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SummaryIt's different and a bit frustrating, but I actually enjoyed it.
The GoodThe game's realistic physics model was certainly interesting. Pretty much every object in the game ranging from crates, paint cans, chairs, and rocks could be picked up, thrown, pushed, knock each other over in a domino effect, and would generally be movable in a manner that you'd expect from real life. At first this was novel, but at times it could be annoying as crates you were trying to stand on fell over, or a gun you were trying to pick up rolls off a cliff because you accidentally nudged it. Not to mention the fact many of the game's "puzzles" relied heavily on the physics engine, resulting in the aforementioned crates falling over problem.
The physics engine also resulted in interesting interaction with the dinosaurs. Because the gun you hold in your hand exists as real objects in the game world, if a raptor got too close to you, it could push your gun aside with its snout as it bites you (thus messing up your aim), or even knock the gun out of your hand with its tail. Depending on how you felt about this, this could either be viewed as realistic, annoying, or both. I must admit I personally found this added some excitement to close quarter battles as you desperated groped at your feet for your gun while the raptor lunges at you. However since nine times out of ten this resulted in your death I found myself loading from saved games and killing the raptors from a distance. You could also lose your gun if you bumped your handed against something. This made moving through enclosed areas somewhat annoying.
Combat with the dinosaurs was pretty interesting. Since your character moves at a "realistic" (ie slow) speed, it is almost impossible to outrun the raptors even though they also appear somewhat sluggish. Thus combat is the only way to dissuade them from eating you. There are variety of ways to do this, the most common of which are the guns.
The game provides you with a wide variety of real-life manufactured guns, ranging from magnums, submachine guns, and even AK-47s. Guns have a fixed amount of ammo and cannot be reloaded, and so must be discarded after use (leaving you vulnerable). In some areas guns are so plentiful this really isn't a problem and you can pretty much go around wasting raptors like Turok, while in other areas (especially the last three levels) they are rather rare forcing you to make every shot count and occasionally find alternative ways to kill and/or escape the carnivores. I found this effective rather than annoying as the feeling of nakedness you get from being unarmed is quite interesting and isn't found in most other FPS. Also, there are no crosshairs and no auto-aiming, so you really need to work on using the guns to get accurate shots. I found that the guns gave a very satifying "kick" when fired, and the fact you move the gun-arm itself in combat rather than the body attached to the gun (like in most other FPS)somehow made shooting them off more satisfying. The dinosaurs spurt blood and go down quite nicely (especially if you shoot them in the head or go full auto with an AK-47), however for some reason they tend to die in a silly looking belly down pose.
Besides the guns, there are variety of fun ways to kill the dinosaurs based on the physics engine. You can drop heavy crates on them, hit them with close combat weapons such as baseball bats or two-by-fours, or even smash them over the head with a rock. It is even possible to kill a raptor by stabbing them in the head with a rifle, and while not entirely realistic it does save ammo. However the game isn't very consistant, sometimes this works and sometimes no matter how much you whack a dinosaur on the head nothing happens. And heavy objects (such as smallers crates, chairs, rocks, and barrels) have no effect if you throw them at the raptors, even if you hit them right in the head. There are a variety of places where large structures such as jeeps and trailers could be knocked over and dropped on a dinosaur, and you could also lure raptors to the edge of a cliff, dodge them as they lunge, and laugh as they roll over the edge.
The dinosaurs themselves are certainly well animated, with cool skins and skeletal animation which give them fluid movement. However there isn't much variety in the dinosaurs(seven species in total, including the ever-present raptors), and except for the raptors there are only two or three per level. It's odd how the total number of non-raptors on the island can be counted on two hands, but the raptors are everywhere. The raptors are scary enough at first, but the real show stealers are the larger carnivores which show up later on in the game, such as the Allosaurs and the seven massive (and nigh-invincible) Tyrannosaurus Rexs. Still, I would have enjoyed the game more if there were more non-hostile dinosaurs just wandering around. Also, more interaction between the dinosaurs would have been nice (occasionally a predator will attack a heribivore or another predator instead of you, but this almost never happens even when herbivores are present).
The levels are a mixed bag. Some areas are really badly designed, such as large empty outdoor areas, and a monorail where you have to leap from one unfinished section of track to the next like a Mario Brother. However other areas look quite good, such as the abandoned town and lab areas, and even some old Mayan ruins. These areas look quite decrepit and creepy, like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie. The various ravenous raptors and occasional T-Rex patrolling the abandoned buildings also adds to the effect. Being stalked by the raptors through the gutted-out town ruins is very effective and chilling.
