Capcom claims to be the best in the business at creating survival horror games. It’s true that they have made some very good survival horror games over the years in the Resident Evil franchise, however many people simply didn’t care for the games or only liked a couple of them. Fearing that their franchise would grow stale and they’d lose a major money maker, Capcom set out to diversify its survival horror business. The result of the attempted diversification was Dino Crisis, a game that’s essentially a combination of the setting of the hit Spielberg film “Jurassic Park” and the basic gameplay mechanics of Resident Evil.
Dino Crisis begins with an advance military team being brought to an island where a noted scientist is thought to be doing research. Once on the island, one of your party members disappears and you begin to notice some oddities on the island. For starters, the lights in the guard booth are off, and glass and blood litter the ground. Moving in cautiously, the remaining three members of the team slowly make their way into the desolate, empty research facility on the island. After some discussion on how to go about figuring out what’s going on, you begin controlling Regina, a foxy senorita, and thus, your Dino Crisis adventure unfolds.
The game begins with you exploring the facility to find out what happened on the island and if there are any survivors. In other words, it begins nearly the same way that Resident Evil did, only instead of finding Zombies around ever corner; you find Raptors and the games main boss, a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Your task then shifts to finding Dr. Kirk, the researcher who is believed to be responsible for the evils that were unleashed upon the island. Of course, Dr. Kirk isn’t looking for you, and is hidden away some where in the labyrinth that is the research facility. Through Resident Evil style puzzles, it’s your task to find your way about the facility to find Kirk.
The nice thing about Dino Crisis is that it doesn’t come off as over-the-top or silly. Sure, a lot of the puzzles are poorly implemented, such as having to find a corpse with fingerprints and an employee ID number and make an ID card to use an elevator, but the game does feature some general scares. There were a few times during the gameplay when a dinosaur would appear out of ceilings, chase me from rooms, and then come out the door moments later, and plenty more little scares along the way that did a better job at scaring me than any Resident Evil game with the exception of Nemesis.
To decrease some of the linearity that’s present in nearly every survival horror game is the decisions making ability. Regina, though a soldier, is constantly caught in the middle of the power struggle of her teammates Gail and Rick. Along the way, they’ll often disagree, and you’ll have to choose sides between who you think is right. Often times, I chose to follow Rick, as Gail seemed kind of crappy at first, but the gameplay gets changed by whom you chose as they both provide different, if short, routes you can take.
The game plays out though fairly well. As your venture through the facility, you must constantly remember where things are, as backtracking fills a good portion of the title. Fortunately, it’s not too bad. The facility is vast and filled with all sorts of scientific equipment and materials, and navigating it is a breeze. Dino Crisis invokes a lot of linearity mainly through its level design, as you have to constantly search for ways to open up other areas, often times by finding keys, finding vents, and solving puzzles.
Undoubtedly, you will be solving puzzles, but along the way you’ll be fighting a lot of different dinosaurs. All of the different dinosaurs are implemented well into the games progression, and Capcom set it up so they scare the heck out of you at times. The first time you meet up with the Tyrannosaurus is a shocking event, and all of the other dinosaurs are fantastic as well. Killing them is also great. One thing I found funny was the games incorporation of laser fences that you could trap dinosaurs behind, except they couldn’t figure out that they’d get hurt by it, so they’d just keep running into them over and over again. The game features just three weapons, a handgun, a shotgun, and a grenade gun, but all of them are customizable with stocks (though, in my time playing the game, I never found a stock for the grenade gun). There are several different types of ammo that changes the gameplay, specifically lethal and non-lethal ammo.
Lethal ammo is usually found laying about the areas of the game as well as by using the plugs mentioned before. Non-lethal is also found the same way, but unlike lethal ammo, the strength of the non-lethal ammo can be greatly increased using the “Mix System.” Certain chemicals that Regina finds along the way can be mixed together with darts that makes them super potent. Even healing items such as healing kits and hemostat kits (which stop bleeding) can be mixed together to make their effects stronger.
All of this is a rewarding experience after dealing with some gameplay nuances that just bothered the hell out of me. For starters, the game feels like an action game, except it has some of the same ammo conservation techniques in place that the Resident Evil games have. Also, towards the end of the game I was running out of ammo, largely to do with the dinosaurs that seem to respawn every time you return to a floor. Towards the end of the game I was taking more hits fleeing from dinosaurs than I was when I was fighting them.
Another aspect I wasn’t particularly fond of was the “plug system.” The plug system is sort of like the ink ribbons in Resident Evil, except that plugs are used to access ammo and health stations in some of the games areas. Without plugs, you’re screwed because they provide a lot of the ammo you’ll use in the game. How do you find plugs? By running around and searching for them on corpses, behind things, and under things in the game. It’s frustrating and tedious to say the least, but that pretty much describes most of Capcom’s survival horror lineup.
Repetition also comes to mind while playing Dino Crisis. There are several times in the game where almost identical things will happen, like a researcher or scientist that will die nobly by providing you with a key card after repenting his sins to you or you’ll search all about looking for a certain small item that’s in need. This gets very, very annoying at times, especially when you happen to get stuck on something, then you want to shatter the disc in half. Fortunately, they’re spaced out well enough that you don’t really notice it until far into the game.
Dino Crisis incorporates Capcom’s traditional Resident Evil control scheme. While this works well when dealing with Zombies, I found it a bit slow when dealing with fast moving Raptors and a bit cumbersome in boss battles. The game utilizes the Dual Shock controller, except in character movement. Yes, you can feel the shakes and jolts, but you can’t control with the analog stick. This is kind of an annoyance, but the game is setup so that the D-Pad isn’t cumbersome when moving along the environments. Also like Resident Evil is that once you play the game, you’re probably not going to want to go back to it if you aren’t madly in love with it. The bonus mission that you get is not only not as fun as the main one, but also harder, making me think that a lot of casual players won’t touch it.
Instead of dealing with the few faults with the gameplay, Capcom decided that it made more sense to make the game look great. The character models look fantastic, even in the in-game engine. Amazingly enough, the in-game engine also is used for many of the games cutscenes, and it really holds up. Sure, the character’s lips aren’t synced to their voice-overs, but they still look good. There are a few nice particle effects and the games sparse FMV sequences are very well done. One question though: why must so many Capcom characters be effeminate, with characters like Dr. Kirk and Alfred Ashford from Resident Evil: Code Veronica?
Also fantastic are the sounds. Sure, the dialogues a bit campy at times, but it does the job. I’d say that out of all of Capcom’s games, this one has the best dialogue that I’ve heard, and I’ve played a good number of them. Regina’s voice-over is arguably the best, though Gail’s voice actor did a superb job as well. The music is a traditional set of orchestrated stuff that really adds a lot to the tension of the game. Often times, you’ll just be walking along and hear a foot step and a roar from behind you, the music will kick in, and you’ll clench up your muscles as you try to somehow make Regina run faster from the impending danger closing in on her.
Overall, Dino Crisis is fun the first time you play through it, but I don’t think that this is going to be a title that I ever go back to. While incorporating a lot of good ideas, some of them are poorly implemented and downright annoying. I was able to pick the game up used for about two dollars, and I think in the end that the purchase was well worth it. If you’re up for a scary, Dino Crisis should enter your collection immediately.
Seven out of ten