SummaryShinji Mikami's finest hour.
The GoodShinji Mikami; the creator of Resident Evil is truly a master of horror on par with cinema legends such as Wes Craven and Sam Raimi. He simply knows what is scary and how to present that in an entertaining way. Despite being very, very scary Dino Crisis succeeds in evolving the Survival Horror genre while still remaining true to its roots.
The game begins with Regina and her team (minus Cooper who bites it in the opening FMV) landing on an Island with the intention of arresting a Dr. Kirk, who faked his own death to avoid the consequences of an investigation related to a project he was involved in going wrong. Soon the team realize there is something wrong on the Island and are locked in a life and death struggle with the mysterious and deadly cretaceous era inhabitants. The essential parts of the story are nothing fancy however the origin of the Dinosaurs makes the somewhat generic premise worthwhile. The acting helps to create a realistic atmosphere by being very competent which is obviously a huge improvement over past entries in the Survival Horror genre. The great voice acting ties in with the soundtrack which is a brooding collection of techno horror pieces which really get your blood pumping. The growling, guttural snarls and screeches of the various Dinosaurs in the game have been lovingly created and much like other Survival Horror games you really need to listen and learn what Dinosaur makes what noise as if they are off the screen you need to plan what you are going to do accordingly.
The core game play dynamics of Dino Crisis will be familiar to anyone who has played a Resident Evil game. Pressing the D-Pad will control Regina relative to where she is standing, holding R1 will ready her weapon and then pressing X will cause her to fire. If you hold square Regina will run and pressing R2 will cause her to do a 180 degree turn similar to the one in Resident Evil 3. It’s comfortably familiar however at the same time the general smoothness of Regina’s control is completely alien. She is really agile and turns on a dime, meaning you don’t have to worry about turning slowly to fire at something behind you. Combat is also very user friendly, you simply point and shoot. It doesn’t get much simpler. Regina readies her weapon very quickly and the animation for her firing and moving her arms are to be applauded for their fluidity.
I’ve already mentioned that at its core the general game play of Dino Crisis is Survival Horror 101. This is of course true at a cursory glance however when you really begin to play the game the minor refinements shine and it becomes apparent that this is truly an evolved form of Survival Horror. Regina doesn’t have a conventional form of health for instance. She takes damage every time she is mauled by a Dinosaur but you don’t really know how much, you need to watch her closely. Holding her side means she is hurting while limping badly means Regina is close to death. In addition to this if Regina takes a particularly bad injury she will begin to bleed, leaving a trail behind her. If you don’t use haemostatic medicine Regina will continue to bleed and take damage. You also have a lot of control over you inventory. Regina can only carry 10 items at a time while consumables can be stocked in one particular slot. For instance you can carry 2 resuscitation in one slot, while in another slot you can carry 30 Handgun rounds. When you run out of room in your inventory you can use plugs found around the facility in order to access emergency boxes which are color coded in relation to what they contain. Green emergency boxes contain healing, while yellow contain a mixture of low grade ammunition and healing items and red contain high grade ammunition. Elaborating on your inventory you can mix items to increase their potency. Around the facility are aids that can increase the lethality of anesthetic darts or healing potential of medical kits. You can also mix haemostatic medicine with your medical kits to make them heal and stop bleeding. There are so may combinations that you can end up with and it is a good idea to use the gauges to judge the volume and potency of your finished mixtures.
Outside of your inventory the choices you make in the game reflect the ending you receive. At several points in the game you will be given choices on who you agree with or who you want to accompany. This sort of variability increases replay value and makes you feel that you have a significant impact on the story.
As I’ve talked about before, Dino Crisis is an evolution of the Survival Horror genre and the inclusion of full 3D environments is the next logical step. The way the camera swings and pans lends to the frightening, claustrophobic atmosphere. The use of Dutch angles, pans up to the bigger Dinosaurs and shots of corpses marry cohesively with the other aesthetic and audio elements to create the most sophisticated Survival Horror atmosphere ever created.
When you’ve finished the game, you can go back and play through again with different choices and the impetus to collect all of the fire arm upgrades. If you do particularly well you unlock Operation: Wipeout which tasks you with killing a certain amount of Dinosaurs in a set time period and also escaping much like the Mercenaries Mode in Resident Evil 3.
The BadThere’s a bit of tearing on the character models and they exhibit some pretty horrendous aliasing.
The only way you can save is by finding a room and going through a door.
The Bottom LineDino Crisis is probably the finest game Shinji Mikami ever created. It’s a tense, frightening and pulse racing adrenaline rush full of gore, menacing Dinosaurs and most importantly a rock solid engine, stunning graphics and compelling game play. This is a game every Playstation owner should have in their collection.