Life finds a way to swarm and overwhelm you with razor sharp teeth, acid spits and colossal kings of the jungle in the newly released early access title, Second Extinction. Now making its way into Xbox’s Game Preview system, Systemic Reaction’s Second Extinction combines the group survival shooter franticness of Left 4 Dead with the dino-splicing action of Turok and the Jurassic Park films.
Based on this description, don’t come into this expecting many new or ground-breaking elements, but plenty of chaotic fun is still to be had with Second Extinction’s work-in-progress dino-blasting package.
Saddle Up! We’re Going Dino Hunting
The concept here is simple: drop into a world zone, head for an objective and complete it amidst an onslaught of raptor swarms, bull-charging Triceratops and occasionally, of course, the king himself: the Tyrannosaurus Rex. I’ll keep it as reductive as that because that is more or less all there is to it. Even the varying objectives themselves are for the most part quite generic and similar: go here, turn on this thing, find this thing, wait out this timer, etc, etc. But all that doesn’t matter too much since the one thing you are actually here for anyway (dino-blasting action!) is plenty of fun on its own.
The Left 4 Dead-like chaos and heart-pounding action is certainly Second Extinction’s strongest suit. The way in which dinosaur hordes often break the silence and suddenly swarm you is brilliantly executed. You’ll find them suddenly tunnelling out of the ground and jumping all over you while special types of raptors are simultaneously screaming for more reinforcements to send things out of control. Once you add the “oh shit” sightings and break-ins of the bigger dino threats, you’ve got quite the neat little package going here.
If playing solo it is very easy to become overwhelmed, but it is also a lot of fun to try to break out of moments of seemingly inevitable doom, and it makes it all the more rewarding when you do manage to scrape through by the skin of your teeth. However, where Second Extinction really flourishes is in its co-op action.
The game currently provides 5 different characters, each with their own unique set of abilities and weapon types. So, unlike Left 4 Dead, different playing styles and strategies are available to suit you and your group of friends. For example, Amir, equipped with a grenade launcher, is useful for clearing out buildings and big clumps of raptors, but he struggles if isolated or finds himself up against one of the bigger enemies. Rosy has a minigun and electric traps, but she’s on the slower side, so she might be best for defensive setups and supporting.
You can also upgrade weapons over time to reinforce the ways you like to play. All this provides freshness and longevity to the game and also helps set it apart from other group survival shooter clones from the last few years, such as World War Z.
The dinosaurs of Second Extinction are far from normal. These dinos have been souped up with genetic enhancements and mutations to make things more challenging and terrifying. You have generic raptors, but they have plenty of modified equivalents too—electric raptors, acid spitters, stronger Alpha units and a creepy Watcher scout. Like Jurassic Park taught us, expect these smaller raptors to hunt in packs, which makes things more difficult for you but also gives a good amount of fodder to blast away, which is immensely fun.
The big boys (and girls) will give you something else to consider and force you to develop different strategies to overcome them. The Digger will interrupt your flow by burrowing underground and then rising back up on top of you. The Flatbacks are well armoured and will need to be tricked or forced into revealing their undersides to be damaged. Their Necro-enhanced equivalent makes for even more explosive action as it influences surrounding raptors to blow. The crest-headed Triceratops is not something you want to be found flat-footed in front of as it charges. You’ll need to find a way around its natural shielding. And, of course, the T-Rex will put the fear of god into you as it crashes through buildings and stomps through the icy tundra.
Call yourself “life” because you better find a way!
The variety of dinosaurs also has a varying influence on the effectiveness of certain characters. For example, Rosy’s electric abilities are of no use against the already electro-charged raptors, and Amir struggles to effectively pinpoint the T-Rex’s weak point under its jaw, so perhaps it’s best for him to “strategically retreat.”*
(*Run away! Run far! Run fast, goddammit!)
Stopping a Jurassic World
Perhaps the most novel part of Second Extinction is its attempt to integrate its community into an overall conjoined effort that influences how everyone’s game looks. Systemic Reaction have built a system called the “War Effort” in which the actions you take in your game contribute toward a larger fight against the dinosaurs as a whole.
Within the Tundra’s open world are 7 different sectors which at any given time are at varying degrees of threat levels. Mechanically speaking, by completing objectives in certain sectors, players should be able to drive down the threat levels in a given area. But with the War Effort system, this becomes a joint effort, and at certain times Emergence events might be triggered if the community does not do enough overall to drive back the dinosaur hordes. This leads to areas of hugely dangerous threat levels often too much for just one player to handle on their own. In these areas you’ll find even more grotesquely mutated dinosaurs and higher concentrations of raptor swarms and lairs.
The War Effort system changes up the game from time to time to keep it alive, moving, and feeling fresh. It can be a lot of fun to challenge yourself by wading into the depths of an “overmutated” area and doing your best not to be ripped to shreds immediately. It is also worth bearing in mind that Second Extinction is still within Game Preview, so as development continues, Systemic Reaction might have a platform here to do some fun and ingenious stuff with the game and the community, particularly as the community itself (hopefully) grows.
Good Room to Grow
Systemic Reaction’s game is simple in concept, but it’s a hell of a blast. The balance of chaotic action and open-world navigation is nice, and the enemies are thoroughly satisfying to fight. You’ll either find yourself mowing down dinos by the hundreds or overwhelmed and gasping to survive while awaiting evac. Even in my short time playing, I experienced a good few memorable, heart-pounding moments. Seeing a gargantuan T-Rex crash through a wall to stomp all over my day is just one thoroughly enjoyable example.
Second Extinction also has plenty of room to grow. The concept and the gameplay are there, so the mission now for Systemic Reaction will be to fill out the game and the world just a little bit more. The open world is expansive enough to be populated by more areas and buildings, perhaps even various interior sections that could offer different types of scenarios (ie please recreate some version of Jurassic Park’s kitchen scene!).
There is also the promise of more enemy types to add. I have no doubt that a few flying dinosaurs could add effectively to the mix, or even rival Tyrannosaurs to stack up against the kingly Rex in one-on-one dinosaur brawling action. And then, of course, more hero types and weapon variants.
The War Effort also adds a new layer for expansion that could allow for bigger community events and huge world-shattering changes in the future. For example, set off a volcano in the tundra. Bring up a new unkillable dinosaur king to stalk the land. Crater whole areas with dinosaur sinkholes. Go wild, Systemic Reaction. The possibilities are potentially endless.
For now though, support this game in its early access stage. Pick out your dino-hunting crew, and go push these lizards into a second extinction this weekend with your buds! I guarantee you’ll have a blast.
Second Extinction is newly released for free on Xbox Game Pass or purchasable on Xbox’s Microsoft Store and Steam for $24.99.