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SummaryAn exciting, varied and addictive departure from the original.
The GoodThe original Dino Crisis was something special. It was Shinji Mikami's first survival horror game rendered in 3D and his first survival horror game in general outside of the Resident Evil series. Dino Crisis featured a lot of game play mechanics that would be introduced in later Shinji Mikami works and although these things had been used before (quick turn, firing while walking - see: Deep Fear) Dino Crisis popularized their use.
In Dino Crisis Mikami created a new niche which he personally dubbed "panic horror". It was interesting, and although it doesn't contain zombies Dino Crisis was, in a lot of ways, scarier than Resident Evil.
Dino Crisis 2 was about as big a departure from the original formula as Resident Evil 4 was from the series leading up to Nemesis and Code Veronica. Much has changed, but a lot has stayed the same. You still fight dinosaurs, you still play as Regina and you still have a constant sense of dread and panic about you as you romp around the jungle. The way panic is elicited in the player is different here though than in the original game.
In the original Dino Crisis panic and apprehension was generated by dinosaurs following you into rooms, suddenly jumping through windows or being basically invincible (see: T-Rex) but Dino Crisis 2 is different. In Dino Crisis 2 you are overwhelmed by dinosaurs. They spawn almost endlessly from the jungle around you and while it's a little unrealistic, it certainly gets your heart rate up.
Unlike the original, which is a wholeheartedly survival horror affair with the requisite save rooms, items boxes and inventory management Dino Crisis 2 is more of an action orientated affair. It isn't necessarily about horror anymore, but the panic is still there. Your guns hold insane amounts of ammunition and you will use it, especially on the harder difficulties. You can hold a sub weapon in tandem with your main weapon which is activated by pressing the circle button. This is used as a defensive measure or to solve puzzles. I liked this mechanic, it kept things interesting by making me think about what I had equipped. It's not perfect, which I will discuss later, but it keeps the game interesting.
That is one of the hallmarks of Dino Crisis 2; it remains interesting and fresh throughout the entire experience. The game play is constantly being mixed up. One minute you're blasting dinosaurs in the middle of a steamy jungle and the next you're shooting triceratops from the back of a jeep. Each of these little departures from the main formula is well balanced and a lot of fun. My personal favorite was using a flare gun equipped as my sub weapon to rain hell down onto allosaurus trying to block my path to Edward City.
The core game play is solid enough. Regina and Dylan control very much like Regina did in the original Dino Crisis. The controls are essentially identical, however she moves a lot quicker and of course, has access to sub weapons. Your character will auto aim at the nearest enemy and while it doesn't always work, it is handy when a dinosaur is off screen.
This brings me to the biggest deviation from the original formula; the use of pre-rendered backgrounds. I personally think it's a good thing, I have no qualm with it. The backgrounds are beautifully drawn and although they are just drawings, they are anything but static. Mysterious particles float in the air, shadows dance and water shifts. It's nothing like what Square achieved with Parasite Eve 2, but Capcom did an admirable job of providing players with a beautiful, believable environment to ramble around in. The static camera angles combined with the emphasis on action does take some getting used to, make no mistake. You do acclimatise to it though, and when you do you won't notice the difference or you just plain won't care.
Other than the beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds Dino Crisis 2, from what I can tell, uses a very similar rendering engine for everything polygon based as Dino Crisis. Regina looks fundamentally identical, if not a little smoother and Dylan looks quite good as well. The scale of some of the dinosaurs is very impressive and there were virtually no drops in the frame rate while the massive end boss was being rendered. It's all very smooth, quick and pleasing to look at.
The soundtrack, on a whole, is fairly solid. There are some real standout tunes and some excellent ambient work (3rd Energy Facility comes to mind...) and if you're a Dino Crisis veteran every guttural scream, squawk and screech emitted by the dinosaurs in the game will be familiar.
Dino Crisis 2 doesn't lack replay value. There is an interesting little Dino Coliseum you can unlock complete with the original roster of characters from Dino Crisis. You can also unlock several of the dinosaurs to fight with and go head to head with another player.
The BadComing from Dino Crisis I would be remiss not to mention how different everything is. It plays similarly, albeit with a different rendering method for the backgrounds, and this takes some getting used to. This is especially true when one considers the way the game throws dinosaurs at you like rotten fruit at a beheading. I loved the challenge, but someone expecting a repeat of Regina's first adventure in the jungle will be sorely disappointed. If you don't enjoy action games, you will NOT like Dino Crisis 2.
One of the biggest issues I could see is dinosaurs flying off the edge of the screen onto your character. They are pre-defined spawn points, but unless you know they are there you will get torn to pieces. I'm not criticizing the new challenge or game play style, but this kind of cheap shot mechanic does not fly with me.
I would have liked weapons to be balanced a bit better. At a certain point in the game when you can buy the anti-tank rifle and heavy machine gun respectively you have essentially turned yourself into a walking weapon of mass destruction. I would have liked weapons to have specific advantages and disadvantages that played into the characteristics of the dinosaurs. Instead it's a one size fits all kind of situation. I think that would have worked well here, but unfortunately that isn't the case.
The Bottom LineDino Crisis 2 is a departure from Dino Crisis, but not in a negative way. Shinji Mikami keeps what made Dino Crisis so fantastic; the panic, and presents it in a different way. You're constantly surrounded by dinosaurs and the only way you can survive is by shooting your way out. You will get overwhelmed, torn to pieces and will keep coming back for more.
Don't expect this game to be anything like Dino Crisis. Apart from some engine and control similarities, these two games are really nothing alike.