By Yummylee 6 Comments
Here we are, the second (and what might as well be last) chapter of the mildly-famed Dino Crisis series! Following the original by only a year, Dino Crisis 2 holds very little similarity to its predecessor--beyond the inclusion of dinosaurs that is--and made a quick u-turn on the survival horror-ness of the original Dino Crisis. Though unlike the original I had already invested many an hour into Dino Crisis 2 during its heyday and loved it dearly.
Survival Horror this is most certainly not, but since both Resident Evil and Silent Hill were still covering that front at the time--and because of my lack of investment in the original--I was plenty open to letting this game's hail of bullets and heaps of dinosaur corpses wash over me.
...Which wasn't quite as unpleasant or painful as it sounds.
It's Resident Evil, but w-... No, wait, this isn't like Resident Evil at all!
OK, it certainly includes many similarities to such ilk, but they all basically begin and end at the foundation. Sure, camera angles are still in play (with pre-rendered backgrounds instead of 3D funnily enough), and your character still moves with the grace of a wounded sloth, but... you can't walk. Like, literally. This is a game where you have one level of speed and that is GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOGO! Not only that, but ammo is never an issue, and not in the ''I've replayed Resident Evil so many times that I always have enough ammo because of knowing where it's all located'' thing, but the ''starting off with a shotgun complete with a hundred rounds'' kind. Yup, one hundred shells, at the very opening of the game! It just hands you this payload and asks you to go to work on making these dino-fucks extinct all over again. And of course, to go with the speedier nature of the game you can move and shoot, or ''run n gun'' as it's more traditionally known!
There's even an arcade element to it as well, as you rack up combos and are then awarded points upon exiting the area into the next. Bonuses for countering enemy attacks and/or getting through an area without getting hit (that is if you kill at least 6 enemies) also accentuate the score-focussed nature of the game.
Suffice it to say, Dino Crisis 2 is certainly quite the departure from its forebearers. Rather than relying on cribbing from its more successful cousin (or... stepparent) it decided to spread its wings and head in a markedly different direction. And despite the higher action-focus of the game, it still stands out even amongst the latter day Resident Evil shooter games at that.
Guns are fun! Fun Guns! Funs!
Simply listing what the game is can only count for so much, however. Fortunately, Dino Crisis 2 is indeed a fun time to this very day. The shotgun in particular feels powerful to wield and the dinosaurs themselves animate well and react accordingly to getting blasted in the mouth with some shells. The game isn't especially gory or anything--no dinosaur limbs flying through the air--but your weapons still evoke a feeling of raw power nonetheless.
Running and gunning your way along gives the game an urgency and pacing that feels right at home in a Platinum game or something. While the tank controls do feel a little inhibiting for this style of game, the combat is still basic enough that they don't get in the way too much. You have the ever reliable auto-aim for starters, and there's also a dodge maneuver you can use to try and escape from a dinosaur about ready to headbutt you across the environment.
Weirdly enough the sidestep dodge you have is not only an option, but is turned off by default. In fact I had only just discovered that this maneuver exists with this very revisit! Throughout all of my time playing this game as a wee cherub I had no such idea; simply keeping on the move and knowing when to shoot were my only defences. Though it should be said that it's not especially useful, as it's a little clunky to perform and you can't cancel animations or anything like that to initiate your sidestep. It's perfectly playable without it, and while again it's not exactly a game changer, it's still there so... might as well make use of it. Rather to have it than not I suppose; that triangle button isn't being used for anything else!
This time around you'll actually be playing as two characters throughout the story. The spunky red-headed not-Jill Valentine Regina returns, alongside newcomer Dylan
Moran Morton. Though there's not really very much difference between the two beyond what weapons they have access to. Dylan opens up with the shotgun and Regina is again initially stuck with a pistol. Though don't let its small frame fool you! While it may have taken up to like 13 bullets to down a velociraptor in the original, that average has noticeably been cut down to somewhere 2-3 bullets instead.
In all honesty I think it's a tad disappointing that they didn't attempt to differentiate the two characters a little more. Maybe Regina could have been used for more puzzle-y segments, whereas Dylans is pure action. As it is, they're both practically just character skins of one another.
If there is a problem with the gameplay it's that it's... well, to put a negative spin on my aforementioned summation of it being rather ''basic'', kind of shallow. Most of the core combat simply involves you running and gunning in the hopes that you can shoot the dinosaurs before they claw or maul you. They do have more of a variety of dinosaurs this time around, but beyond the Allosauruses that require you to maneuver around and shoot them in their sides, for everything else you need only keep running n gunning. Though speaking of dinosaur variety, I do really like that they included a type that will by the very definition of the word literally attempt to dropkick you. I'd like to think that's precisely how they would actually fight off other dinosaurs all those millions of years ago, and if science were to prove me wrong, well -- FUCK YOU DROPKICKING DINOSAURS MAN DON'T RUIN THIS FOR ME.
