By: Casey Curran
There are certain things in life that are just a natural fit for video games: dragons, lightsabers and dinosaurs immediately come to mind. It’s weird then, that we have so few good dinosaur games. Despite a few decent ones out there, developers should feel ashamed that the best game to let you play as one of these prehistoric beasts is Yoshi’s Island; a game where said dinosaur carries an annoying crying baby around and throws eggs at cutely designed enemies. So, when I see a game like Primal Carnage, a PC, class-based multiplayer first-person shooter with the added twist that one team controls the dinosaurs from a third-person perspective, I come in hoping for much but expecting the worst. Unfortunately, I got exactly what I expected.
My first fear was that the dinosaurs would not control well or be fun to use. The worst is the Pterodactyl, which is to be expected as making flying both fun and easy to control is no easy feat. Add to it that you’re trying to swoop in on enemies with projectile weapons, and getting a kill or picking up a human as one is nearly impossible. The rest of the dinosaurs have two attacks: biting and an alternate strike, such as spitting poison or mauling a human like a Hunter from Left 4 Dead. These work well enough, it’s just that they’re not overly fun. Biting does not have any satisfaction to it; it feels like Halo’s melee done with the mouth rather than the arm.
As for the humans, it’s still very hard to mess up a first-person shooter’s controls. I wouldn’t say it does this completely, but it certainly does not compare to other multiplayer-only shooters such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive or Gotham City Imposters. In fact, I’d go as far to say the original Counter Strike feels more polished than this. Outside of that, it’s just that the reticule bloom goes a little too out of control.
Just as the controls feel archaic, the graphics and sound do as well. Don’t believe the screenshot above; the developers made sure to make the game look more flattering than it actually is. Normally I could forgive underwhelming graphics from an indie title. What I cannot forgive is inconsistencies in graphics. The sky is seemingly always experiencing some rapid screen tearing, every time I looked up it was flickering. It got to the point where I had to take a break every two matches, and it exists even at the very bare minimum settings. The sky is not the only issue, however, as other players are constantly disappearing and reappearing out of thin air. In a multiplayer shooter, this is unacceptable.
They cannot even be saved by a good art direction. This is a Jurassic Park rip off through and through. The dinosaurs look like they belong in Jurassic Park. The areas look like they’re a part of Jurassic Park. The humans are the lone exception. They’re worse. Two of them are stereotypical caricatures: the Commando, a shirtless African-American wearing a do-rag and the “Pathfinder,” a Native American with every single stereotype you can imagine. There’s nothing wrong with the others, but those two feel like the developers took cues from Resident Evil 5 for character design.
The sound is bearable. There’s nothing horribly offensive, but nothing that stood out either. The one exception, however, should be the most important: the T-Rex’s sound effects. They sound pathetic, like the developers knew what they were supposed to sound like, but had no idea how to pull them off. If Shadow of the Colossus is the perfect example of how to make something feel big through sound, this is how not to do it. Playing as a human gives some extra effects such as the ground shaking, which help this when facing a T-Rex, but hearing it stomping still sounds terrible.
As of now, there is only one type of match: humans vs. dinosaurs Deathmatch. This is a great missed opportunity. Having two teams of dinosaurs battling is very uncommon in video games, and I think it could have been a great twist to an otherwise bland Deathmatch. Other modes, such as capture the flag, could’ve benefitted from this twist. Only Deathmatch really hurts its longevity, as there’s just not much to it.
Both sides are unbalanced in ways that strangely make up for each other. Humans are all but defenseless at close range, where the dinosaurs can tear them to shreds. Yet dinosaurs are defenseless at long range save the Dilophosaurus. The tradeoff is that dinosaurs are required to get surprise kills while playing as a human turns into a Bethesda game where you’re attacking while running backwards hoping something does not finish you from behind. Not exactly what I’d call fun.
The one upside is that the classes are very distinct on both sides. The dinosaurs all feel different and the humans each have their own weapons, which must be used in their own way. Your basic FPS trimmings: one has a machine gun, another has a sniper rifle, etc. The one unique class is the trapper, who has a net gun. This comes in handy against everything but the T-Rex, which is too common for this to be much more than a novelty.
Maybe someday dinosaurs will replace zombies as the “cool” things to shoot and we’ll get Left 4 Raptors and Nazi T-Rex’s. Until then, we’ll just have to avoid crap like this. If you want a multiplayer shooter, there are countless better options out there, especially on Steam. Even when the price inevitably drops to $1.50, it still won’t be worth the hard drive space.