Revisited: Dino Crisis

First, an explanation. Way back in the Eifelian I featured Dino Crisis in this super packed roundup here. Now I know that it's a bit rich to be revisiting games I've covered before but have you tried playing all the way through Combat of Giants Dinosaurs? It's tough and not even the inclusion of dinosaurs can hide the fact that it is a dull and repetitive game. Or how about the Lost World: Jurassic Park? That's one platformer that I wish time would forget. Oh and look there's now four dyed in the wool mediocre film tie in Ice Age games to play. Great. It's not easy you know running a self imposed blog about dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in video games when half the games are awful and the other half have dropped off the face of the Earth. I'd love to play Evolution: The Game of Intelligent Life, Lost Eden and Dino Stalker but many didn't come out here or can only be found through less than reliable sources. My hopes were raised by the promise of platforms like OnLive but then, they don't have a single dinosaur game in their library. So to heck with it. Why not take some time out (that implies I spend some time in) from those run of the mill games and those unobtainable experiences and revisit some of the games I didn't spend that much time on the first time around? Good rhetorical question.

Soooo Dino Crisis. What a difference 13 years make. Maybe it is the warm comforting hand-holding bosom (hand-holding bosom?) of modern games with their hand holding, immersion breaking HUDs, usable maps and file sections of the inventory screens that have tainted playing games from yesteryear that were... let's say less than helpful in some respects.

Billed as Resident Evil with dinosaurs, the most striking thing about replaying Dino Crisis is how bland it is. The whole game takes place inside a futuristic science installation which very much feels like the inevitable lab sections at the end of Resident Evil games with the exception that there's no Spencer Mansion to suck you in in the first place. From the first loading screen you're thrown into a generic laboratory and corridor installation, so unmemorable that if it wasn't for my memory card telling me I'd cleared the game three times I honestly wouldn't have believed I had.

Graphics have come a long way since 1999 haven't they? Oddly Dino Crisis hasn't aged as well as the original Resident Evil. The pre-rendered dark, worn and faded corridors of the Spencer mansion aren't nearly as primitive looking as the bright neon lab spaces of Ibis Island. Robotic human models and Capcom rubber faces aside the CGI has fared a little bit better.

Remember backtracking? That was a fun part of video games wasn't it? Find a locked door, find the relevant key card to get you to the next locked door until you find another key card. There's so much of this in Dino Crisis and because the map isn't as useful as it could be and amazingly you don't collect files in your inventory I was both happy and dismayed to have to start sketching annotated maps and writing down codes in order to remember which door needed which key MacGuffin and where the ammo boxes were. 

It isn't all bad. The so called 'puzzles' familiar to survival horror games come in three flavours here. There's the DDK code cracking, circuit board rearranging and then a mini game moving red and blue blocks around to magnetically rewrite ID cards, obviously. It's inoffensive stuff but with the DDK code keys there's a need to keep jotting down the changing encryption rules which I just ended up FAQing rather than running around to relocate the correct notebook to crack the new codes.   

On to the stars of the show. Weirdly for a game called Dino Crisis, there's not a great deal of fighting dinosaurs. I remember that door opening 'raptors' were an exciting antithesis to the usual cadence of safe space, set piece, in survival horror games. However, rather than feel that there's no safe space to hide it becomes obvious relatively early on that the raptors will only open some doors which ruins the whole illusion. As ever our pal, in Dino Crisis a rather yellow, Tyrannosaurus rex plays the role of big bad guy but many of the encounters with it in the build up to finale are just frustrating ending in death a couple of times until you work out which pixel is the safe one to stand on in the set pieces. It seems that resuscitation packs, which give you a mini continue, were included purely to make these harrowing encounters a little more palatable but in true Capcom style many of the run-ins with T.rex are on the wrong side of cutscenes. As ever Pteranodon is the perpetual annoyer of the sky. When will game developers ever learn? Therizinosaurus sort of makes an appearance although it looks like Therizinosaurus and Godzilla had a late night rendez-vous and Capcom employed the love children. Okay, so the year after commercial release of Dino Crisis a key fossil discovery helped to complete the palaeontological picture of this dinosaur but even before this is was unlikely that the dinosaur was going to turn out to be a squat angry stomper shown in this tiny picture here.
There's not a great deal  to remember from Dino Crisis. There's a few interesting bits and pieces and ideas here and there but for the most part it's running up and down-samey looking corridors inching nearer to the end with every key card and DDK code key. After the credits roll there's a few nice little touches that marginally increase the re-playability. A range of costumes for Regina (pantsu visible in two of them) add cosmetic variability but the more inspired design choice is that if you choose the Cave woman look, the weapons and upgrades change too. Want to upgrade the flinstone bone handgun and shotgun? Naturally you need to find a ummm frog bit and a snake bit respectively. Also waiting for you after the credit roll is Operation Wipeout a nice little trio of kill the dinosaurs and Therizillas mini game for fun and giggles.

Dino Crisis is probably best remembered with rose tinted glasses rather than replayed and the sequel game was a significant improvement on it. There was dual wielding, Regina could run and fire, underwater sections added some much needed sauropterygians and the boring laboratory environments were (largely) ditched. The third game is by all accounts a bit pants but thanks to the lack of backward compatibility of some Xbox titles on the Xbox 360 no one will ever be able to play it again. Not even me.

1 comment:

My Brain Vitamins said...

Nice video! the game looks awesome. I've never played dino crisis.. it looks like I've been missing out.