You'll acquire a number of weapons as the game progresses, but for the most part I found myself plenty comfortable in just sticking with the defaults. There are some later game weapons that act as decent replacements, but because the enemies are all so similar and exhibit such basic AI patterns, there's not exactly much room nor need for strategy or anything like that. Furthermore, while you also have a menu for equipping a secondary weapon such as a machete or stun rod, they don't really serve much purpose. And in the machete/stun rod's case they're more beneficial for simply opening certain doors (ones that are covered in vines for example) than actually using in combat.
Nonetheless, the sheer act of shooting dinosaurs, especially mid-jump, is ever satisfying to pull off. As simple and shallow as it all may be, the core act of shooting is fun enough to reliably carry much of the game across its run time.
A set-piece driven shooter before there were set-piece driven shooters.
I might be misremembering the times, but during the year of 2000 I don't recall many games that were consistently introducing new kinds of temporary mechanics and set-pieces ala modern day games, least not to the extent of Dino Crisis 2. As I was much younger at the time and playing a significantly smaller variety of games, however, I will admit I don't exactly hold much authority to speak of such an era...
Regardless, Capcom must have understood that for as fun as the shooting is, they hafta to mix it up here and there to keep it from getting too stale. While the majority of the 6-8 hour story does involve all of the running n gunning I previously described, there's a good amount of curveballs involving two turret sequences (one's alright, the other less so), an escapade that has you driving a tank while trying to keep a T-Rex at bay, a short escort mission, and a particular standout that has you switching control between Regina and Dylan amidst an onslaught of Allosauruses. Some of those of course sound trite by today's standards, but back then it's no wonder why I was so enamoured with this game.
Funnily enough, the most memorable segment throughout the whole game actually goes to an underwater segment. Oh yes, you read that right. As Regina during the middle portion of the game, you'll hafta travel underwater in this huge, bulking diving suit. Your footsteps feel heavy and plodding, and firing your needle-gun at the underwater dinos is quite satisfying; you also have access to a jump now as well, which leads into a little bit of light platforming -- none of it is particularly taxing or anything, though, and getting to jump about can be pretty fun. You'll also eventually have access to an underwater missile launcher thing, which feels pretty powerful to shoot, if also making all combat encounters underwater a breeze. Just a shame you don't keep them upon returning to the surface.
The atmosphere is what really sells it, though. The pacing is slowed down a great bit alongside your movement, and the waviness and murky blue of the visuals actually portrays a surprisingly unsettling visage. The boss battle you'll face during this segment I also legitimately found to be kinda terrifying! Being underwater in general is pretty up there of my list of fears (beyond a fear of terrible game design that is), and witnessing this huge amphibious dinosaur slowly leer towards you from outside of your vision really gives me the goosebumps. The battle itself isn't particularly difficult, but the whole experience is still an effective one all the same. Funny that Dino Crisis 2 is actually more successful at being scary when it wants to over its predecessor.
Strange why there's so few horror games set underwater, and I don't mean even ala BioShock by having you in an underwater city, but actually underwater, within the ocean itself. It's a setting that carries a lot of similarities as to what makes space such a potentially terrifying location. You're slow and sluggish in movement, whereas your predators are the complete opposite of such, and the water itself can make it difficult to see very far beyond your own hand. The thought alone of dynamically encountering a giant fuck-off shark or something similar gives me the shivers... Open water itself is just as terrifying too; the idea of seeing nothing but water stretching as far as the eye can see, while there's an entire world beneath you. An environment that's just waiting to be exploited.
No game is perfect.
Dino Crisis 2's pacing in general is admittedly all over the place, however. Most of those set-pieces I previously mentioned are all primarily contained within your stay in the Edward City location during the final third. The whole first third of the game is pretty much just running n gunning with the occasional key hunt. There's also one particular instance where you're about to enter the 3rd Energy Facility, however you locate a file explaining that the guy lost the key for the entrance back in the opening jungle... So, for no reason whatsoever, you must then head back to the jungle, collect the keycard, and then return to the facility entrance. There's no new enemy introduced, no story event... it exists purely as busywork to pad the game a little and nothing more.
The points system is also easy to exploit. Enemies won't respawn indefinitely in an area, however switching between camera angles in an area will keep them respawning for a short time. Grinding isn't really all that necessary mind you as you'll likely have bought everything before the game finishes, but at the same time it shouldn't be too hard for anyone to rack up more points than you actually have stuff to spend them on very early into the game.
