Dinosaurs are just inherently cool. After all, they are basically mythological beasts that actually walked on the same planet as we do today. Since dinosaurs have a certain je ne sais quoi about them, they’ve been used in popular media for decades. As such, everyone has seen Jurassic Park and wondered what life would be like if dinosaurs were alive today.
Thanks to the fine folks at Panic Button Games and Circle 5 Studios, gamers can now experience what it would be like to battle dinosaurs in Primal Carnage: Extinction. This class-based multiplayer shooter has a squad of humans battling it out with a team of user controlled dinos. This sounds absolutely awesome in theory, but can the developer deliver on such a promising premise?
The best answer I can give to the question I just posed is a weak, “Sort of.” I would probably shrug afterwards, since it’s just a bummer that Primal Carnage: Extinction isn’t better than it is on PlayStation 4. Before this review deviates into a talk about what could’ve been so great, let’s take a look at what is actually available.
Not the Momma!
Primal Carnage: Extinction plays primarily as a first-person shooter when using humans, and a third-person action game when using dinosaurs. It’s similar to how Evolve managed to pull off combining two styles of play, except there isn’t as much depth here. There are however different classes to pick, each with their own unique set of attacks or weapons. Players that are on the human side will be able to pick from classes that range from a sniper wielding scientist to a flamethrower toting pyromaniac.
The controls on the human side are mapped to the default shooting controls that Call of Duty popularized, so players will be able to instantly start shooting dinosaurs without going through a lengthy tutorial. The shooting feels tight and focused, so players won’t be able to blame the guns when they eventually get devoured by a hungry Spinosaurus. If there is one major thing missing from the gameplay, it’s a lack of a melee attack for humans. It can get very awkward trying to shoot a dinosaur that’s a foot away from you, but it’s likely that melee attacks for humans were not implemented in an effort to balance the game.
This makes sense since all of the dinosaur’s primary attacks are melee-focused. Although it would be pretty hilarious to see a Tyrannosaurus Rex holding a sniper rifle, Primal Carnage: Extinction takes a pretty realistic approach to how it handles dinosaurs. The only surreal aspect is that each dinosaur has a special roar ability, on a cooldown meter, that can add temporary buffs to the dinosaurs in the area.
There is a solid variety of different game modes that players and dinosaurs alike will go at it with the most basic being Team Deathmatch. While this simple mode ended up being my favorite, there are other multiplayer modes such as “Get to the Chopper,” that are more involved. In the aforementioned Get to the Chopper mode, humans will be trying to accomplish different objectives to get off of the map via helicopter.
It’s a decent mode, but too many of the objectives centered around trying to capture points on the map while player-controlled dinosaurs were constantly attacking. It’s difficult to deal with dinosaurs to begin with, especially so when the dinosaurs know where you are at. It basically feels like a bad Left 4 Dead mod, except every single enemy was a dinosaur that could easily eat you instead of facing simple zombies.
Despite attempting the mode many times, I never saw the humans successfully escape off the map. This isn’t to say that the game isn’t balanced, but dinosaurs are way easier to use effectively compared to humans. The scaled creatures can take a lot more damage than their human counterparts, and can attack from every angle since flying dinosaurs are also available. Primal Carnage: Extinction asks a lot from its human players to be successful, which led to dinosaurs constantly coming out on top.
Survival of the Fittest
It isn’t entirely hopeless for human players, though, as the game does offer up a cooperative horde mode. Called Survival, this mode has a team of humans taking on up to 20 waves of computer-controlled dinosaurs. This mode is a lot of fun with a skilled team, as it allows players to purchase upgrades during the match to become more powerful over time.
Survival also throws a few neat wrinkles into the mix as there are certain mutators that will activate during waves. For example, in some rounds the dinosaurs will be mostly invisible or they will be adorable ultra tiny dinosaurs that are difficult to shoot. These mutators help keep the mode feeling fresh, but after several waves the game’s poor artificial intelligence will start to show.
It’s probably a good thing that Primal Carnage: Extinction is primarily an online multiplayer game, since the A.I. for enemies is hilariously bad at times. Dinosaurs will attack once then run away from its injured prey, get caught on the level’s geometry, or just ragdoll in hilarious fashion after they die.
This isn’t the only area where Primal Carnage: Extinction feels largely unpolished, as the whole game seems rushed. I had the game crash to the PlayStation 4’s dashboard several times while playing, and routinely saw strange glitches during matches. The one thought that constantly crossed my mind while playing was, “This could’ve been better.”
Graphically, Primal Carnage: Extinction is a mixed bag. The dinosaurs look pretty darn cool, but everything else is a tad underwhelming. There are some cool maps to play around in, but parts of the levels will pop-in while you play. This completely takes you out of the experience, and reminds you that you’re playing a game that isn’t as good as it should be.
There is definitely some fun to be had in Primal Carnage: Extinction, especially on the dinosaurs’ side. There is a nice selection of modes, but when the end result is almost always the same it can get boring. Circle Five Studios has a fantastic premise for a game, it just needed some more time to incubate before it saw the light of day.
Review code for Primal Carnage: Extinction provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here