Review: Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter HD

For many years, scientists from all corners of the world have speculated, theorized, and investigated the mysterious extinction of dinosaurs. Millions of research dollars have been invested into uncovering the truth behind the events that wiped the earth of the reptilian giants — leaving us little more evidence than a supply of black gold beneath the surface of the planet they once roamed. Was it a meteor of biblical magnitude? Or perhaps the emergence of mankind, and the subsequent struggle for dominance? Maybe it was aliens, as “experts” on the History Channel would have us all believe. Unfortunately for science and its interested spectators, all of that precious grant money has been wasted. The truth is, I killed the dinosaurs. I killed them one by one with a .243 rifle, and put them on display in my trophy room. Why? I’m still not really sure about that.

Welcome to Dinosaur Hunter. In this world, some radical advances in engineering have made interstellar travel a possibility. Among the discoveries of the likely exploratory space excursions was an earth-like planet, inhabited by prehistoric flora and Jurassic creatures. Given the natural human desire to combine science and greed in interesting and profitable ways, a company by the name of DinoHunt, Inc. was established. Despite a name that suggests an educational study group set to learn more about this strange world, DinoHunt is in fact no more than a glorified poacher service for the rich and famous. Thankfully, the character you play is a wealthy, heartless hunter with a thirst for dino-blood.

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There are very few steps required before the hunt can begin. Once the main menu loads, simply select “hunt” and you’ll be presented an upgrades, weapons and locations page. Make your choices, and prepare to pursue some prehistoric prey. Every murder-session starts you off at 100% bonus, and each upgrade assigned to your character reduces the number by a certain percentage. The available upgrades range from a radar to assist locating the beasts on your map, to a weakness indicator that displays what part of the dinosaurs body is best to aim for. These tools are purchased with money earned by killing, you guessed it, dinosaurs — which is a bit confusing, because in order to participate in such a sport, one must be pretty damn rich. However, if money in the game is treated like tickets at an arcade, it’s easy to ignore the lack of logic in this system.

The money earned from every kill depends on the dinosaur, and rewards range drastically. You can even purchase trophies of your murdered dinos and display them in your trophy room (accessed from the main menu), but this feature serves as little more than some artificial bragging rights. One-shot kills will earn you more than taking the Swiss-cheese approach, thus inching you closer to that ridiculously expensive — but entirely necessary — upgrade. Unfortunately, this design approach makes Dinosaur Hunter a grind-fest, with every repetitious hunt less exciting than the last. Once the behavioral patterns of each dinosaur are learned, the game becomes a wheres-waldo, there’s-waldo, kill-waldo of sorts, and never expands beyond its shallow mechanics — making for a relatively boring experience.

The primeval planet is conveniently split up in to three islands, each of which can be played at different times of the day. Different islands and day-settings are unlocked by gaining points which are also earned by performing impressive kills. Each island has its own unique dinosaurs, along with some annoyingly speedy fauna — smaller dinosaurs that earn you no rewards for the kill. While the terrain of each island is large, and is entirely explorable from the moment you’re dropped in, the three islands are nearly identical, with the only real difference being the variable creatures stomping about the grounds. While the textures are mostly adequate, it’s clear that Dinosaur Hunter is a remake of the 90s hunting game, and despite its obvious upgrade it suffers due to some poorly rendered graphics and odd pop-ins.

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Certain islands in the game have predatory dinosaurs roaming about as well, and like any small-minded carnivore without access to a late-night drive-thru, they’ll often attack upon sight and proceed to make a meal of you. While in reality getting devoured by a dinosaur would be a bad thing — also a pretty strange one considering how long they’ve been extinct for — in Dinosaur Hunters case it helps the giant beasts feel less like moving targets, and more like living creatures. Hungry and angry living creatures, but living creatures nonetheless.  Such an attempt at realism is appreciated, but the constant pop-in can make it difficult to focus on an evading or approaching dinosaur while in pursuit.

With such a strong focus on first-person shooting, it’s good that Dinosaur Hunter totes agreeable controls, and for the most part accommodates different play-styles. You want to take the stealthy approach, and slowly stalk your prey from behind some trees and rocks, sniping its sweet-spot from afar? Not a problem. How about running in like a mad-man with guns blazing, shooting whatever flowers and bushes come in to your path of death and destruction? That’s a can do. The game will even let you Greenpeace folks hunt with, well, peace. Non-lethal tranquilizers are available, and while they inevitably reduce the thrill of the hunt, they’re a nice inclusion. The issue is, regardless of which approach you choose, the game is not fun. After an hour of stalking and hunting, you’ve seen everything the game has to offer, and while shooting works well-enough, the dinosaurs look pretty cool, and the environments are expansive and littered with detail, the game is simply not fun.

This is unfortunate, as the setting is promising. If the original idea had been expanded upon, Dinosaur Hunter could have been much more than just another hunting game. The campy space-age dinosaur hunter premise is fun, but it’s never referenced beyond the PlayStation Networks description of the game. It would have benefited greatly from any sort of mission-system as well, rather than its in-and-out approach to hunting; a system which makes it far more suitable for portable systems, especially considering the ability to retreat from a hunt at any time.

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Closing Comments:

Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter HD is the best arcade-style dinosaur hunting game on the PlayStation 3. Like being the greatest didgeridoo player in the world, or the national tether-ball champion, however, some achievements are simply less significant than others. Carnivores isn’t broken by any means, but that’s its strongest selling point. It will only appeal to hardcore hunting game enthusiasts, as it’s ultimately boring, repetitive and empty. There’s little to do, see or experience, and unless you’re a true fan of the genre, your money is best spent elsewhere.
score2.5
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 3 (PSN)