User review spotlight: Carmageddon (DOS). Released in 1997.

Trespasser: Jurassic Park (Windows)

60
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.3
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Zovni (9350)
Written on  :  Nov 17, 2004
Rating  :  3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars

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Summary

Really cool experiment.... major letdown as a game

The Good

Every good thing that you heard about Trespasser is basically true, if there ever was a game that was ahead of it's time then this is it. I don't know the details, but the story behind the development of Trespasser must have been something special, as In the days when Quake was king the fact that someone decided to take a major license and do something like this is admirable to say the least.

The game takes place in The Lost World's Site B dino-infested island but, (first bold move) completely forgets the movie and the novel's plot and instead casts you as the lone survivor of a plane crash that gets stranded on Site B. As you leave the beach you start the game in, you are confronted with the truth behind those dinosaur rumours and set forth in a quest to escape the island while Hammond's voiceover introduces the locations and sets the stage for whatever you are going to find at the next corner (as your character recalls quotes from his autobiography) and adds some intrigue and subplots to what's essentially a "get the hell out of there" plot.

The real star of the show however, is the gameplay. Instead of opting for a typical run 'n gun approach, the developers instead opted to create a realistic, free-roaming simulation of the island where the emphasis was on exploration, realistic environment interaction and survival instead of pure action. To achieve this they created huge, incredibly detailed (for the time at least) 3D jungle environments that your character could easily explore and threw into the mix what has to go down in history as the first really impressive physics simulation for a game of it's kind. Every object in the game can be picked up, pulled, pushed, rolled, etc. and it reacts realistically with the environment according to it's mass, which enforces a sense of realism hardly ever seen in a videogame (both before and since).

To enhance the level of simulation the gameplay toned down your character's abilities to realistic levels. Your character isn't a super-woman that can run around, perform acrobatic stunts and shoot everyone with deadly accuracy a-la Lara Croft. Instead she has trouble running at a decent speed, and barely can jump. Furthermore, you don't have a handy-dandy health bar or any stuff like that, instead you have to look down and check out your model (!!) to see how you are doing, and while the notion that she automatically regenerates over time can be somewhat stupid, it's compensated by the fact that there are no health-pickups, powerups or stupid "videogamy" stuff to pick up.

As you would have expected however, you will run into dinos, and you are going to have to keep them at bay with some firepower, and this is another area where the game excels. You don't go around collecting weapons as a female Rambo, weapons are scarcely spread through the abandoned installations and are mainly pea-shooters, cannot be reloaded, and most dinos shrug off their hits easily. And their handling doesn't boil down to you centering a magic crosshair on a dino and pulling your handy "fire button". Instead the game's interface includes a simulated "arm" that's hard to describe (just go ahead and play to see what I'm talking about) which has wrist/hand controls and which comes into play whenever you interact with the gameworld. Be it stacking crates, activating switches, opening doors and handling weapons. Translation? Handling anything in the game isn't a matter of pressing a generic "use key" but instead you have to actually reach out and grab the item you want to. Using a weapon works the same way, and calls for you to pick it up, aim it MANUALLY by using the weapon's actual sights and shooting takes into consideration your lead, recoil, etc.

Taking the concept further you can only take with you 2 items at any given time, be it an AK-47 or a keycard... Not even Silent Hill, with it's intentionally clumsy combat and realistic touches such as tripping goes as far as Trespasser in terms of desperation-inducing realism, and when you trow on top of that a free-roaming virtual island (probably the first really extensive virtual landscape developed for any game) and the realistic physics model you have one of the most interesting "real life" simulations ever conceived.

With added dinos of course.

Oh and if you remember this was the launch title for Dreamworks Interactive, so they poured all their production values into it, which can be most admired in the music and voiceover departments.

The Bad

Unfortunately all the bad stuff you heard about the game is also true. The problem with Trespasser is that while it might have been an incredibly groundbreaking experiment in realistic and innovative game design, it's an utter failure as a game.

There are problems everywhere you look at, but I'll try to be as concise as I can. Basically all the creativity seems to have been poured into the design and features explained above, but what good are they if they only get used into a game where you are all the time stacking crates, chasing colored keycards and pressing assorted buttons?

All you get to enjoy then is the "escape the dinos" survival-horror aspect, and while the realism in the game goes a long way to create a genuine sense of tension and despair, the game drops to it's knees when you notice the braindead AI which allows you to easily exploit it's many holes and brainfarts to your advantage and the really slow pace of the dinos. Sure, they can outrun you, but that hardly means anything, and when you look at the movie's blindingly fast raptors coming out of nowhere and making mincemeat of whatever they can find you can't help but feel extremely let down with the dinos in Trespasser. They can still make mincemeat out of you, but they take about an hour to slug their butts to where you are and all they do is press their snouts towards you as you hear a biting noise for an attack animation.... niiiiiice.

Also, given the lenghty and groundbreaking process of developing the new technologies for the game, the game falls quite behind in terms of QA. There are as many bugs in this game as in the jungle it's supposed to take place in, and they often hinder the gameplay as you get weird reactions from the collision detection routines, clipping errors galore and millions of mishaps involving your arm.

And aside from all that you have the good ol' bitching. Stuff that some gamers might ignore but I just find annoying. Such as the stupidity behind making revolving doors that ALWAYS manage to find a way to knock the weapon out of your hands, the weapons disappearing whenever you enter a new scene, the "I only have one arm" approach that causes your character to handle ANYTHING with just her right arm (she must put some serious hours at the gym, as she can fire assault guns and shotguns with just her right hand and not even flinch!), etc. etc.

Oh and there are some shitty hardware issues that make it a problematic title to this day... watch out.

The Bottom Line

The only real way to define Trespasser is as an incredibly cool showcase of new ideas stuck in a shitty game. Make no mistake, I have a profound admiration for what the guys behind Trespasser did, but there's no denying it's a rather mediocre game.

Most hardcore gamers should take a look at it to see one hell of an amazing achievement way ahead of it's time, but don't expect it to be an enjoyable gaming experience on top of that.