Review - the hit PlayStation survival horror game makes it on to the PC at long last - was it worth the wait?
Just a routine mission, that is what government agent Regina was led to believe as she accompanied an elite task force headed for Ibis Island. Their assignment was simply to find a certain Dr. Edward Kirk and return him to the home country unharmed.
Three years prior to all of this, leading scientist Dr. Kirk was feared to have perished during one of his mysterious experiments. At the time he had been working on what was nicknamed "Third Energy", a technological breakthrough of pure energy. A military agent returns from Ibis Island much later to report back that he has seen Dr. Kirk alive and well, and curiously continuing on with his research at a military facility. This causes much confusion and so Regina, with task force in tow, are assembled to unravel the mystery. Little do they know the dangers they will face, and the Jurassic nightmare they will endure.
Dino Crisis is an action adventure very much in the mould of Resident Evil; in fact it is not too far from the truth to say that it is Resident Evil with dinosaurs instead of zombies! The game was originally released on the PlayStation just over a year ago, receiving much praise and acclaim. So why release it on the PC, and why so long after the PSX release?
Same Old Same Old
It is certainly a big gamble from CAPCOM, with the PC arcade adventure market already chock-a-block full of excellent titles such as "Martian Gothic : Unification" and the recently released "In Cold Blood". But then, you will be thinking that they have used that time to completely overhaul the PSX version to take full advantage of the PC's graphical capabilities. I am afraid you are sadly mistaken...
The game starts outside the research complex where Dr. Kirk was last sighted, with the place liberally scattered with the dead and dismembered bodies of the employees. There are three central characters that make up your team, with Regina being the agent you control, and Gail and Rick your associates. Both men are highly trained in their fields, with Gail being an experienced military veteran, and Rick an expert in computers, medicine and heavy equipment.
Regina is armed with a Glock 34 handgun and PA3 Shotgun, which is also capable of firing anaesthetic darts to pacify your Mesozoic friends. You will be familiar with how the game operates, simply moving from one pre-rendered location to the next, picking up a variety of objects en route, not knowing whether they are important or not. Progress is only hindered by the odd interception by vicious Raptors, who are easily dispatched by three or four bullets, and ..
Now hang on a sec, the base has been trashed by these ferocious creatures, with people being ripped apart, arms half chewed and blood spattered against the walls. You are now telling me that a scantily clad (or clad, you do get the choice) girl comes in armed with a handgun which sounds more like a party-popper, and can lay them to waste as easy as clicking her fingers? Get outta here!
Pros And Cons
I like games to vex me, to give me moments where I could scream the house down in frustration at a certain puzzle that is proving too difficult to conquer, and of course to resist the temptation to search for a walkthrough! Dino Crisis does none of the aforementioned, with the game playing through from start to finish with the ease of alphabet bricks. The puzzles are ridiculously simple, with practically all of them being spelt out to you in various notebooks and folders which you will find strewn around.
One thing that is impressive though is the game's creepy atmosphere, and the odd occasion where it makes you jump out of your skin as a Raptor comes crashing through a window. This is further aided by an excellent choice of soundtrack, which cuts in with appropriately dramatic or creepy music to suit the situation.
You also get the Operation Wipeout arcade mode for the more gun happy folk out there, where you wander the complex gunning down Raptors within a set time limit. As with the main game though, it is often very difficult to see where the dinosaurs are coming from with the fixed camera view, and most of the time you are better off waiting for them to attack you first!
I have saved my biggest gripe with the game until last, and it is simply that the graphics in Dino Crisis are just not good enough by today's forever improving standards. It is painfully obvious that this is a console port, and on that particular platform the game probably does look wonderful. But you know the writing is on the wall when you get to select what Regina wears at the beginning and the interface looks like something from the old sixteen colour EGA days.
On a PC with high-resolution graphics, where numerous other lighting and manipulation methods are possible, it should look a whole lot better than the often horribly pixelated scenes which you get in this game. The characters themselves are at least fairly solid looking, but seem to suffer from weird warping, resulting in some truly odd facial expressions. It is not to say that all of the locations are badly done, just that there is too much mediocrity throughout the game for it to be ignored.
The FMV scenes are all nicely done though, but mixing them with comparatively poor in game cut-scenes renders them a little wasted. Just giving you the option to play in anything other than 640x480 would have made things a little less painful for the eyes. A real shame, as they could have built so nicely upon the PSX version and made something truly sumptuous to behold.
I am massively disappointed with Dino Crisis, and left wondering how it was ever a success in the first place. With a predictable storyline, childishly designed puzzles and some simply awful graphics, there is very little to haul this game from the clutches of Pantsville!
Fortunately the creepy atmosphere still manages to break through the mist of poor quality surrounding this game, and at least keeps you playing the thing. I am not opposed to console conversions, far from it, I would just like to see more care and attention used, even it if involves rewriting the game code from scratch. Avoid this unless you really haven't anything better to do.