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Dino Crisis: This is no Jurassic Park

September 14, 1999
Web posted at: 1:24 p.m. EDT (1724 GMT)

by Major Mike


(IDG) -- The prehistoric age is finally getting its due with the first decent dinosaur-action game for the PlayStation. Dino Crisis bears several inescapable similarities to Resident Evil, but don't be fooled--this is more than just dinosaurs subbing for zombies. Dino is an adventure-survival game with enough unique aspects to keep hardened action vets riveted to their controllers.

Regina's World

Dino's crisis takes place on an isolated, top-secret laboratory island. You assume the role of Regina, member of a special-forces unit sent there to track down a missing scientist. As soon as the team arrives, however, all hell breaks loose; dinosaurs are running amuck, and you must escape before becoming their next meal.

But it's a big island, so there's lots of ground to cover. You'll search for keys, collect weapons, solve puzzles, scamper though airshafts, and of course, battle dinosaurs to avoid extinction. One of Dino's big pluses is the nonlinear gameplay. You can choose different paths at certain points during the game, giving this Crisis replay value. There's one drawback to the massive laboratory, though: too much backtracking. You'll be sent repeatedly to the same rooms.
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"This Is Just Like That Movie..."

Fortunately, Dino is an excellent mix of action and strategy. Blasting dinos to pieces is fun--but ammo is in short supply. Frequently, it's advantageous to avoid dinos by sneaking past them. But what happens if you're cornered and down to your last round? Make your own firepower! You can create your own tranquilizer darts out of various potencies. Some mixtures can put dinos to sleep; others put them out permanently--it all depends on dosage.

It's a good thing you're able to defend yourself during this Crisis, because Dino's dinos are imbued with an excellent A.I. that keeps the action fresh and exciting. Raptors, for example, will stalk and circle you while waiting for the ideal moment to strike. Pterodactyl will swoop down and grab you for a high-speed air ride into the nearest wall. Compys are totally harmless... one-on-one; in packs, they're almost as deadly as raptors. Some of these feisty prehistoric pests will even clamp onto a limb and thrash you around until you drop your weapon. As for the tyrannosaurus, who needs to be clever when you're the size of a battleship?!

Take Me Off the Compy List

Luckily, Dino's tight, responsive controls are easy to learn and keep you in firm command. You can run, walk, search, move while aiming, turn 180 degrees with the press of a single button, and even kick off attacking dinos. The dual shock effects are a plus, too: You'll feel quick jolts during a sudden onscreen attack, or subtle tremors that signal the approach of something big--like a T-Rex.

American History Rex

For the most part, the game's graphics are striking, but not without a few hitches. The various characters are well animated with sharp details, but some dinos sport bulky, awkward polygons. Dino uses fixed camera angles similar to Resident Evil's, but the environments resemble those in Metal Gear Solid, which means dark hallways with low-res surface textures. The upside to this approach is that the transition between screens is seamless, and moveable onscreen objects are harder to spot. The biggest drawback to the fixed camera is the "I-can-hear-my-enemies-but-I-can't-see-them" syndrome where deadly predators lurk just out of camera range and can't be spotted until they attack.

On the other hand, excellent sound effects often cue you in on what you can't see. Audio clues, like the scrape of raptor claws and the flap of pterodactyl wings, are effectively conveyed. Plus, the poignant character voices help move the well-written scenario along. The music, though, is a mixed bag. Some eerie symphonies work perfectly with the onscreen action; but others sound like a jazz band gone berserk.

Fun Crisis

Despite its flaws, Dino Crisis is a solid offering with the right combination of action and strategy--and it avoids the doldrums of being another RE clone. Action fans will have a blast during this time of Crisis.

Dino Crisis looks awesome. The characters are well animated, and the various surroundings are atmospheric. The only visual glitches consist of some bulky dino polygons and an occasional clumsy camera-angle.

All the voices and sound effects are excellent, especially the various dino noises and character voices. The music, though, is an uneven mix of effective suspense-building symphonies and distracting jazz.

The controls are easy to learn, quickly becoming second nature, while the dual shock rumbles add to the overall effect. Lack of a custom controller configuration, however, knocks a half-point off the score.

Dino Crisis keeps the action at a steady pace with nonlinear gameplay, perplexing puzzles, and challenging enemies. Although constant backtracking occasionally stalls the show, there's enough action and suspense to keep you coming back for more.

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