Ok, let's begin! Dino Crisis (DC) was released by Capcom for the PlayStation on the 1st July 1999 and has a striking similarity to Resident Evil (RE) in its gameplay, this may have something to do with the fact that they are both made by the same director Shinji Mikami. These similarities are easy to spot from tank controls to fixed camera perspective as well as the action-horror themes. I'm going to let you in on a little secret now. I haven't played any RE game from start to finish but for comparison sake, I have played some of it in recent days to refresh my memory of it. If you want to know why I didn't play RE when it first came out, well that's because I suffered from vivid nightmares as a kid and didn't need the extra nightmare fuel. It's also because I ended up playing DC and its sequel because I was a little older and had watched Jurassic Park, so I figured correctly at the time that I should be able to cope.
Plot Dino Crisis takes place at a secret military facility on the Island of Ibis. Tom an agent of SORT (Secret Operation Raid Team) was tasked with the initial reconnaissance and investigation of the military facility. During his mission, Tom learns that Dr Edward Kirk, a world-renowned scientist who was reported dead three years ago, is continuing his secret energy project, Third Energy, within the facility. Four agents of SORT, Gail, Rick, Regina, and Cooper (or the Other One as I like to call him) are tasked with retrieving Dr Kirk and returning him to custody. The SORT team arrives on the island under the cover of darkness, dropping in via parachute. The Other One is blown off course and lands in the jungle and proceeds to take no further part in the game, due to a severe case of T-Rex ingestion. The other three, unaware of The Other One's predicament, proceed with the mission. A slight difference here between the manual and the game is that Regina is supposedly the head of the SORT extraction team. However, the game never portrays her like this, only as an independent highly skilled operative. Gail seems more like the actual commander of the mission, focused on goals and making suggestions that sound like orders. Though it has to be said at no point does he stop Ricardo or Regina with the threat of court-martial.
Pros Let's start with the first major Pro, DC's atmosphere and how it builds tension. When you first start you'll be forgiven into thinking that the game has no music with how quiet it is. All you can hear is the sound of your footsteps. Your team is oblivious to what's gone on at the facility. Upon arrival, they find clues of a struggle that's taken place from empty shell casings, torn chain link fences to an eviscerated body. Then you turn your first backup generator on and the fun begins. Suddenly you hear gunfire from outside, your no-nonsense commander who was keeping watch is gone. There's blood, a hole in the fence, and a cliff, now your all alone. Don't worry though you won't be... For long. Then you hear the cracking of animal-like chitters as your jumped upon by your first Raptor! The music starts the panic with a fast-paced beat. What to do? You've got a handgun, shoot it? Haha...did you choose poorly, as the Raptor leaps at you knocking you to the ground biting and chewing at your arms as you desperately try to shake it off. Eventually, you escape and you try to flee maybe you make it to the safety of the gate. "Few I should be safe." you think, but this is no zombie, the Raptor sees the low fence and leaps right over chasing you down! Wow! What a start, barely 10 minutes into the game. This is DC, you think you're prepared and then something happens like a T-rex smashes through a window, reminding you just how unready you really are. Your enemies are relentless, fast, big and you don't have the bullets to deal with them all. So good luck as you navigate the facility's dinosaur-infested corridors to find out the truth of what happened here.
DC's enemies, the dinosaurs, are really quite a difficult challenge to handle, though being ravenous killing machine that was probably not a surprise. Throughout the game, you'll find that most of the time it's a damn sight better to run or avoid them than it is to have a prolonged firefight. One Raptor alone is quite capable of tanking your life with ease and can soak up quite a few bullets before going down, but don't be fooled some will play dead. Raptors will also be quite tenacious at times bashing through doors, leaping through windows and climbing through ducts and conduits to find you. When you come across the T-Rex though, well that's a whole different problem. Let this thing get close enough and in one bite it's game over, which is highly appropriate for its size and the fact it shrugs off shotgun rounds to the face like there a mild annoyance.
