Game title: Dino Crisis
Genre: Survival Horror
Platform: Playstation, PC, Dreamcast
ESRB Rating: Mature
Release date: July 1, 1999
Overall rating: 8.5/10
After three big hit Resident Evil games that turned survival horror from a few loose games here and there into an actual genre, Shinji Mikami and Capcom saught to change things up a bit and attempt to do something different. Instead of having zombies as the main adversary, Capcom decided to go the prehistoric route and make dinosaurs the primary antagonist. The end result of this is the game Dino Crisis, released for the Sony Playstation, the Dreamcast and the PC. The game was said by many to just be Resident Evil with dinosaurs. Is the game nothing more than this, or does it push the survival horror genre enough that it stands on its own two legs as a classic in its own right?
Gameplay - 7/10
The most important aspect to any game is, of course, how it plays. How well does it control? What are the mechanics and systems in play within the game? Are they well implemented? Do they work to the games favor, and, most importantly, is it fun to play? Given that this is an old school survival horror game, I struggle with that last question quite a bit. I want to love these games because so many of them are so well made, with one exception. If you have played them, you know what that exception is. For some, it is an easier flaw to look past than others. Unfortunately, I am one of the others. It is hard for me to look past, but we will get to this problem in time.
Dino Crisis is, in many ways, a standard survival horror game as they have been since the original Alone in the Dark in 1992.You move through 3D or prerendered environments with fixed camera angles while trying to converve ammo, avoid enemies and, in general, survive. As I mentioned earlier, this game swaps dinosaurs for the zombies that Capcom horror fans were used to. This means a key change in the way the game operates. The enemies are quite a bit faster in this game. They are harder to dodge than zombies are. To compensate, enemies have a tendancy to watch you a fair amount of the time. This works well, though, as it feels like an animal stalking its prey.
This game does refine the gameplay mechanics in a few ways. The first and most important one is one that Resident Evil fans had to wait until the recent RE6 to get, and that is the ability to move around while aiming your gun. You move slower in aim mode, and you cannot run. That being said, given how long it would take for Resident Evil to get this ability, it is much appreciated here. It is very helpful. This game, also, has a more forgiving save system. You are no longer limited to a set amount of saves based on how many ink ribbons you have. If you are in a save room, you can save. You, also, cannot be attacked. This may sound like a minor detail, but you will be extremely thankful for it as you play throughout this game.
The other thing that this game adds to the mix is an item mixing system, and this is cool and fun to experiment. It is a joy to mix together different items to see what kind of healing items and ammo that you can make. That being said, everything is in limited supply. It forces you to think about what you want to mix together and to be careful with what items you decide to mix together, as well. The mix system is a great addition to the game, and it is a huge step up and refinement from the Resident Evil plant mixing system. You can, also, pick up a few weapon upgrades if you can find them. They will do things like make your bullets more powerful or make your shots more accurate.
Another way in which this game improves from the first three Resident Evil games is its sense of direction. This game starts you on a linear path, assuring that you cannot get lost until it has taught you how all of its mechanics work. It, also, shows you where to go on the map at several different points. It leaves it up to you as to how you get there, but that is definitely an improvement. The game still has moments where you will have no clue what to do or where to go, but you can tell that Capcom was getting better about leading the player to different places while still letting them explore and look for things like items. Even with the moments where the player had no clue what to do, this is a much appreciated part of the game, and it goes to show just how refined the Capcom survival horror games had gotten.
As you might have guessed, the part of this game that I struggle with is the control scheme. This uses the classic survival horror control scheme that has been in place since the very first surivival horror game Alone in the Dark in 1992. This means that you press up on the d pad or thumbstick to move your character forward, and you press left or right to slowly turn your character. The analog control helps be a little more precise, and the game has a quick turn button that will save you more than once as you play through this game. That being said, this control scheme is sluggish. It is hard to work with. It is the reason that this game gets a 7. I like everything about the gameplay except for the control scheme. I was able to put up with it and get through the game, but that does not excuse the controls. They are not good. I want to like this game more than I do because almost every other aspect is awesome, but the controls hold it back from being a game I would love to being a game that I just happen to like.
Graphics - 9/10
Let's get this out of the way right now. In comparison to modern games, this is not a good looking game. With that said, it is a Playstation One game. Comparing it to modern games is not fair. It is more fair to compare it to games from its era. This is a later Playstation One game, being released in the middle of 1999. This means that Capcom had had a lot of experience with the system. They knew its hardware pretty well, and all those years of expertise show in this game. This is, definitely, one of the better looking 3D Playstation games that you will play. I cannot comment on the Dreamcast or PC versions, but I would imagine that they look better than this version. For being a PSone game, Dino Crisis is gorgeous.
Resident Evil 1-3 opted for 3D character models in prerendered environments. This ensures that the enviroments never look bad, but, in the long run, it feels a little awkward. The character models do not look anywhere near as good as they once did. In comparison to the backgrounds and environments, the character models stand out like a sore thumb. They look out of place, and the entire thing looks off. Maybe Capcom realized this because they changed all of that with Dino Crisis. This game rendered everything with 3D models. This means that the environments might not look as sharp as the first 3 Resident Evil titles, but the characters fit into them much better. They look like they belong there because they are just as detailed (or undetailed in comparison to todays games) as the environments they are traveling around in. Nothing stands out like a sore thumb, and I think the game, as a whole, is better because of it.
If you go into this game with the mindset that it is a PSone game and that it will look like it, you will notice that the characters and environment were highly detailed for the time. This was a great looking game. The dinosaur models look excellent and animate well. The characters have a lot of detail, as well. The lack of things like mouth movement and individual finger movement is strange in todays world, but, if you compare this to early PSone games, you will be surprised at just how much juice Capcom squeezed out of the system. The environments are full of buttons, switches, keyboards and lab equipment to look at, and it does a decent job of providing a lot of variety in the environments without any of it seeming out of place for this kind of setting. This was truly impressive.
