Today’s recipe: take a fast-paced first person shooter module, throw in hordes of blood-thirsty dinosaurs, make it a class-based cooperative experience over a giant evolving map, and get some of the developers who created the bombastic Just Cause titles on the project. The result is Second Extinction, an ID@Xbox project that just came out for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S in Game Preview, which also hit Game Pass day one. We played it for a handful of days now, and we’re ready to share our experience. It’s time to eradicate dinosaurs once again!
Various popular projects throughout the years opted for the Game Preview formula, akin to Steam’s Early Access program, which allows developers to release a work-in-progress version of the game at a lower price, then use community feedback to get the game towards the much-awaited 1.0 version. It’s a good way to support developers early, give important feedback, but also to get the game earlier and cheaper than the actual launch price.
No surprises then that various successful Xbox games like ARK, Descenders or The Culling chose this distribution method to launch their evolving products. Hitting Game Pass at the same time should guarantee the title a high influx of players, and hopefully a long-lasting community that is practically required for a co-op shooter like this.
It’s not even just an exaggeration. Other players are almost mandatory as the whole of the game’s balance has been built around the presence of 2-3 players. It is technically possible to start a match solo, but the chances of survival are rather low, as the difficulty isn’t readjusted at all. Luckily, there’s a convenient matchmaking option for those who don’t have a couple friends around to play such a title. But enough theory, let’s finally dive into how Second Extinction actually plays.
Players can choose from a selection or archetype characters, all with customizable abilities and gear, but with certain characteristics about them that never change. A heavy class with a minigun, a fast-paced light unit with grenades – you get the drill. The latter is the class I personally specialized in. The main ability and weapon is fixed, but the side-arm can range from pistols to SMGs, and beyond. Each player can also bring with themselves replenishable equipment to recover health, ammo and with cooldowns on each individual ability, as is the case of co-op gaming, players would be smart to alternate them to make sure all support equipment is available at any given time.
Subsequently, there’s also a selection of mission or a series of side-activities from a fixed map, featuring a constantly-evolving conflict between humans, and dinosaurs who now rule the land. It’s a slightly futuristic Earthscape, but aside from some lasers and rockets, there’s nothing too much of the ordinary in terms of technology. As players worldwide play through missions and complete events, certain regions of the map may become less infested with dinosaurs and thus safer to traverse, while others can see a pushback from the dinos who nested in there and now rule the area. The level of intensity of each region also determines where players can drop or evacuate, both vital parts of a successful mission, as a missed evacuation denies the entire progress made in the activity.
What immediately becomes noticeable as we touch the ground, is how smooth, polished and exciting the core gameplay loop is, in terms of movement, shooting and interacting with the environment. It’s just a marvelously crafted first person shooter module, taking cues from the speed of titles like Titanfall with its traversal and gunplay. And all of this runs at a butter-smooth 60 frames-per-second both on Series X and S, with highly customizeable sensitivity options and even an FOV slider. The slider allows players to move between the ridiculous low value of 30, all the way up to 130, just like your favourite arena shooter. Hitmarkers indicate shots and deaths, empty magaziness are signaled by a clear sound, and every shot and action gets the correct feedback on-screen, regardless of the weapon or skill used.
The already extremely-polished gameplay loop gels perfectly with the classes, each with complementary abilities that allow teams up to 3 players to be devastating. On the default difficulty, even 2 players will find it moderately easy to bring the objective home, though the higher levels are much more daunting. Similarly, it shows very early on how the game has not been tailored for solo players. Playing alone does not grant AI companions or difficulty nerfs which makes it a ridiculously tough challenge, as all dinosaurs now target the same player who has no possibility of reviving themselves, and must immediately resort to the limited respawns, instead.
6 main story missions and a variety of partially random-generated events populate the snowy Earthscape dominated by dinosaurs. With different classes, a variety of difficulties and classes that can be upgraded and customized, the replayability is already pretty high in this Game Preview version. Successfully evacuating in a mission grants all the materials and XP we managed to collect in the expedition, which can be used to upgrade all weapons, change abilities, and unlock cosmetics such as skins, calling cards and even emotes. There’s even Expeditions unlocked at level 5 that serve XP and material boosts in exchange of completed challenges, such as eliminating a T-Rex or clearing a certain amount of pterodactyls with a shotgun. Think of them like the challenges in a Battle Pass system, except without the Pass, at least for now.
From a technical point of view, the game certainly looks impressive for the relatively humble indie origins. The models for dinos and weapons are quite polished, and even though the characters are a bit less detailed, they all blend together well amongst the enjoyable scenery. Everything shines, figuratively and literally, thanks to to excellent light and particle systems on top of excellent physics. Dinos react realistically to hits as they die to our shots, litres of blood are spilled and then mantained over player characters. A gorgeous day/night cycle, with even the aurora borealis in place, serves as the perfect lighting for these fast-paced battles, that always look and feel really smooth, thanks to the excellent framerate and general responsiveness of the game as well.
The game, of course, does have its share of shortcomings. During my many sessions, I encountered multiple technical issues and crashes that caused a fair bit of frustration. The variety of the dinosaurs and activities on map isn’t currently that wide, which creates a gameplay loop that peaks early on and hardly ever evolves, aside from the loadout upgrades in time.
Though it may just be an independent project in Game Preview, it’s already one of the better co-operative shooters out there, with excellent shooting mechanics, good traversal, menacing dinos and good graphics. It can currently be bought in Game Preview at the discounted price of 24.99EUR/24.99USD/20.99GBP, which will grant access to the full version too once it arrives, or it can be enjoyed as a day one release on Game Pass on Xbox One, Series X|S and PC alike. We hope to see you on these dinosaur-infested lands!