Title: Dino Crisis
Genre: Survival Horror
Developer: Capcom, Nextech
Release Date: 9/31/1999 (Original), 11/25/2009 (PSN)
Platform: PlayStation, Dreamcast, PC, Playstation Network (PS3, PS4,PSP, PS Vita)
Platform Reviewed On: PlayStation 3
I am a big horror fan. I am also a big fan of dinosaurs. What do you get by combining the two? The Dino Crisis series! This time around we will be looking at the first title in that line, the original Dino Crisis.
This game was made during the same period as Resident Evil 3. In fact, both games contained the demo for the other during the original Playstation release. The Dino Crisis series was a spin-off of sorts to the Resident Evil series and used similar controls and concepts, such as limited supplies and puzzle-solving elements. They also shared a similar presentation in art direction and pacing. I remember playing it on my PSX back in the day and loving the experience. I really love the art, area designs, and enemies of the first two Dino Crisis games and the Light Gun spin-off Dino Stalker, but I pretend that Dino Crisis 3 never happened as it deviated from the themes and style of the others (mutant-zombie dinosaurs that shoot lightning in space! Why not!?).
In Dino Crisis you play as Regina, a foxy secret agent with an attitude. You and your team of agents are infiltrating a secret military facility to find a missing scientist and recover his research into a strange new technology referred to as “Third Energy”. However, soon after landing, the team realizes that something is wrong. The mission quickly falls apart and becomes a fight to survive as the story takes several twists and turns in typical Resident Evil fashion.
Lets move on and take a look at the game itself. Have you ever played the old Resident Evils, before analog sticks became common in video-game controllers? People often refer to these games as having “tank-like” controls because you had to turn the character left or right to the direction you wanted them to go before you could move in that direction. Now, In old Resident Evil games this wasn’t often so much an issue until the end of the game because standard zombies are slow and you can strategically run around them even with having to take time to turn before you run. Furthermore, this was mitigated somewhat by the inclusion of a “quick turn” button that turned your character 180 degrees, which helped you flee or reorient yourself in a bind. Early in the game, the limitation forced the player think out their movement in a room by planning out how they were going to move and using obstacles such as tables to keep the slow and dim-witted enemies at bay, but towards the end of the game these same controls produced moments of high-pressure terror as more intelligent and faster enemies chased you through crowded corridors and laboratories. These controls carried over to Dino Crisis (and it sequel), but the difference here is that the enemies you encounter in Dino Crisis are much faster and intelligent than the typically slow, mindless zombies of Resident Evil, so you are always on edge trying to deal with the fast and lethal velociraptor and other dinosaurs that infest the military compound you are exploring. The same rules apply to the raptors as to the zombies, in many cases, so putting objects between you and your pursuers can keep you alive and give you a spot to pick off enemies if you have ammo to spare. However, most of the game has you in narrow corridors with little cover to protect you and the raptors run much faster than you, making this strategy unreliable in many encounters.
A key skill that Regina has is combining items to make new ones. Primarily, Regina creates medicine and tranquilizers with the supplies that she comes across, but occasionally she can also upgrade her weapons into more powerful forms using kits that are hidden throughout the facility. Tranquilizers are useful for temporarily taking out raptors, your most common enemy, but do not last long. Shooting raptors while they sleep will wake them up faster, as one might expect, but they do allow Regina to sneak past them if she is low on ammo. One can also make poison darts that instantly kill enemies by combining as well, though these require some hard to find items to make. Each gun has a few different types of ammo it can use, but the more powerful ammo is fairly scarce.
There aren’t too many kinds of enemies in this game, which somewhat disappointing. There are velociraptors, of course, and these come in several varieties based on color. The Brown raptors are the weakest, followed by green, red, and finally blue. Other than their color and the amount of shots they take, the raptors are generally the same as far as intelligence and attacks go. They do have a diverse range of attacks, however. Raptors can disarm you with a tail slap, pin you down with a pounce to deal high damage, and savage you with various bites and slashes. There are also Pteranadons which fly around some areas, which are hard to hit, and Compsognathus (or “compies”) which are tiny and don’t deal much damage but are also hard to hit with anything but the handgun. Later in the game Therizinosaurus appear and are difficult to deal with due to their massive hit points and high damage. They even have an instant death attack if they knock Regina to the ground! They are nasty customers, make no mistake. Raptors and Therizinosaurs can follow Regina from room to room if she chooses to run, so sometimes running from one encounter will make the next one even more terrifying, especially if it is in a crowded room or there are already dinosaurs in that area.
Then of course, there is the big guy himself. The T-Rex is a recurring boss that seems to come at just the wrong moment every time. The boss battles occur throughout the game and can be fairly challenging, especially on hard mode, though notably not as hard as the Therizinosaurs can be. Sometimes dinosaurs will get the jump on Regina and force you into a quick-time event. Generally these quick-time events are save or die button mashers, but they aren’t too difficult. Still, it is frustrating to die once or twice if you get unlucky and have to start over.
The puzzles in the game typically revolve around a lock system where you decode an encrypted password after collecting the keys for the relevant door. Some other puzzles exist as well, but none of them are especially difficult compared to the ones sometimes found in Resident Evil games. Regina will also encounter areas that she needs to use her spy skills to advance, slipping into air ducts and past security lasers. You can use these skills to trap dinosaurs as well. It is pretty useful (and fun) to trap the raptors behind a laser screen.
One particularly cool part of the game is that you can affect the story by the choices you make. In the day Dino Crisis was released, this was pretty rare indeed. Typically the player must choose between siding between one of two options presented by their teammates. There are even several different endings the player can reach that are dependent on their choices.
I really enjoy Dino Crisis, even to this day, but there are some things that haven’t aged well. Remember when I talked about the controls? Well they do inspire moments of fear and terror, but it is frustrating to die or take damage because of bad controls. Sadly, even the re-released versions of Dino Crisis have not fixed the controls, so your analog sticks will be quite useless on the PS3 or even PS2 if you play it on disk. The graphics are nothing to write home about, either, though they did look good in their day. I don’t mind the graphics myself but I know that others put a higher emphasis on visuals than I do. I can’t think of any other issues with the game, though, I still think it’s a fun game.
My final take on Dino Crisis is that it has held up relatively well for a game of its age. If you are a fan of survival horror style games, it might even be worth a shot at the low price of $5.99 on the Playstation Network. I give it a solid 8.5, though my nostalgia tinted lenses may have added that extra .5. It’s still a great game and one I recommend for anyone looking for a romp through a dinosaur infested research facility.