Sound - 8/10
This aspect of the game is a little hard to judge, as well. There are two sides to the sound. There is the voice acting, and then there is everything else. Everything else encompasses both environmental noise and the games soundtrack. These two aspects, as you might imagine if you have played the pre 4 Resident Evil games, would get drastically different scores. The voice acting is, definitely, a step up from the original Resident Evil, as is the dialog, itself. It is, still, not good, however. The environmental effects, monster noises and music, however, all combine to create a great atmosphere for this game. Let's take a look at them individually, though.
It may come as no surprise to anyone that has played the first three Resident Evil games that the voice acting in this game is not great. In fact, there are one or two moments throughout that this game where you may actually laugh at the dialog or how it is delivered. That being said, as I mentioned earlier, both the dialog and the delivery of the dialog are imrovemed from the original Resident Evil. It does not have any moments or lines that would become infamous like that game did. You can tell that Capcom was improving with their storytelling in their survival horror games. Even if it is better, bad acting is bad acting. The acting in this game is, most definitely, bad. It would get a much lower score if the rest of the sound was not great.
The music, environmental noises and animal noises, on the other hand, are a different story entirely. All of this is great. The music is excellent and creepy. It really helps to set the right mood for this game.It is dark, forboding and atmospheric a lot of the time, and it really ramps up during the more intense sequences. There are moments where all you will hear is the sound of the main characters footsteps echoing through the corridors of the empty building, as well. This, also, works well to build tension because you never know what might be around the next corner. It could use a little more variety for the noises of pushing objects, but you don't do that enough for it to become annoying. The raptors have a warning hiss, and some of the other dinosaurs have a variety of roars or thundering footsteps that have a way of getting your heart racing. When you hear them, you know it is time to run and try to escape. This is what keeps the score for sound from being low. Capcom did an excellent job on this games sound design.
Story - 8/10
Story is not the most important aspect of a survival horror game. It does play something of an important role, though. An interesting story can keep a gamer playing, and a good horror story will always leave the player in the dark about certain aspects of it. It adds to the overall tension of the game. You know these things are happening, but you do not know why. You learn a little bit of the reason why, but there will always be questions lingering that just give you the shivers even more as you play through the horror game or watch the horror movie. Dino Crisis does this. It explains enough to keep you interested, but it does not explain everything. It keeps you guessing.
In Dino Crisis, you play as Regina, a member of the Secret Operation Raid Teem and a weapon expert. SORT has sent an agent named Tom to Ibis Island to spy on a top secret labratory and find out what they are working on there. He spots a scientest named Dr Kirk, who was supposed to have died years earlier. He keeps an eye on him, and SORT monitors him until all goes quiet. Regina and her team, consisting of Rick, the computer techy, Gail, the tough leader of the group and Cooper, who is in charge of comminucation, are sent in to investigate. At the beginning of the mission, you are seperated from Cooper. You are left with no way to communicate with everyone back home. You are, effectively, stuck on the island for the time being. All of the buildings are dark, and you have to explore the facility and find out just what happened there.
The puzzle slowly unravels from there. You turn on the power, and you meet your first dinosaur. You are left wondeirng where Dr Kirk and Tom are, what happened to all of the scientests working there and why there are dinosaurs on the island. Some of the questions will be answered as you play throughout the game, and it all leads up to a satisfactory conclusion. The story is paced well. The cut scenes are interesting. The game does a good job of presenting you with quite a few cenamatic moments that are very intense and will really get your blood flowing. You can really tell that Capcoms story telling was improving. This game, also, uses a few CG cut scenes to do things that would have been significantly more difficult to do if they had just been rendered in real time with the in game engine. This game definitely tells an interesting story, and it will remind you a lot of Jurassic Park.
Replay value - 9/10
This game gives you a lot of reasons to replay it. There are several points over the course of this game where you will make decisions to accomplish a goal one way or another. This effects what section of the game you will play through and can affect the ending. As such, there are multiple paths through this game. You would have to play it several times to experience everything that this game has to offer, which really encourages you to replay it. The game, also, has multiple endings. There is a decision at the end of hte game that will determine which of the three endings you wind up getting. While you can save just before this decision and see all three of them, it does give you reason to keep playing after the credits roll. Finally, this game offers up multiple difficulty levels. Did the one you played the game on not challenge you enough? Try a harder difficulty. It all leads to this game having a ton of replayability.
Final thoughts -
Dino Crisis, in many ways, is an excellent survival horror game. If you can look past the controls that these games always had back then, you will find a very enjoyable game here. While it is true to an extent that it is Resident Evil with dinosaurs, it is, also, true that this game refines the Resident Evil format in quite a number of ways, and it offers up a few gameplay innovations that work well. It does enough to set itself apart, and any fan of surivival horror should definitely give this one a look. It is a fun and intense run through a dinosaur filled horror show. There is a lot to like about Dino Crisis. It is just a shame that the controls will hamper many peoples enjoyment of the game, including my own. Don't let that discourage you from, at the very least, giving it a try, though.
Gameplay - 7/10
Sluggish controls hamper an enjoyable and refined survival horror game.
Graphics - 9/10
Everything was rendered in 3D in this game instead of being prerendered. For a PSone game, it looks very good.
Sound - 8/10
The voice work is not good, but the sound design is excellent. The music is creepy.
Story - 8/10
The story is pretty good. It keeps you engaged without answering all of your questions, just like a good horror story should.
Replay Value - 9/10
Multiple paths through the game, multiple endings and difficulty levels ensure that there is plenty of reason to replay this game.