There's a lot of buzz in the Xbox community surrounding the release of co-op dinosaur shooter Second Extinction, which arrives on Xbox Game Pass as part of the early access Xbox Game Preview program this Wednesday, April 28.

Ahead of its launch, we had a chance to go hands-on with the game this past weekend (pre-day one patch), and as it's a co-op focused game, we thought we'd do things a little different with this hands-on preview by getting the opinions of a couple of staffers on the Pure Xbox team. Here's what we thought of Second Extinction...

Fraser Gilbert (News Editor, Pure Xbox): Right then! Just give us a little intro Dan, what is Second Extinction?

Daniel Hollis (News Reporter, Pure Xbox): Second Extinction is basically a mash-up of Monster Hunter and Left 4 Dead. It combines the ferocious, lengthy battles found in the former with the fast-paced co-operative action of the latter. It takes place in an open world, filled with a variety of different biomes, mission objectives, and of course, blood thirsty dinosaurs to fight. It’s a lot of fun!

Fraser: Yeah, so essentially you're grouping up as a squad of up to three players (online only, but matchmaking is available), dropping into this world and trying to complete a variety of tasks while fighting off hordes of these mutated dinos. And then at the end of each mission, which typically last around 30 minutes to an hour, you have to survive an onslaught for an extra minute-or-so to extract and retrieve your rewards, which is very reminiscent of Left 4 Dead.

And as you say, it's a lot of fun. I feel like the gunplay is largely satisfying, the enemies have relatively good AI and never give you a breather for very long, and the game doesn't take itself too seriously - I love that dinosaurs sometimes explode and ragdoll into the air when you kill them, which might be a glitch (remember, Second Extinction is launching in early access on Xbox), but it creates some hilarious and memorable moments.

Daniel: Haha, yeah! That’s a lot of fun. I think that’s basically the best way to describe the game - pure fun. It’s pretty barebones with what it is right now, but everything feels great so far. I’ll echo the gunplay, it felt fantastic. I used a sniper rifle and every shot felt powerful and punchy.

One thing I would like to see, though, is more noticeable damage towards some of the bigger dinosaurs such as the T-Rex. One of our encounters went on for upwards of 15 minutes and it was hard to gauge how well we were doing against it. In Monster Hunter the beasts have tell-tale signs for how well you’re doing, I’d love to see something similar implemented here. Not sure if you felt the same on that?

Fraser: I like the variety of enemies and how you have to kill some of them (such as the T-Rex) by shooting at a specific location on their body, which can be really difficult when you're also fighting off 30+ other dinosaurs at once! You don't get much feedback at all, but it does feel amazing when you finally topple them after all that time.

I'm also assuming that the likes of the T-Rex will become easier to destroy over time as you level up your weapons, which we only scratched the surface of.

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Daniel: Yeah, it seems that way with the T-Rex. At the risk of mentioning it again, it’s something else that’s reminiscent of Monster Hunter. You break parts off of dinosaurs, which are then used to upgrade your character. It’s going to make hunting down multiple of these bigger beasts worthwhile, and eventually easier. I also kind of loved how fast we were getting new gear. We’re not massively levelled up, but every game seemed to have us earning new toys to play with, which was great!

We had a pretty intense encounter fairly early on by simply heading to a side objective, and I think those random frantic firefights really add some uniqueness compared to the games it’s inspired by. It’s something that could only work in an open world setting like this and makes each adventure feel fresh and full of dread - I loved it.

Fraser: Absolutely, it was a lot of fun and terrifying at the same time! The map is split into areas of different threat levels, so you usually know if you're in for a challenge, and there's actually a feature called the War Effort in which the community shapes how those threat levels change across the map over time, which sounds pretty cool.

Just briefly, what do you think of Second Extinction's open world? I like it and think it looks good visually, but perhaps lacks a bit of variety right now?

Daniel: The open world is okay. I think it serves its purpose, but I do hope there’s more of an introduction to its world. You’re kind of just thrown in and have tons of side objectives with little context for what they do. You can shoot down drones which map out the area, but I wasn’t entirely sure what half of the stuff was. We also came across one or two activities which weren’t explained massively well. One notable one being an egg collection task. It has a solid foundation, but I just think it needs that initial hand holding and a bit of refinement before allowing players to go wild.

Fraser: Something to note there is that Second Extinction is getting a tutorial along with a bunch of other features when it drops in Xbox Game Pass (we didn't get access to this), so hopefully any confusion will be cleared up with that.

Daniel: Oh, great news! Hopefully it’s something akin to Deep Rock Galactic’s tutorial which manages to quickly introduce you to its world while giving you a bit of freedom.

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Fraser: OK, let's get to the biggest talking point which could be the deal breaker for many players. Is Second Extinction still enjoyable if you just want to go it alone? How about if you just want to play in a two? What do you think?

Daniel: If you’re playing solo I would say avoid. It’s really not built for that and you’re going to have a hard time. Two players is manageable. I had a go with a friend and we did okay, but you’ll need two competent players to power through. Ideally, the game is built with three players in mind, and those players need to be communicating. You’ll need to manage your loadouts before dropping in, and make sure you’re on the same page in hectic firefights. I would like to see more adaptable difficulty down the road for smaller teams, as three players is always an awkward number, but as it stands, it’s definitely a multiplayer driven experience.

Fraser: I would agree with all of that when playing the standard missions, but Expedition Mode is a little more forgiving for solo players if you stay in the low threat areas. This is basically a free roam mode where you can do a few tasks and extract whenever you want to, so you're never forced to venture into the dangerous parts of the map.

But if you really want to enjoy this game to the fullest, you need three players - and ideally, three friends rather than random players online. It's a game that requires cooperation as you say, it's way more fun playing it with friends, and when you play solo, all the dinosaurs are constantly overwhelming you because there are no other players for them to attack, so you just can't get very far on your own.

Daniel: It all depends how much you’re going to get out of Expedition Mode really. But I think with it being in Xbox Game Pass, there’s no harm in giving it a go! It’s at least worth a download and trying some online matchmaking if you’re a Game Pass member.

I think the biggest thing about Second Extinction is going to be its evolution into a full release game. We’ve seen some titles change drastically over time, and I really hope this doesn’t lose too much of its identity in the process, as this foundation is really solid.

Fraser: Definitely. We've only played a few hours of it, but I personally had a really good time and will definitely be returning to blast some more mutated dinosaurs with Xbox Game Pass. As you say, it's a solid foundation and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the game develops over the coming months and years. It's a thumbs up from us!

Looking forward to checking out Second Extinction with Xbox Game Pass this week? Let us know down below.