Version tested: PSOne
Japanese developer Capcom have shown in the past that they're not too shy to re-use a winning formula. The hugely successful Street Fighter series of games have undergone many revisions and re-issues and still fall off the shelves at the games stores. Now they're trying the same trick with the popular Resident Evil formula by adding growling Jurassic-Park style dinosaur goodness to the zombie-fest to create an entirely new survival horror game.
The saga begins when a crack team of commandos parachute onto the mysterious secret island facility of Ibis. We catch an early glimpse of the dinosaur horrors to come when one of their members lands dangerously close to a hungry T-Rex with very messy results. The remaining three members regroup and their mission is to locate and extract the main villain of the game, Professor Kirk. This enigmatic scientist was thought to have died, but new information suggest his death was faked and that he's conducting new experiments on this remote island, his research apparently concentrates on finding a way to take energy from the atmosphere and convert it to a usable form in a bid to clean the polluted planet of its toxins and create a badly needed new power source in the process. When your character, the extremely foxy Regina and the rest of the team enter the base they find it strangely quiet and empty of human life. Your team splits up to investigate, and your left alone to work out just what's happened to the bases former inhabitants and locate the missing professor Kirk. Apart from the obvious shift to large lizards instead of undead, the most noticeable change from the Resident Evil games are the real-time environments. Resident Evil used pre-rendered backdrops with the modelled characters overlaid to create some of the most atmospheric locations ever seen in a game. Dino Crisis replaces this with some fantastically detailed three dimensional environments, but keeps the atmospheric camera angles from the previous games. What this loses in locational detail, it gains in flexibility. The camera in Dino Crisis is used to great effect so that in key events and locations it shifts from its fixed position to pan a scene, or follows Regina as she jogs down an unexplored corridor. It's extremely effective and cunningly not over exploited so that the impact is heightened when the new techniques are employed. Despite this new graphical complexity, there are no glitches or polygonal break up found in other fully three dimensional titles, and the locations are masterfully constructed with almost the same intricate detail of Resident Evil's pre-rendered scenes with an impressively smooth frame rate maintained throughout. A very welcome benefit of the new graphics engine is a far shorter loading time between sections, and far larger sections are contained in-between each reload.
Real-time lighting is also employed giving the already impressive player and enemy models added weight and presence. The dinosaur models look amazing as well, highly detailed, fast moving and plenty of teeth! It's a visually splendid game, a real achievement on the poor ageing Playstation. Capcom have added far more than improved visuals and dinosaurs to the Resident Evil formula. Significantly to combat this new and faster foe Regina can now walk and hold a weapon simultaneously, and has a badly needed 180 degree spin button to catch those rapidly moving dinosaurs. Believe me this is important, the dinosaurs are a world apart from the slow moving zombies from Resident Evil, the 'raptors leap and dive about, and at some points team up and require quick thought, cunning and strategy to defeat. If they take you down, they can pin you almost like in wrestling, furious bashing on the joypad is the only way to become free from its grip. The inventory system has been improved, it's far easier to manage your carried items, and a slightly more complex storage system has been implemented over Resident Evil's strange chest network. Saving is no longer restricted to collected items, but can be done whenever you pass through a 'safe room', however your final score will reflect the number of saves so its still best to save as infrequently as you dare. Items can be combined to improve their effect similar to the coloured plants from Resident Evil, but this has been improved to encompass many different items throughout the game, including your weaponry. The puzzles also seem to be a touch more complex than the early zombie outings, with some great variety including colour and pattern matching and word-based conundrums. A choice has to be made at certain points of the game too, creating story branches where the plot changes based on these decisions, adding to the replay value of the title.
Dino Crisis is almost a perfect progression from the Resident Evil series of games. Die hard fans on the survival horror genre might not find the game as scary as it should be, a couple of big lizards coming at you just aren't as creepy as a room full of half rotted zombies, but the new enemies are quick and deadly enough to make you jump in a darkened room and rest assured there's more than plenty of blood. Essentially this is Resident Evil with big lizards but there's by far enough added extras to make it stand on its own two clawed and scaly feet, making Dino Crisis a must have for fans of the genre and newcomers alike.