Is Primal Carnage an evolution of the Dinosaur vs Human genre, or is it destined to become extinct?
Reviewed on the PC by Alex Trotter-Fernandez
Primal Carnage can be best described as Jurassic Park meets Team Fortress 2 with a dash of Left4Dead’s asymmetrical shenanigans. Of course Steven Spielberg’s seminal Dino-centric disaster film didn’t have machine gun toting marines and Pyros, as Primal Carnage replaces Paleontologists and Chaos Theoreticians with Mercenaries. There’s only so much damage you can cause with a chisel… There’s also a Native American with a Shotgun who doesn’t seem that in love with nature, a scientist with a Sniper Rifle and an awesome reference to Muldoon (Clever girl…) in the trapper whom fights with a net gun and a knife. When you’ve survived a match with the Mercenaries you can embody some of the most veracious beasts during this side of the Mesozoic era, creating an ongoing dynamic of hunter versus hunted that’s seriously fun to play.
[pullquote]You’d think that with playable Dinosaurs there’d be balance issues in Primal Carnage… You’d be wrong.[/pullquote]You’d think that with playable Dinosaurs there’d be balance issues in Primal Carnage’s multiplayer mayhem, but you’d be wrong. The odds are stacked in way of teamwork rather than perks, and you’ll never find yourself in the position of wanting to desperately play as Norvo-Rapotor because both sides are equally fun to play. Switching sides you experience two different styles of game. Playing as a Dinosaur you hunt down the mercenaries through stalking them or charging into them like a ten pin bowling set. The mercenary experience is far more of survival style of play, where hunting down the enemy is a seriously bad decision as leaving the pack and lone-wolfling it would result in a quick and vicious end.
In both cases strategies and communication are key because of how classes complement each other. A Pteranodon can spot the enemy team, allowing a T-Rex and a couple of Carnotaurus to bulldoze their way through the pack. The Dilophosaurus can blind enemies with his venom attack while the Raptors pick them off one by one with their stealthy pounce attacks. Likewise the combination of Commando, Pyro and sharpshooter roles can work together to get the desired results in defending their position. The Pathfinder has a very useful ability in the flare, which blinds nearby Dinosaurs causing prehistoric pandemonium.
[pullquote]Watching the animation of your T-Rex gobbling a Hunter whole is very satisfying[/pullquote]The Dinosaurs are wonderfully beast like and are worthy adversaries, especially from the perspective of the human team. They may not have assault rifles and tranquilizer darts, but there roar “perks” buff up their damage and health, and they move fast and viciously through the terrain. On the mercenaries’ side the greatest in-game moments are when you survive, trap a Pteranodon in a net mid-air or manage to take down a colossal T-Rex all by yourself. On the other hand the most spectacular moments on the Dino team are in the awesome class-centric kills.
Watching the animation of your T-Rex gobbling a Hunter whole, Raptor ripping apart a Scientist or Pteranodon dropping a Pathfinder to an untimely death are extremely satisfying when you pull them off. Some of the special moves, particular the last two previously mentioned, are very hard to pull off and require perfect timing and aim. The latter being hampered by third person controls which feel like they would work better with a Gamepad in that instance.
I love the fact there’s no regenerating health. Health and ammo is replenished through various crates and kits around the map. The catch is you pull out to a third person perspective while you do it, which isn’t an instantaneous action. It leaves your character vulnerable and adds an extra layer of suspense. The long walk when you’re isolated from the group, particularly when you’ve respawned, is almost terrifying because the chances of survival alone are in the zero digits. The Dinosaurs get a similar health mechanic, although they don’t get health packs but Dino corpses littered around the map. It adds an almost role playing element, allowing you to put you in the shoes of a great prehistoric creature.
The biggest problems with Primal Carnage appear in its simplicity. At this time of writing there isn’t anything beyond team deathmatch in five maps (as awesome as they might be). Lukewarm Media will be updating the game with more maps and more modes. But even at this point it feels like they game should have stayed in Beta for maybe a little big longer. The lack of Voice Communication makes it hard to work as a team, and only one mode of play can get very old pretty quick.
It feels like some objective style play is needed to spice up the proceedings. The maps are huge, lush and well designed. However because the Mercenaries will always play defensive, they’ll always be grouped together in their “favorite spots”. Yeah, there are certain rocks and landing pads where the action will always take place. It’s a shame because I want to explore more of the beautiful map without fearing missing out on a kill or getting killed.
Primal Carnage makes good use of the Unreal 3 engine, and the lighting effects look absolutely gorgeous maxed out in HD. At the same time there’s plenty of attention to detail in the smaller things, inspired by Jurassic Park it feels like you’re playing in a deserted Site B. At this time of writing there is no AA support, which is a shame for those of us who don’t like jaggies. The promised DirectX 11 implementation is nowhere to be seen at the moment. I’d like to see how tessellation improves the environments and the already superb Dinosaur models. Human models aren’t quite up to par with the Dinosaurs, having a typical FPS look which is disappointing considering how awesome a T-Rex looks in motion. Lukewarm Media has indicated that missing modes, more maps, more content and other server/graphics improvements will be arriving soon, it’s just a shame they couldn’t get it out on launch.
Primal Carnage needs more content. However there’s enough here to justify a purchase if you’re patient enough to wait for the game evolve. It’s cheap as well, which helps. The servers are full with enough players for the game to be mega fun with an average of 25-30 players on a single map, so it’s unlikely this beast will become extinct. If you stick with the game you will be rewarded, because clearly the team is passionate about the game and care about the player experience. As it stands this is the best Dino vs. Human deathmatch game I’ve ever played, and from the sounds of some of the free features Lukewarm Media are planning to add in over the upcoming maps it’s only going to get better. Think of it as an investment in the future. As Dr. Malcolm always says;
Life finds a way…