking that trend, being the shining star of the dinosaur niche rather than the meteor doomed to make that second extinction come true. The horde-mode action at the centre of Second Extinction is structured around only a handful of missions, only six to be exact, all of which plonk you down into the same open world to fight your way through.
In this open world, it’s not just the mission’s core objectives to keep you busy killing dinos, as the map is also littered with mildly randomised side attractions. You’ll pinch dino eggs, hunt down colossal T-Rexes, or send packages hurtling up into space; there’s nary a moment where you won’t be up to your neck in dinosaurs. These slightly variable events do a good job keeping it all interesting as you rush around the map, as otherwise the missions are the same each time, and with only six to choose from, it gets repetitive quickly.
It’s not just dino killing fun that will have you jauntily sprinting around the map at an absolutely obscene pace, as you’ll also want to be after these objectives to farm them for their precious experience points. Character customisation through skins, weapon unlocks, and upgrades are all steadily fed to you through leveling and research points, nothing out of the ordinary. However the allure of upgrades and experience can quickly turn a co-op jaunt towards the objective, getting a little bit side tracked along the way, into your teammates splitting up as soon as the hunt begins to each quest as much as possible.
Upgradable weapons, new unlocks and the mild variance keep the moment-to-moment dinosaur gibbing entertaining. Unfortunately, the gunplay itself in the early access build is far from the heavy hitting hoot that it promises. Despite the visual heft of the weapons, most guns manage to feel like pea shooters, merely ticking the dinos before they’re blasted away as a ragdoll.
Don’t get me wrong, the ragdolling that’ll have you flinging dino’s off cliffs and ledges is absolutely wonderful, and gives a hint at the well deserved beef the guns should have. Watching them careen into the sky is the epitome of how much dumb fun Second Extinction can be when it works. However, when you’re not landing shots that’ll kill or cause enemies to ragdoll, they barely seem miffed by heavy weapons fire, stripping away that gloriously powerful feeling.
To get the most of that raw meaty power, I spent most of my time playing with as a sniper, a decision that had absolutely nothing to do with not wanting to get up close and personal with 65-million-year-old biting machines catching up on lost time. The one hit ragdolling was an absolute treasure. Landing shots, however, was not.
Likely due to the early access nature of this beast, something about the level geometry and long range hit detection was decidedly off. Shots would frequently seem to disappear or not fire at all, even with pinpoint accuracy which was incredibly frustrating. The problem was exacerbated with the snipers, their low ammo but high damage making every shot count, thankfully leaving the other weapons less tainted by this issue.
Even with shots disappearing off into the ether and the weapons’ weak misgivings, killing dinos was consistently a good time. Especially when using the powerful abilities each character possessed, aptly destructive and fun for the dinosaur threat. The more I played, the more I found myself sucked into the near constant action, the schlocky story becoming the perfectly substanceless background for blasting around the map anhilitating dinos just to have fun.
When it’s not suffering from the rare case of the jitters or server slow down, Second Extinction does have a pretty face. Assets are suitably detailed as they’re progressively covered in blood, however even with the tricks of Avalanche’s swanky Apex engine’s glossy lighting, it often felt missing some of its soul. Without much in the way of cohesive thematic detail, assets at times felt cobbled together, all individually looking good but without the harmony to have it all looking and feeling as good as it should.
Even in its current earliest form, Second Extinction is a lot of fun. Fighting your way through hordes of enemies, dinosaurs no less, is always a recipe for good times with friends. However, currently Second Extinction doesn’t offer much beyond that to stand up on it’s own and be well worth a play. If mercilessly massacring dinosaurs does sound like your kind of thing, then it’ll definitely be one to keep on your radar as it progresses through development, and hopefully avoids the Steam bargain basement bin.