Finally, the sound in the game is great. The sounds the dinosaurs make, ranging from the raptor's hostile growls to the T-Rex's booming roar, are very nice and atmospheric. The carnivores also make cool crunching and slurping sounds when they dine on the corpse of a fresh kill (which more often than not is you). When hit, different objects in the game make different sounds depending on what they're made of (wood, steel, plaster, etc). If you try to pat a dead dino with you hands you hear a realistic leathery sound. The game stars the voices of Sir Richard Attenbourgh (who played John Hammond in the Jurassic Park movies and in the game) and Minnie Driver (who voices Anne), two reputable actors. They don't have much to work with, but they do their best. Finally, there's the game's CD music, which is terrific. The CD tunes range from pounding actions tunes when you run across a large carnivore, to slow ominous music when you shift through Ingen's decaying ruins. Unfortunately the CD tracks are very short (about 20-40 seconds each) and only play at specific points in the game.
The BadThe graphics in the game are grainy in software mode, but do smooth out and look pretty good on a graphics card. Environments are lush and objects and creatures look great close up. However there are several annoying quirks such as disappearing objects (certain signs and even the ceiling can vanish if you look at them at certain angles) and the fact everything outside of a six foot radius becomes blurred and unfocused.
Although I personally found the arm/hand interface to be novel and interesting, at times it could be fairly annoying, such as when trying to pick up large objects or stack crates. Also there are a very large number of buttons which need to be used to use the arm successfully (3 to 5 keys as well as the mouse) which results in some minor hand-twisting which becomes almost impossible on top of trying to manuever in combat. Anne's arm also occasionally twists and convolutes in disturbing ways and becomes difficult to control, especially when acting upon heavy or fixed objects (such as large crates or sentry guns).
Anne's slow speed of movement also results in a good degree of tedium as you sluggishly tredge through the levels. This is especially true of levels which involve a lot of backtracking, such as the abandoned town, where you've already killed the raptors and there's nothing left to do but slowly move from one place to another.
Two particular parts of the game I found incredibly annoying. In one area, you had to climb a cliff wall by jumping from one outcropping to another. What was annoying was that it was impossible to know in which order you needed to jump to reach the top, and if you didn't jump on the rocks in the exact order the designers intended the game wouldn't let you progress even if it looked like you could climb up. Throughout the game, it is impossible to tell which sloped surfaces can be climbed and which are impassible. Another type of interaction I found annoying was inputing passwords. There are three numerical keypads in the game where you have to enter a password to progress. Unlike many other adventure games figuring out the passwords is easy, but inputing them is nearly impossible. This is because you have to use the hand to push the individual buttons, just like real life. unlike real life, Anne's hand has no nerve endings since it's just a mesh of polygons, and as a result you can't feel the buttons and end up numbly mashing them inaccurately.
The final problem is with the AI. The game brags that the dinosaurs are living, breathing entities, but in the game you can actually see the dinosaurs standing around doing nothing until you get close enough, at which point they "activate" and start moving around. Also, instead of wandering around the levels raptors are spawned out of thin air to attack you (most of the time this is done out of your sight, but sometimes you can actually see the raptors drop out of the sky like a hungry gift from God). This really detracts from the illusion of a living world promised by the game. Also, there are times when the AI will react illogically. A T-Rex will stand in a clearing with two tasty velociraptors and yet do nothing, but will chase you down once you get close enough. A velociraptor will chase you into a building and then walk headfirst into a wall because they haven't been programmed for indoor movement. A T-Rex will become imbedded in a tree and start rotating in circles.
One particularly embarrassing error involved the final boss. Now, normally the game's last battle is quite thrilling. When you reach the Summit, a pounding action variation of the Jurrasic Park theme starts playing and all of a sudden the mother of all raptors comes out from behind a building and charges right at you. However, I found that if you ran quickly and managed to jump back to the metal catwalk over the summit, the Alpha raptor would just stand there and not move since you were out of her range. Finally after I shot at it a couple times, the "super raptor" started moving, only to make an abrupt turn, ram her head against a building, bounce off, and go flailing down the mountain. I admit this was funny as hell, but it kind of detracted from the suspense. After loading a saved game and trying it again, I found I was unable to get her to bump her head again, but it was relatively easy to lure her over the edge from the safety of the catwalk. Maybe this was deliberately put in as an alternative way to win the game without fighting it out. But it really just seems like something the development team overlooked.