Friday, March 15, 2013

Game Review - Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter

Series: Carnivores 2
Title: Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter
Genre: FPS (First-Person Shooter); Hunting
Story: 2190 AD. On a routine exploration mission, research vessel FMM UV discovered a planet with a suitable climate for humankind. During the initial scouting expedition this young planet was declared inhospitable for colony life due to its unstable terrain and immense population of prehistoric reptiles. News of this amazing planet spread and reports of the "Dinosaur Planet" led an earth corporation to purchase the rights to the planet, and create DinoHunt Corp. DinoHunt created the unique opportunity for paying customers to become dinosaur hunters for the first time in 50 million years.
Systems: PC; iOS; Android; PSP


I recently picked up a new PSN card for $20, to treat myself to Tomba! after wanting it for years now, which left me some extra cash to get some other games. One of the things I ended up getting was a pack of two games for cheap, the 'Carnivores' pack. This is about just the first one out of the pack, which is the one that made me decide to get the pack at all. It was really a weird pick up for me, as I'm usually not much for first-person shooters, especially not hunting games. The allure of hunting dinosaurs caught my whimsy though, so I had to give it a try. Now if only I could make it play Jurassic Park music while I play.

Now, before I go any further, I want you to keep in mind that any commentary on the game I have is based solely on the PSP downloaded version. If the full PSP version, or the original computer and phone app versions, have different features, I'm almost fully unaware of them. With that said, moving on.

The gameplay is extremely simple in the long run, but that's a good thing really - you don't need something overly-complicated for a game like this. The start up menu opens as soon as you load the game, and your only options are 'Hunt' (which is the actual game), 'Trophy' (where your kills are stuffed and kept for you); 'Options' (allows you to change the volume, sensitivity of the controls, invert the camera controls, and the game's measuring style); and 'Help' (shows you the game's controls and how they work).

The control system is the one place where the game gets a little bit wonky IMO, and unfortunately you can't alter the controls at all, so you're stuck with them. They may be about the norm for hunting games or even other FPS games though, as I'm not used to playing that genre. Your character's actual movement are controlled by the action buttons - Triangle moves you forward, X moves you back, while the Square and Circle buttons make you strafe left and right respectively. That's only moving your character's body though; to change where your eyesight is directed, you have to move the joystick around. The actual directional buttons are then used for three different functions. Up brings out your binoculars so you can get a better look at the surrounding area; Left and Right both make various dinosaur calls for you to try and lure something closer (a function that I've never found that useful as they usually spot you and run if you do it); and Down allows you to toggle the area map on and off. The two shoulder buttons are where the real action is, as they control your weapon. The Left button brings your weapon out with one press and puts it away with a second, while the Right one is your trigger and fires the weapon. Finally, the Start button functions as Pause, like it does in a lot of games.

You get five total maps to hunt on, with only the first two to start with. The first two have mild difficulty, the second two have intermediate, and the final map is considered an advanced difficulty one. Depending on your location with the animals and how you have your camera set up though, even the lowest level of map can prove challenging. Oh, and as a note, the pictuer I've posted here seems to be from an alternate version of the game, as I only get five maps, and there's no Dawn/Day/Night option.

After you choose what level to play, then you have to choose what animal you'd like to hunt. You start off with two or three from the start, but each animal you successfully kill and manage to pull out of the area with gains you 'points'. These points go towards unlocking the areas you can hunt in, the animals you can hunt, and what weapons you can use (which I'll get to next). The overall level of points you gather determines to what combinations of these factors you can play the game with. For example, when you first unlock the ability to hunt the T-Rex, you're probably not going to have enough points to take ANY weapon after it...which would be bad. To get to where you can take some of your better weapons, you have to keep hunting some of the lesser animals until you have enough points to hunt what you want, where you want, with what you want. After that, it's all golden.

In the end, there are nine different kinds of dinosaurs you can hunt in this version of the game (unlike the ten in the picture, my copy doesn't have the Pachycephalosaur option). Some of the earlier plant eaters are fairly easy to take down, even the Stegosaurus, but once you get to the meat eaters, your life is as in danger as the creatures you hunt, if not more so. Believe it or not, the Chasmosaurus is pretty deadly too, I lost count of how many times they bum-rushed me and killed me before I could shoot them enough. The toughest opponent, and arguably the 'boss' of the game, is the T-Rex. Pretty much any weapon except one of your final two (I actually recommend your second-to-last one) are effectively useless, as the T-Rex can't just be shot at until it dies. The only way to kill this mighty 'King of the Dinosaurs' is to manage to shoot him in the eye. It only takes the one shot, but with such a small target on a deadly creature, you're going to have a hard time getting your first kill without dying a couple of times first. It doesn't help that the Rex has the highest sight, scent, and hearing rankings in the game, overall anyway.

