In their "other" recently released first-person shooter, Jurassic: The Hunted, Activision forgoes over-used antagonists such as aliens, zombies, demons, and Nazis, and puts dinosaurs back where they belong-right in our cross hairs!
Remember when dinosaurs were cool? You know, when Jurassic Park ruled the box office, Dino Crisis wasn't set on a spaceship, and Turok wasn't totally lame? Recent reboots, such as 2008's return of the mohawked dino-hunter on consoles and, more recently, Will Ferrel's big screen remake of Land of the Lost, have failed to reignite interest in the beasts that so swiftly sent our jaws to the floor when they first rumbled across the silver screen in Spielberg's 1993 blockbuster. Finally, Jurassic: The Hunted puts the extinct monsters back in the pop culture spotlight, allowing them to once again sink their razor-sharp claws and drool-drenched choppers into willing fans.
While this budget title lacks much of the polish, production value, and creative vision that defines most current-gen shooters, there's no denying the dumb, B-movie-fueled fun you'll have picking off prehistoric beasties in this way under-the-radar release.
Dino-mite!:Let's not beat around the bush; shooting dinosaurs in the face is fun, and Jurassic: The Hunted delivers this experience in spades. Whether you're turning a cluster of acid-spitting foes into fleshy confetti with a well-placed grenade, shotgunning a killing blow before a velociraptor can tear your throat out, or hoofin' it from a screen-swallowing boss baddie, taking on Jurassic's beasts is a blast. Additionally, a familiar but fun-to-use arsenal-complete with cool reloading animations and punchy sound effects-nicely complement your killing spree. A quick-time button-mashing attack even allows you to punch the scaly menaces in the head-yes, please!
Dinosaurs Have Hearts:...And brains, and other vital organs you can blow up. We've seen the slo-mo, bullet-time, John Woo-meets-Matrix thing a dozen times, but Jurassic's take is one of the more inventive that's come along in awhile. When in slow motion, dubbed "adrenaline burst", you'll see enemies' vital organs light up like Tiger Wood's cell phone on a Friday night. So, for a limited time, these beasties' big pumping hearts and tiny pea brains are easy targets. It's a fun mechanic that makes two very familiar game tropes-slo-mo mode and weak points-feel somewhat fresh again.
Straightforward Fun:Aside from allowing us to fire hot lead into the bright, shiny hearts and brains of our enemies, Jurassic brings nothing new to the genre. That's mostly okay, though, as the comfort-food formula more than serves the purpose here. Red barrels explode, conveniently-placed crates brim with ammo, and enemies run towards your reticule. Similarly, the controls are ripped right from the FPS play book; shoot, jump, crouch, sprint, and grenade-toss pretty much cover it. The gameplay is simple, solid, and never gets in the way of the game's goal of allowing the player to stack dino corpses like cord wood.
Linear Lost World:While Jurassic's gameplay actually benefits from a no-frills approach, the level layouts suffer from it. Many shooters successfully hide their linearity with set pieces and the inherent nature of claustrophobic interiors, but Jurassic's vast jungle setting is anything but. It's not easy setting players loose in an organic environment, where man made obstacles are few and far between, and keeping them on a set path. By the end of the first hour, you'll begin to wonder how many more rocky outcroppings and creatively positioned tree trunks Jurassic will place in your path to ensure you remain on the straight and narrow. Linear shooters are nothing new, but Jurassic's environment's struggle to keep the restricted paths believable.
Fake Plastic Trees:Sullying the level design even further is environments that look as though they were pulled from a Hollywood studio's back lot. Trekking through the very green, very static jungle is more evocative of Disney World's Jungle Cruise ride than a mysterious lost world inhabited by dinosaurs. We've seen technology progress so much in other jungle-set titles that it really sticks out when individual blades of grass don't realistically react to the wind, or when bullets don't tear through foliage. As fun as it is blasting through packs of dinos, you're pulled from the experience a bit by the feeling that you're battling them in the produce section of your local supermarket.
If you're tired of peering down the barrel at yet another zombie horde, Jurassic's prehistoric giants might be just what the paleontologist ordered. Despite lacking the graphical polish and creative design of its contemporaries, it still packs plenty of satisfying, straightforward action, complemented by a good selection of weapons, frantic firefights and, of course, dead dinos.
An entertaining single-player romp, supported by silly B-movie style, and a solid live-as-long-as-you-can local Survivor mode, make Jurassic a worthwhile budget purchase or Gamefly rental. It doesn't quite recapture the magic of the dino-crazed 90s, but as a potential sleeper-hit it could pave the way for a T-Rex renaissance.
Jurassic: The Hunted was developed by Cauldron and published by Activision for Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2 on November 3rd. Retails for $29.99 to $39.99. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed the game's campaign on Xbox 360 and played Survivor mode.
NOTE: Throughout the month of December, Kotaku will review some of the games that we missed earlier in the year. We're catching up.