Dino Crisis


Review by Greg Wilcox



Graphics: 8

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 4

Overall: 7

Well, Capcom has done it again- but don’t get too excited. Too much of a good thing is not really the best thing as far as this whole “survival horror" craze grows. While all the pro gaming magazines gushed heaps of praise over this game, I think that the genre is wearing thin faster than almost any other. If anything, the main problem comes when major developers continue making “new” games way too much like Hollywood makes “new” movies these days. Too many games end up as big-budgeted, highly derivative and empty headed efforts that the masses will gladly eat up like cheap candy because they just don’t know any better...or care, for that matter.
Well, let me be the first to put a big boot in your soft, chewy nougat and say this: Dino Crisis is the videogame equivalent of the Jurassic Park movies with a Resident Evil coat on. If this is the sort of thing that floats your boat, well more power to ya, I say. I just could not get into this one despite its high quality for a number of reasons. First of all, the controls in DC are as bad as they are in the RE series, and the mean advantage that the dinosaurs have over the player is magnified even more since you just CAN’T move fast enough, turn properly, or jump! The new ability to spin 180 degrees is a great addition, but in limiting the movement of the main character so much, Capcom adds much unwanted frustration to the fear you feel as you make your way through the game.

As much as I despised parts of Tomb Raider III, at least Lara had some fancy moves. Most of Regina’s "best" moves happen when she’s getting smacked about and chewed on by the much more smoothly animated dinosaurs! You’d figure that Capcom, known for some of the most superior animation in its 2D fighting games, would extend a bit of that effort into this one, but they decided to stick with what went before. I can see the suits at Capcom in Japan sitting around a table thinking: “Hmmm, welllll Resident Evil sold by the bucket, despite the really awful controls, so let’s not give all our happy fans of “survival horror” too much new stuff to deal with...", followed up by: "Well O.K., we’ll make the environments in 3D this time...” Er, thanks, guys.

About that 3D- if you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t be able to tell all that much at all. Despite every room in the game being in full 3D, the camera is mostly locked into place like in the RE games. You can’t see what’s ahead of you for most of the game because the developers want to build up some sort of “suspense”. Instead, it makes the game more annoying than it should be on too many occasions. Case in point: you walk through a door into a long hallway. As soon as you’re there, you hear a hissing sound and the click of sharp toenails on linoleum. You walk forward, until the angle changes to another part of the hall; as you do this, you see a big raptor just turning a corner and coming face to face with your character! As you try to fire a weapon or spin around, the toothsome beast lunges forward and knocks you down, and BACK into the previous camera angle! Attempting to get up, the (now unseen) raptor attacks again, knocking your gun away! You manage to get ol’ Regina to limp back to the door as those sharp teeth close in on her poor, shapely rear end!

Now in a game like this the ability to control the camera would have made a big difference (like in Konami's superb Silent Hill, for example). Instead, there are far too many instances where I felt trapped by poor design and the overuse of old, tired tricks. Dino Crisis would play exactly the same with more detailed pre-rendered backgrounds as it does with what's here. Then it would just be another Resident Evil clone right down to most of the plot elements. Speaking of story, if you even start to think that this particular one is original, you may be a bit disappointed. Most of the real surprises as far as the story goes come toward the last quarter of the game, depending on choices you made earlier on. There are a couple of endings, but each one seems patterned after the first RE game with a big dash of Jurassic Park for emphasis.

The characters are a little better defined this time, but still come off as a bit shallow or even stupid in their motives at times (at least the voice acting is a bit better). There are of course, lots of puzzles to solve here, and in this respect Capcom has done a decent job. Most of the ones here are of the mechanical variety, a nice change from the “push the block to get the rock” puzzles that were old back in the Alone in the Dark days. There are also the usual keys and items to find and use, but only 3 weapons in the game. There's a variation on the item mixing from the Resident Evil games here, but don’t expect to find a super dino laser or something like that. DC features a “newer” type of cryptogram-based puzzle that's a nice touch, but these add more tension than they should if you have one or two raptors gnawing your tush as you're trying to solve them.. Unless you have a really good memory or write some clues down to use later on, an incorrect entry can have you at that evil “You Died” screen a lot sooner than you think.

Yes, there are lots of really solid things about this game, like the graphics, music, the great-looking, single-skinned dinos, and some nice cinematic angles. And the T-Rex scares, some of the level designs, and one or two of the branching sub-plots kept me playing for a while just to see what was around that next corner. But when I think of dinosaurs, I think about outdoor areas with room to fight or run for your life in (like the first three Tomb Raider games), not some raptors popping out of a desk or through a door. Again, if this is your sort of thing, go for it- I guarantee that you’ll have a grand old time with Dino Crisis. Call me an egghead if you please, but I like the bite in my horror to come from above the neck, not below (if you catch my drift)...


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:22 PM