Under the Radar – Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter Review
This game was reviewed on PlayStation Portable
Do you have the spirit of a hunter? Are deer completely beneath you? Have big-game animals like bear just lost their challenge? Have you considered dinosaurs? Chances are you haven’t, because… well, they don’t exist anymore – not on this planet anyway.
Enter Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter, a first-person hunting game from the Minis catalogue for the PSP. In the game, a planet is discovered to be inhabited by the aforementioned ancient species of reptiles and, thanks to the joys of capitalism, people can now pay a fee to go and hunt them! Grab your favorite hunting weapon and come with me as we explore this title and see if it’s worth your loose change.
Like any hunting game on the market, Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter is without a story. Instead it focuses on recreational gameplay, with the obvious spotlight on tracking giant reptiles instead of timid mammals. Players start the game with 50 points, a currency which is used to purchase the rights to hunt in certain locations, tags to kill specific dinosaurs, and load up on weapons and equipment.
Different areas are home to their own dinosaurs and terrain, with later ones featuring harsh environments and large, carnivorous predators. To help ensure success and safety, players have weapons ranging from small pistols and crossbows to experimental laser rifles. As with any game, each gun has its strengths, weaknesses, and ammo capacity, making many of them tailored to certain prey. Ammo cannot be restocked while out on a hunt, however, so conserve wisely, as once you’re out, you’ll need to end the round and start again.
Your reptile prey behaves somewhat like its deer counterpart. The player’s scent can be caught on the wind, which can either scare off herbivores or attract hungry carnivores, and dinosaurs have fairly keen eyesight to pick up incoming players. To help counter this, players have access to tools like camouflage and scent maskers to help close in for a kill, and dino calls, which are supposed to attract or calm your prey. Tactics such as walking into the wind to prevent your scent from carrying, or using the provided map and binoculars to find and get the drop on your target are necessary to ensure an easy kill…
Or so is the theory anyway. The game presents various options to the player, and the instruction manual gives several interesting tactics, yet somehow the game always boils down to the gamer running after the dinosaur in a frantic chase. No matter how long you attempt to mask your presence and sneak up on your target, it somehow always knows you’re there, and always runs. Your calls have no real effect, and your scent maskers and camo seem to do even less. This might be due in part to the limited movement, as players are only able to approach in a standing sprint, with no option to either crouch or sneak, meaning players have to run head on at the creature and hope to the dino-gods they’re not found. Factor in a map that points out your target’s exact location and curvy level design making binocular use impossible, and you no longer have a hunting game but an inhumane slaughter-fest.
Players might also feel frustrated by the lack of direction or tutorials. At start-up, you’re given a picture of the basic control layout and are thrown right in. No explanations of scent, points, calls, anything. While these mechanics might not work correctly anyway, it makes for an incredibly irritating initial experience: jump in without direction, chase a dinosaur across the map, read the instruction manual for tips on how to play, then get back into the game and realize nothing you do seems to work – your prey always flee. While the title might have still resulted in the same run-and-gun play, a tutorial mode in-game would have eliminated an extra degree of annoyance. Instead, gamers will feel severely disheartened from the get-go, and it may dissuade them from powering it up again.
Further diminishing the title is its actual control scheme, which is clever, yet painful. First-person titles, especially shooters like this one, require two thumbsticks in this day and age – one for camera and the other for movement. This puts the PSP at a clear disadvantage, as it only has the single circle pad. However, Carnivores gets around this by using the analogue to aim, and the face buttons to move forward/backward and strafe. Although this is a well-conceived alternative, it’s held back mainly because controls will feel backwards as the LS is usually move and RS is usually aim (unless you’re a southpaw, the controller equivalent of being left-handed). While technically an issue with the console itself, Carnivore’s control scheme is still less than ideal.
Graphically, the title isn’t very bad-looking, but does have minor flaws. Dinosaurs in-game are detailed quite accurately to their real-world concepts, and players will be able to recognize them instantly, especially if they’re paleontology fans. Worth note is the underwater camera, which causes gamers’ view to get distorted, and messes with depth perception and general bearings – something more FPS titles need to include.
The only real downfall for the game’s visuals is texture pop, which happens just about everywhere. Objects such as trees and bushes are littered around maps, giving them a bit of extra detail, but as you get within just a few feet of them, their actual texture pops in. This creates a very ugly, clunky effect as players get used to seeing the object pre-pop before the actual design reveals itself when within arm’s reach – a disappointing downfall to an otherwise nice visual experience.
However, if there’s one thing sure to annoy any gamer, it’s the audio. Every dinosaur has its own call, but there are only one or two actual sound files for it, making it highly repetitious to hear over and over. The same thing can be said for ambient noise, which is a loop of about one second of sound. This makes wandering through areas utterly annoying, as in a swamp setting you’ll hear the same second of buzzing flies over and over. Unfortunately, the title is devoid of a soundtrack as well, and while this is fairly normal for a hunting game, Carnivores could have really used one to distract from the other sound effects. Players are sure to be hitting mute for this one, as the lazy and repetitive nature of the title will drive them mad otherwise.
When the hunt comes to a close, Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter could have been a lot more than what it is. With broken gameplay mechanics, annoying audio sequences, and some visual mishaps, the title falls quite short. Unless you’re looking for a cheap excuse to chase and kill dinosaurs in a bloody massacre to quench your thirst for violence, there are probably several more titles out there better suited for you.
Final Score: 3.5 / 5.0 and a broken scent masker.
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