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Second Extinction Preview: Skin Off Their Teeth


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Left 4 Dead with dinosaurs. It's one of those pitches that just jumps off the page, especially when games like Warhammer: Vermintide and Deep Rock Galactic have already pushed the ideas of Valve's game forward. Developer Systemic's Reaction's Second Extinction lives up to the potential of its unique premise, pitting explorers with big guns against multicolored raptors and giant T-rexes in fast-paced first-person combat. It's status as an Early Access title means there's some work still to be done, but the game leaves a great first impression that inspires hope in what's to come.

There are four hero characters in Second Extinction ranging from a minigun toting mercenary to an elderly sniper. Guns feel like they have significant weight, both thanks to the visual design of the firearms and the way the dinosaurs react to incoming fire. The grenades have much less impact, constantly putting out an explosion that feels smaller than it should. Still, that's a secondary concern, and it's consistently fun to alternate between making a last stand against a horde and running like hell.

Make no mistake, there's a lot of running to do. Second Extinction's massive environments give players enough room to battle gargantuan creatures. Perhaps the correct term is environment, as all the game's levels take place on one giant island, just in different corners each time. It's reminiscent of the best parts of Evolve, namely that title's instant worldbuilding. The snowy tundra in Second Extinction's available missions felt less like a constructed video game environment and more like a sprawling world where alien danger is just around every corner.
 
 

The dinos in Second Extinction aren't alien, but they do have over the top powers that go far beyond what they teach in history museums. Giving raptors the ability to launch lightning, or boxing gloves made out of bone armor, is the kind of inspired design decision that will repeatedly win players over. These creatures provide the bulk of the opposition, backing up bigger monsters such as an Ankylosaurus that can club players with its tail or roll towards them on its side. The weapons players have to deal with these threats feel run of the mill compared to the dinosaurs, except maybe the mighty minigun and grenade launcher.

One huge caveat in all this praise is that Second Extinction is very much a co-op game, and matchmaking with random players that want to play with someone learning the ropes can be tricky. It's all down to how the game handles player death. One of the great thrills of the game is how many dinosaurs it can throw into view at one time. The enemy force is meant to be overwhelming, encouraging players to get objectives done and get out. The issue is that dying once to this horde during a single-player game is an instant game over while playing in multiplayer can let players spawn back in after one of them falls. It's to the point where promoting the game as any kind of single-player experience in its current state seems like false advertising - once a team of three assembles, Second Extinction truly shines.
 
 

Overall, Second Extinction is immediately engaging to anyone interested in asymmetrical shooting against an unbeatable horde. It's probably not worth jumping in without a group of friends, but there's already a lot of fun to be had and a lot of space for the game to grow over the course of Early Access. It will also be interesting to see how the game's giant worlds and waves of enemies fare on Xbox Series X when that version launches. Left 4 Dead always played better as a casual pick-up-and-play game on console, and there's a lot of potential in that kind of experience here.

Second Extinction is available now on Steam Early Access and is coming to Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One in the near future.
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