Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Review: Dino Crisis

with 3 comments

dc_boxConsole: Playstation, Dreamcast, PC
Released: 1999
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Digital Release? Yes, PSN version compatible with PS3, PSP, and Vita for $5.99
Price: $7.50 (disc only), $10.00 (complete), $35.00 (sealed) per Price Charting

Dino Crisis really sounds like a winning formula if, like me, you are are fan of survival horror and dinosaurs. What could possibly go wrong? Well its time to revisit this Sony Playstation 1999 release and see if it stood the test of time or should have remained extinct.

Dino Crisis released when survival horror was hitting a peak in the industry, at least in terms of the “tank-like” control system. The Sony Playstation had plenty of games like it to offer. In the same year Dino Crisis released we also saw Silent Hill from Konami and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis also from Capcom. Interesting to note: Shinji Mikami – creator of the original Resident Evil – was heavily involved in the production of this game so much so his name was put on the front of the box in hopes it would sell the game. Clearly something worked as Dino Crisis managed to sell over one million copies.

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Dino Crisis is set on Lisle Island and you play Regina, a member of SORT (Special Operations Rescue Team), because it wouldn’t be a Capcom game without a made up special unit. Regina, along with your team members Gail and Rick, are sent into the facility to hunt down Dr. Kirk who is a scientist working on a project titled ‘Third Energy”, which is believed to be linked to the production of dangerous weapons. Not long into the mission you find out most people in the facility are dead and the place seems rather empty, which should probably sound familiar for a survival horror game. Rather than the place being infested with a different common nasty, you find it’s dinosaurs that are responsible. So begins a survival tale of finding Dr. Kirk and getting out without becoming dino food. There really is not much to say on the story and it follows a very predictable path, even if you haven’t played other Capcom survival horror games.  Still, if you hunger a more in-depth look at the complete plot, we did a game club on it that you’re welcome to listen to.

Dino Crisis is a survival horror game that uses the tank style controls that are really “love it or hate it” by this point. You have limited ammo and health items and are generally expected to run from enemies more than attack them. Dino Crisis does introduce some new mechanics to the mix as well. In this game you can ready your weapon and move at the same time, however when you shoot your weapon you still remain stationary. You can spin 180 degrees on the spot, which is handy for quick escapes in the game. There is also this unique mixing mechanic where you can combine ammo and health items to create special items to enhance your equipment. Another new health item allows you to continue from the room you left off, should you die, basically acting as extra lives without returning to the last room you saved in. This mechanic comes in very handy for some of the frustrating encounters.  This game will, at times, allow you to make decisions on how the story progresses, triggered by the characters Rick and Gail giving you a choice on how to handle a particular situation. It’s a interesting mechanic that encourages more than one playthrough of the game and also helps you see the entire story – if you have any interest, that is.

dc_postA mechanic I didn’t care for in this game was the damage indication. There is no health bar, not even in your item menu. You are expected to watch Regina’s stature and movement to tell if she is injured. This sounds unique on paper, but most dinosaurs take a lot of health off especially on harder difficulties, making you more likely over use health items and get pretty irritated. Regina can also bleed, indicated by a small blood trail as you walk. Basically she will bleed out and die unless you stop the bleeding with a hemostat or health item that combines that effect. Surprisingly, these health items were pretty sparse.

The game feels much more puzzle-focused than action. You will regularly encounter puzzles which require you to find two discs and then enter a password by solving a logic puzzle. These are repeated throughout the game and get progressively harder. Though it is nice to see a game that asks you to use your head for a change, the backtracking through the environments to look for a single item gets very frustrating.

The graphics of the game are something new for the genre. The entire level design is now 3D rendered – this means all the items and environments are given their own 3D model – which is counter to what we’ve seen in the Resident Evil series that used pre-rendered backgrounds with single character models. Also occasionally the camera will follow Regina as she moves. It was probably a test what to expect from Resident Evil: Code Veronica, which used the trick often. Though the engine looks cool if you have a appreciation for game engines, to most gamers it will come across as ugly because the environments lack depth and detail when compared to pre-rendered environments used by most other survival horror games.  This is to be expected due to the technical limitations of the time – early 3D provided you with flexibility or graphical quality, but almost never both.

Character models are standard affair, the dinosaurs really steal the show as they look very impressive especially considering this is an original Playstation game. It’s just a shame there is not more dinosaur types. You have the raptor, which is the main enemy you will face, pterodactyl which are just a pain, Compy which just chase you around, some four legged dino that does a hefty amount of damage. Then there is the T–rex, which just looks great and most encounters with it lead to one hit deaths unless you handle them properly.

dc_3There is not much music in the game just the occasional tension theme to add to the horror elements. The voice acting is absolutely awful, but why would you want it any other way for a Capcom game?  The most memorable sounds are by far the dinosaur noises from the T-rex and raptor. Sometimes you’ll walk down a corridor and hear a raptor but it will never appear, a rare moment where the game actually felt scary.

To the games credit it really does try to make a game using Dinosaurs scary. The game introduces these “danger” segments where you walk down a corridor and a dinosaur essentially jumps you and the screen flashes “danger” you have to rapidly press any button on the controller to escape. It sounds like a good idea but like Quick Time Events (QTEs) in general these segments surprise you so suddenly if you don’t mash the buttons quick enough you die instantly.

I is not the longest game. Your first playthrough may take up to eight hours but that will significantly drop once you know where you are going. The game has multiple endings, harder difficulties and some extra modes unlocked once you have finished.  Overall, Dino Crisis is a decent game that will absolutely appeal to fans of survival horror and gamers that have a appreciation for early game design choices like the 3D models. For everyone else it’s a hard sell even if you like dinosaurs because the game generally is not that memorable and doesn’t bring anything new to the table. I may have rated the game low but that’s only because I feel this won’t appeal to the mass market of gamers. Those that appreciate this game for what it brought to survival horror will be happy to add it to their collection.

Final Score: 2 out of 5  (our review policy and scoring can be found here)

Written by jamalais

August 10, 2014 at 3:00 pm

3 Responses

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  1. 2 out of 5???? What were you, drunk or something?

    Clearly a 4 out of 5 game at least. Sheesh.

    Cristiano

    April 2, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    • I know this is a bit of a cop out, but I personally hate scores and I feel that Jam’s comments properly reflect his feelings/score. That said your score is also recorded now and it’s just as valid as Jam’s. For what it’s worth we enjoyed the game quite a bit on the game club but when you put a critical eye on the game design you can’t always ignore what doesn’t work about a game. And yes, I am currently drunk.

      Fred Rojas

      April 3, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    • As Fred mentioned I kinda struggle with scores. I will actually play plenty of games which get low review scores and still enjoy them. A lot of my reasons for givcing Dino Crisis this score was I felt it just wasn’t as enjoyable as the sequel. Dino Crisis had some fantastic design choices but it still came across as a game that lacked that little something that made it stand out. I think they really figured it out with the sequel and that was a good direction for the series, its just a shame it didn’t continue. I reccommend looking at both games and I personally really enjoyed learning about the history of the devlopment. Thanks for your comments.

      jamalais

      April 4, 2015 at 4:12 pm


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