There's one particular area just after the first turret sequence where it's exceptionally easy to score about, maybe, 80K points, which counts for a lot. At this point the game will now make available for purchase an M60 machine gun for Regina; in the very next area you'll then be fighting the amphibious dinosaurs I mentioned earlier, only now while you're on land. With the M60 in hand you'll then be able to swiftly kill each and every one of them with a single shot. Not only do they offer up a significant amount of points purely for the base kill, but because you can kill them about as fast as they raise their head out of the water, it's pitifully easy to keep a combo going alongside some hefty No Damage bonuses, too.
There's another weapon-related bit of weirdness later on as Dylan. At this point the game will introduce these hard-skinned enemies that you must first try and knock over onto their back to deal serious damage, however by this point you're able to purchase an Anti-Tank Rifle for Dylan, which can kill them in three shots regardless of whether they're knocked over onto their back or not. The weapon itself is fucking awesome by the by, but still... It perhaps wouldn't matter as much if points were more difficult to accumulate, thus making the weapon less easy to acquire, but as mentioned earlier that's really not the case.
Unlockables, or the lack thereof.
Overall I think what would be my one primary criticism is the lack of unlockables, or at least unlockables that are worth a damn. Upon completing the game you'll unlock Extra Crisis mode, which essentially functions as a... wave survival thing, I suppose. It has a timer of 10 minutes, though really it shouldn't take you any more than maybe 5. All you do is select a character and, if it's a human character (if?!), just run around shooting stuff for a little bit. The actual battle arena is this generic VR-esque thing and the camera is pulled back a fair bit. You'll go through all of the dinosaur types before finally facing off against a T-Rex, but there's nothing fancy or enticing about any of it. One unique quirk is you can unlock many of the dinosaurs to play as, however they unfortunately pale in comparison to playing as the humans. My first purchase was the T-Rex, because it's a T-Rex, however it's actually considerably difficult to kill anything with it. It's just too damn big to be able to efficiently attack any of the smaller dinosaurs at the beginning of the mode. As such, I've had most success simply playing as human characters (which includes Rick and Gail from the original Dino Crisis) and it's all rather boring. As Gail, I was able to get the highest rank on my first go at that, so...
There's another mode called Dino Coliseum, where you and a friend
or someone you drugged and kidnapped off the street and have locked in your basement can fight each other as the dinosaurs. Both modes function more as a casual novelty than anything of worth akin to the Mercenaries minigame in any case.
Unfortunately, for a game that seems like it would be rife with reasons to replay, there's not much there. No unlockable costumes or weapons or anything like that. It tracks how many times you've cleared the game, but beyond simply playing the game again for the sake of... playing the game, there's no incentive; no NG+ equivalent, either. Back in the days of yore I still completed Dino Crisis a-plenty, but there were games of a significantly lesser quality that I also completed too many times to admit so, that's not the best barometer to measure the game's replay value by. As such, looking at it from a modern perspective is a little disappointing to find the game lacks the traditional pantheon of unlockables you'd expect from a Capcom game of this era.
Also, I think it's a little unfortunate for how Regina is delegated down to a supporting character. She's a co-protagonist in so much as you'll play as her, but the (still pretty bad and nonsensical) story is squarely focussed on Dylan. Only he gets any sort of backstory and much of the actual narrative is focussed exclusively on him; Regina for the most part is just sorta there. I mean the game explicitly opens and closes with you playing as Dylan, and I think that's a little unfair.
I know I spent a good chunk there focussing on criticism, but I still quite like Dino Crisis 2. Certain aspects haven't aged as well as I would like, but it's hard to argue with gunning velicoraptors in the face with a shotgun while running at what feels like 30mph.
Alas, as I have no access to Dino Crisis 3 I'll hafta thusly cut my retrospective on this series short. I'd be more than willing to put the hours into that thing if possible! If it was backwards compatible with the 360 in particular, but no such luck.
Dino Crisis is such a weird series. First game's this survival horror Resident Evil knockoff, sequel's an arcade-inspired run n gunner, there's some light-gun game that I never even knew existed until I looked over our Dino Crisis franchise page, and then there's Dino Crisis 3... Dinosaurs are essentially the only constant tying this series together anywhoo, and it's precisely why a reboot would undoubtedly go through a little smoother than Resident Evil for example given that it's not really beholden to any particular style of gameplay. Considering that there's so few people who even remember that this series exists, there's unlikely to be much backlash at the idea, either.
Maybe one day... Though with current Capcom I feel like there are a lot of 'maybes' and 'one days' with regards to their forgotten franchises.