We live in a crazy time for games. Can you imagine telling gamers from ten years ago about the incredible deal of Xbox Game Pass? Or what about telling gamers even further back about games that take advantage of early access or Game Preview? Second Extinction is not only a game that exists on Xbox Game Pass and Game Preview, but it is also an absolute blast that you ought to keep your eye on.
Developed by Systemic Reaction, this cooperative, first-person shooter sees you and up to two friends doing your best to survive hordes of mutated dinosaurs. Yes, it’s true. Mutated dinosaurs. Thank the stars above that for once we have a horde game that does not feature boring, generic zombies. The dinos are the ultimate stars of the show, and the developers know it. Their animations are thoughtfully executed, they are visually distinct from one another, and there is just enough variety at the moment to keep things interesting. Going forward with development, of course, I certainly hope that more dinosaurs will be introduced.
One of the most interesting decisions about the current selection of angry reptiles is the fact that there are some vegetarian ones working with the masses of raptors. This might seem like a strange thing to focus on, but I feel that other games with dinos would only think of making the swarms consist of as many meat-eaters as possible. However, the ankylosaurus-looking beasties present a completely different challenge from the hopping hordes of smaller raptors. What’s even better is the fact that these angsty leaf-munchers can have mutated variants that introduce more unexpected gameplay scenarios for you and your crew to work around. The same can be said for the triceratops-looking “Bulls”, but the difference there is that I hate them because they are the most aggressive monsters ever.
Of course, they only present a true problem when playing alone. Which, unfortunately, has been most of the time for me. Even on the lowest difficulty level, playing solo is a monumental challenge due to the sheer number of dinos one has to take on. Even the addition of just one more player can make things much easier, usually if that player is one that you can talk to directly. Matchmaking with random players can make things pretty difficult, but in those sessions in which you are playing with friends, you’ll be able to complete a great deal simply due to the ability to communicate.
Now none of this is to say the game cannot be played alone, however the experience is nowhere near as rewarding. At the moment, the most viable approach for a single player is to take in the freeplay mode. Small objectives can be accomplished, daily and weekly bounties can be fulfilled, and some less rare materials can be gathered. Yet if one wants to get the bigger rewards, one has to do the campaign missions. While they can be done alone, the task is a herculean one.
I mentioned rare materials, and that is actually one of Second Extinction’s features that has kept me hooked. There is a host of unlockable weapons and equipment that can be upgraded through your collection of dinosaur pieces. No, I am not sure how it works, but I am just here to shoot the dinosaurs, not ask questions. These are not lame upgrades either; you will not find any incremental boosts to weapon efficiency here. Rather, you will have significant damage increases, boosts to reload speed, or even ways to change up the way the weapon works. A great feature is the fact that said upgrades can even be turned off in between missions if you find that you are not a fan of a choice you made.
Yet none of these weapon upgrades would mean anything if the moment to moment gameplay of Second Extinction was not fun. I can gladly say that this is some of the finest shooting I have seen in a long time. Guns are wonderfully distinct from one another, each one feels like it fills a specific role, and hooboy are they good at blasting hostile reptiles into meaty piles. I have a hard time deciding to use any weapon aside from the pistol because it just feels so hefty and responsive. Of course, it takes something a lot bigger to take down baddies like the enormous and terrifying T-Rex.
Speaking of terrifying, that’s something I did not expect from the game. Maybe it is due to all of the time I have played alone, but there is a wonderfully creepy atmosphere to the game. Walking alone in silence for too long can make the eventual appearance of a raptor a blood-pumping jumpscare to set you on edge long before the remaining swarms appear.
At this point, Second Extinction is an incredibly promising title. While it is scheduled for a full release sometime later this year, it already feels like there is enough to keep players busy. In the long run, it would be incredibly beneficial to have an additional map or two to explore and some more single-player-friendly content, but when the dinos are as fun to shoot as this, there’s plenty of reasons to stick around.
Massive thanks go out to System Reaction for providing us the chance to go hands on with Second Extinction on Xbox. We’ll have a full review once the Game Preview window has ended. In the meantime, if you wish to grab a copy for yourself, head to the Xbox Store. You’ll find it optimised for Xbox Series X|S too.