PlayStation Classics Corner is a new series on PSLS dedicated to modern reviews of PlayStation Classics released on PSN.
About the game:
Dino Crisis is a 1998 horror game developed by Capcom’s Resident Evil team, costs $6 in the US and is playable on the PS3, PSP and Vita. You might not be able to tell this from the title alone, but the game puts focus on dinosaurs – which are officially superior to zombies, no contest.
The game begins with a mission briefing, followed by a CG sequence with a Secret Operation Raid Team (SORT, because Capcom loves their acronyms) infiltrating a research facility on Ibis Island in the totally-futuristic year of 2009. The team is made up of Regina, the protagonist, Gail, the stoic leader, and Rick, the computer guy, and their mission is to take Dr. Kirk into custody – think Dr. Kio Marv from Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake and you’ve got the character template down, except Kirk is a villain. Dr. Kirk’s research revolves around creating a new energy source called Third Energy, but now he’s working with a rogue state in its development.
Regina’s another good example of a female protagonist done right – she’s funny, she does her job well and her gender isn’t shoved down the player’s throat, isn’t overplayed and isn’t exploited. Gail and Rick, on the other hand, aren’t much more than standard character archetypes used to fill out the cast. The team’s mission is to take Dr. Kirk, previously presumed dead but later found to be continuing his research on the island, into custody, but the team finds security much looser than expected. Naturally, the security team has been massacred and dinosaurs are the cause, and the team must extract Kirk while killing various dinos, or just running past them to conserve ammo.
There are only six different types of dinosaurs in the game, with velociraptors being the most common foe. I’m a horror nut, and nothing in the world scares me more than dinosaurs, so it’s a real treat to fight packs of compies and velociraptors, as well as the main, recurring boss of the game – a massive, detailed, heart-stoppingly scary Tyrannosaurus Rex. Still, it feels pretty strange to combat them in sterile research facility hallways and rooms, and not in a more natural environment like a forest or woods. Dinosaurs and research facilities do not mix well.
At certain points in the game, players can choose to either side with Gail or Rick in determining which path to go. I initially chose Gail’s path because Rick was too disrespectful and insubordinate for my tastes, and was happy to find that either route opens up different story sequences for the player. Alternate paths means higher replay value at a higher production cost, so I applaud late-90’s Capcom for this design decision. There are also three endings to the game, but the endings aren’t decided by anything but an end-game player choice.
The use of tank controls is a minor nuisance, but it’s certainly an upgrade from Resident Evil 2, with the ability to quickly turn around using the R2 button and smoother control when turning. Dino Crisis is quite a bit more user-friendly than the Resident Evil games on the PS1, an intentional decision by the developers to make the game feel more action-packed. At certain scripted points in the game, dinos will attack Regina and players must mash the X button to avoid death. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if the game had given any prior warning or directions, but none was given at all so it likely leads to unfair player deaths often. Luckily I had figured it out on a previous playthrough years ago, so I realized on the fly and didn’t have trouble and, since you’re reading this, it shouldn’t be an issue when it occurs.
On the plus side, players can walk – but can’t run – with their weapons drawn, and the inventory system is much less of a headache than in the early Resident Evil titles. Players can hold as many key items and weapons as they want, with ammo and health supplies taking up their own limited bag space – ten slots in total. Characters can find plugs that can be used to open supply or ammo storage boxes spread throughout the level. Any opened storage boxes can be accessed from any other compatible box across the facility; ammo boxes can’t access supply boxes, and vice-versa. Thankfully, this helps alleviate most trouble regarding item storage. I still occasionally found myself wishing for more space, but never at the same level as with Resident Evil 2.
Dino Crisis does not have a section in the menu dedicated to notes or documents, and the game has quite a few passwords so it is necessary to either jot down a note on paper or on an electronic device. I’ve found that note-taking is best with the Vita, I just message myself passwords and have them on file for future reference. This is good either when playing on PS3 or on the Vita, since the Vita’s such a good multitasker. A guide feels almost necessary at times, so the Vita’s browser is a godsend when going back and forth from one area of the game to another in an attempt at finding the right path. Puzzles in the game range from easy to mildly difficult. As long as players pay attention, apply common sense and read all the notes found on the field, puzzles shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Subtitles aren’t supported in the game and character dialog is very quiet, oftentimes drowned out by the ambient music and sounds. I had to raise my TV’s volume by around 30% to be able to hear everything, and even then a lot of the dialog was lost on me. Since character dialog is often used to inform the player of his or her new goals, I got lost pretty often. Sometimes sections of the game’s map blink red to point out the player’s destination, but a lot of the time players have to remember which rooms have the right doors to match the key they just picked up. The map doesn’t give the names of the rooms, yet another source of backtracking and confusion.
While the tank-control gameplay style is outdated, Dino Crisis is more user-friendly than many of its horror contemporaries. I highly praise the use of dinosaurs as enemies, but the setting is really bland and all the backtracking and confusion regarding player goals makes playing the game a chore a lot of the time. Resident Evil fans should jump on this game without hesitation, but anyone else should really consider whether the flaws outweigh the benefits before jumping on board.