Finally you come to the weapons menu, where you have a choice of seven weapons, actually one more than the screen above gives you. You only get the Pistol at the start, which is a pretty useless weapon against almost anything but the Parasaurolophus, but you can fire it repeatedly, so that gives it a decent enough edge as you move through the earlier hunts. The Shotgun and Double-Barrelled Shotgun are better, but overall I never used them much, because the X-Bow seemed to work better for me, as I could usually manage to get close enough to the lower level dinosaurs with it to shoot them quickly enough to kill them, without the downside of a louder gunshot. The last three weapons are the bad boys of the game. The Rifle is a great hold-over weapon until you get the last two, with great range and decent power. The Sniper Rifle may be my favorite weapon in the game, as it's the only one with a decent enough aim from far away that I can actually kill the Rex with it. The downside of it's scope though is your view is limited, so if you're too close and the dinosaur starts to rush you, you're shit out of luck and should kiss your ass goodbye. Your final weapon, the mighty 'Laser Rifle', is almost perfect except for the fact that it's aiming range is just a little less than that of the Sniper, though it's precision is almost so perfect as to make up for it. The only downside to this weapon however is that it's extremely loud, so when you fire it, if you're only a short way from another animal that would like a piece of you, it's liable to get it before you can sweep the gun around again.

Your final options on this menu are the ability to toggle on and off the 'Camouflage', 'Radar', 'Cover Scent', and 'Tranquilizer' options. The camo makes it harder for an animal to see you, while the Cover Scent option likewise makes it harder for them to smell you. To decrease their likelihood of hearing you, you have to choose your weapon wisely and move carefully. The Radar option makes little red dots appear on your map where the animals are, and I'll fully admit that I can't play this game without it on. The Tranquilizer option puts the animals to sleep instead of killing them, which serves no purpose and I assume is a hold over option from other bigger versions of the game that they simply forgot to remove. Toggling on the Camo, Radar, and Cover Scent options will reduce the amount of points you get from hunting, so if you have to use them as much as I do, it'll take a while to get some higher point counts. The Tranq option curiously enough increases the amount of points you can get, but since you can't turn it on and off in the level proper and it serves no purpose in this game, it doesn't really help at all.

Once you've chosen your location, prey, and weapon, you can hit Start and head through the level to start hunting. You'll notice a lot of other animals, such as Dimetrodon and Pterodactyls, but you can safely ignore them as they don't get you any points and they never attack (you can kill them if you want to anyway though). The graphics in the level aren't exactly impressive, but they're decent, and the maps are insanely expansive - you could literally spend ten minutes going in any direction without running into an animal, which is why I had to have the Radar on with the map up while I was moving, until I got close enough to actually see the animal.

The final piece that brings the game together is your pause menu, which actually serves another purpose than keeping you from being killed when you have to leave the game for a second. If there are no animals close enough and you don't want to run the whole way, or you get stuck, you can choose to 'Re-Locate' option. Your unseen airship (which you do see pick up an animal for your Trophy room after you kill it, if you sit there and watch long enough) will beam you up after five seconds, and drop you somewhere else on the map. This is really helpful, but sometimes it'll either glitch, or you piss off the pilot, as he'll drop you RIGHT ON TOP of a dinosaur. This gets you killed pretty quickly, and if it happens after a rather successful hunt prior to that moment, it can be pretty annoying. Why's that? Because getting killed makes you lose all your shot game and the points that came with it. How do you avoid this then? After you're out of bullets, or don't want to risk losing your points to go after more, you can choose the 'Escape!' option to pull out of the game, with your game and points both collected.

That's pretty much all there is to this game. While it's all pretty simple and I'm sure other games have done it better, the game manages to be surprisingly addictive for how little it offers. Taking down a dinosaur can be pretty thrilling, especially when you just manage to kill it before it kills you; and when you fail and get killed by a dinosaur, it can actually make you jump a little, even if there isn't any blood.

I got the game and it's 'Ice Age' counterpart for $5.99 from PSN (PlayStation Network) as a bundle, so if this sounds like your cup of tea, it's a pretty good deal. Even if this isn't usually your kind of game, but the idea of hunting dinosaurs appeals to you, I fully recommend giving it a go - it's a fun little game, that can give you lots of intense hours of playtime before you fully master it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some mammoths to hunt over in the other game.

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