DC's story also takes itself a little more seriously than its zombie-filled counterpart despite been a plot about dinosaurs and time travel. Though seriously there are no ridiculous keys to find or piano puzzle locks that wouldn't be out of place in a hammer horror or bond villain's lair. In DC it's just a team sent in to find a person who was believed to be dead and winding up being in a secret scientific facility that's mysteriously gone to the Jurassic period. That isn't to say there aren't puzzles and keys it's just there more akin to getting a generator online or rewiring an electrical board. The more grounded in reality side of DC was actually intended by Director Shinji Mikami who wanted to create a more realistic setting when compared to his previous work. There are of course some cliché characters such as the hard-ass commando of the team, Gail, the smart ass but well-meaning techie, Ricardo, as well as the obligatory mad scientist Dr Kirk, but they don't go quite as ridiculous moustache twirlingly mad as some of the cast in the RE series. I'm aware as well that the manual has far more detailed personality profiles in it but the characters can be summed up this way in-game.
DC's inventory management is not as obnoxious as other games of this type providing you with a good chunk of inventory space. Some would say that this is probably a detracting factor from the horror survival element and you could be right but I find that with the enemies been dinosaurs and not zombies they tend to force you to waste more materials anyway whether that's ammo, health or combining items to try and give more of either when cornered. A number of times I've been wandering around the facility without a single bullet just ducking and diving around or into rooms to escape, so sort of regretting the fact that I don't have a full inventory. Actually inventory space only became an issue later on when I accidentally open a red emergency ammo storage box and because it cost a limited resource I felt inclined to pinch everything.
DC also utilizes a 3D engine allowing for real-time environments as opposed to prerendered backgrounds found in a lot of other games at the time. This has its advantages in the in-game world as prerendered backgrounds are akin to a director using way too much CG in a film, making the world seem flat or the actors obviously stand out as though they can't interact with the world around them. Having a fully rendered 3D environment makes the polygon characters and enemies feel more part of the world. This also allowed for more freedom of movement for the camera as it had a set to pan around or follow the character from time to time though still limited and not under the player's control.
Cons Tank controls now this is an unusual Con as it applies more than ever to modern gaming than it did back in the day, so why's this the case? Well for those who have only ever known analogue control try to understand how you move through a 3D space but with only digital control inputs, such as the D-pad. Have you done that because now you might start to recognize the problem. Up moves you forward but left and right only turn you on the spot and down moves you backward usually at a slower pace than forward. Now what you might start to realise is that it's quite hard to move forward and left or right. In fact, one may say it's easier to stay still and rotate on the spot to the desired direction than move and fire. Initially, this usually works fine, now imagine that all your enemies can move in an analogue fashion and you soon realise the true state of the problem you're in. This however can be overcome with time and practice it's just a matter of getting used to it when you've been using analogue for so long.
DC has much like many games of the time a fixed shot perspective. This is where your camera is fixed at a specific location depending on where you are in the usable area. It basically means you don't have control of the camera, the game does. This has the strange consequence of allowing for surprise, intense chases and a creeping sense that your protagonist is been watched. However, it does also generate another problem, blind firing. This occurs when you know or suspect enemies are in front of you. You decide to hold your ground, one problem though the enemy is off-screen because the camera is in the wrong place. This happens a lot in DC especially if it's your first time as your instilled to be proactive when dealing with the enemy because waiting will see you eviscerated by said Dino. Fortunately, auto-aim and the fact that you're usually dealing with only one dinosaur at a time usually mitigates this, but if you're ever in a room with more than one dinosaur then I suggest running as a strategy.
DC despite having the word Dino in its name doesn't really have a lot of variety when it comes to the dinosaurs you've got. I count 4 different dinosaurs and some of them are seen very briefly. The most regular one is the Raptor which does make an effective and scary combatant but after a while starts to get a bit samey. This is also a regret shared among the development team on DC according to interviews.
Nerd O Meter A Marvelous 4 out 5 I know that I do sound like I'm trash talking RE at times in this review, but I'm really not. The RE series has a legacy of good games and is entering in its own way. I'm also prepared to accept the argument that RE came out four years before DC but my justification for this is that both games had the same director, the same style of play and we're released on the same system. Now that that's been said DC is still a game that is totally worth your time getting. There are some tiny issues in the game from difficulty finding certain objects, to the annoyance of getting around some enemies and an occasional bad line read from the voice actors. Overall though the game is really enjoyable with tense action scenes and a number of unlockables and variations in the story depending on decisions you make. So unless you play RE for purely its hammer horror or crazy characters I think you'll find a lot of enjoyment in this game even if you're a RE fan.