Who’s At The Top Of The Foodchain? Primal Carnage Review For PC

Our Rating
out of 5.0

This game was reviewed on the PC.

When I was a little girl, I was completely obsessed with dinosaurs.  I had an encyclopedia, countless figurines, and even a nightlight that all showcased the awesome power of dinosaurs.  I even watched Jurassic Park – even though for most of the movie I had to cover my eyes and squint through the cracks in my fingers.  While I eventually moved onto other interests, I’ve always held a firm belief that dinosaurs are insanely cool.  When I discovered the game Primal Carnage, my inner seven-year-old was awakened and I played this game with a child-like glee I reserve for very few titles.

In Primal Carnage, the concept is very simple – a crack team of human experts take on dinosaurs in a fight to the death.  Both humans and dinosaurs are controlled by players, similar to Left 4 Dead’s Versus Mode.  Can Primal Carnage live up to its concept, or does it fall short?

On a small, isolated island, a military base has been experimenting with dinosaur DNA.  Everything goes wrong, and soon, a pack of Dinosaurs roams the island.  The Dinosaurs can’t be negotiated with, they can’t be contained, and they can’t be stopped – the only solution is to send in a team of mercenaries to stop the threat before it’s too late.  The mercenaries are comprised of the Commando (a military vet who brings enough firepower to the table to stop even the toughest of foes), the Pyromaniac (a man who keeps his allies safe through the power of a flamethrower, a chainsaw, and a whole lot of courage), the Trapper (who wields two pistols for offence and a net-gun for defence, allowing him to tangle up Dinosaurs before they get too close), the Scientist (a woman who’s most comfortable in the back of the fray, sniping with tranq darts and a rifle, and is in big trouble when a Dinosaur charges into her face), and the Pathfinder (a survival expert armed with distress flares and a shotgun, a jack of all trades who’s highly adaptable).

Each Mercenary has a unique gameplay style, and the UI clearly expresses the strengths and weaknesses of each character during the selection screen.  I always felt comfortable playing a new Mercenary because his/her capabilities were easy to understand.  Every Mercenary felt useful and unique from a gameplay and mechanical viewpoint.  However, when it came to visuals, different classes would look a little too similar, making it hard to tell what my team was composed of class-wise.  Unlike other team class-based games like Team Fortress 2, individual mercenaries weren’t clearly distinctive and easy to tell apart.  This meant that it was hard to tell what gaps in my team needed to be closed and what classes my team needed me to play; instead, I had to figure this out through losing engagements.

Beyond the class models, the game is gorgeous.  Environments are lush and beautiful; I was engaged and immersed in the idea of jungle combat.  Essential things on the map, such as health stations or ammo boxes, are easy to spot due to a glow.  Enemy units can blend into the dense foliage, leading to ambushes and frantic gun-play moments that enrich the game and make exploring the map both tense and fun.  The sounds are also high quality; for instance, Dinosaur roars are terrifying, guns are satisfying to fire and sound spot-on, and moving through the jungle has the appropriate noises of rustling bushes and sing-song birds.  The only drawback to the game’s sound is the Mercenary voice-overs: several of the classes have strong, badly acted accents to add some distinguishing character.

The pack of Dinosaurs are made up of a Novaraptor, the swift and clever hunter who relies on speed and wits; the Dilophosaurus, an attacker who relies on ambushing and distorting your vision before coming in to deal a final blow; the Pteranodon, a deadly animal who soars through the skies to provide recon for their team before coming in to attack or fly away with a human in their talons; the Carnotaurus, a beast of power and strength who can outrun any human and gore them on his tusks; and the scariest of all Dinosaurs, the Tyrannosaurus – an unstoppable force of nature who will destroy your team as easily as taking a breath.

The Dinosaurs each feel like they fill a niche in a full team, and they are individually fun to play.  The unique capabilities of each Dinosaur were creative, and I wanted to try out every Dinosaur to see how they worked.  There are strengths and weaknesses to each class, and teamwork is heavily encouraged; if players are expecting Dinosaurs to be inherently stronger than Mercenaries, they will find themselves disappointed – a stupid mistake can prove just as fatal on a Dinosaur as it is on a Mercenary.

Gameplay is straight-forward but fun.  Anyone who’s played a popular FPS will be able to pick up Primal Carnage in under a minute.  Upon picking a class, you are dispatched out onto the field to fight.  There’s no running around to pick up your weapons – you begin fully armed; however, you will need to recharge your ammo or health periodically at points around the map.  While Lukewarm Media is still working on this product, they have an extremely solid foundation.  With my first match, I ran out into the field blindly and was immediately murdered by a Novaraptor.  Instead of feeling frustrated or upset, I instead learned a valuable lesson: watch out for my surroundings.  Upon re-spawning, I put this lesson into action and managed to assist in taking down a couple of Dinosaurs before perishing.  Deaths rarely feel unfair or frustrating; instead, you are learning how to survive.

This is true of both sides of gameplay; while playing as a Dinosaur, I learned to stick with my team, coordinate attacks, and never get too cocky.  Taking down an enemy player always felt satisfying and like an accomplishment.  Lukewarm Media has achieved something sensational here: Dinosaurs and Mercenaries both feel balanced and fun to play.  Right now, the only mode available is Team Deathmatch, which can get repetitive after many matches.  Lukewarm Media is currently working on additions to Team Deathmatch to spice up the gameplay, such as neutral Dinosaurs that can prove a danger to each side; there’s also a second gameplay mode in the works called Get To The Chopper.

With online games comprised entirely of player-versus-player combat the community can be a huge concern.  A toxic community will drive new players away and lead to a stagnant community.  Luckily, Primal Carnage has attracted a mature player-base.  When I asked questions about the game in Team Chat, I always received a polite answer.  I was never cussed out for dying or making a mistake, and I as often offered tips and hints.  The community made the game enjoyable and relaxing; this is a great change of pace from the communities of several other competitive games.

Primal Carnage isn’t a perfect game, but it is an inherently fun game with many strong points.  The developers are also showing the game a lot of love, and it holds a great deal of promise.  If you’re a fan of team-based shooters, Dinosaurs, or cooperative gameplay, Primal Carnage will be an excellent addition to your library.  If you simply want to relive the magic of Jurassic Park, Primal Carnage can scratch that itch for you.

Primal Carnage earns a 4.25/5.00.

Our Rating
out of 5.0

About This Post

December 10, 2012 - 8:24 am