What is it about dinosaurs that young people love so much? I mean, stick them in a room with a live T.rex and they’ll probably have a slight change of heart. So why does the idea of vicious, powerful predators (and, you know, herbivores) intrigue the young of mind? Don’t get me wrong, I certainly loved dinosaurs when I was a kid - and, well, they’re still pretty awesome. I just can’t help but feel as though it’s a strange interest - which is perhaps why I can’t help but feel as though Primal Carnage: Extinction is a strange kind of game. Admittedly, it’s an easy sell: either play as a dino-hunter, taking down a horde of surprisingly team-focused Jurassic terrors, or shed your own skin for a new scaly outfit as one of a selection of badass dinosaurs. Sounds good, right? Well, mostly is my initial answer - because have you ever thought about how annoying it would be to actually be a dinosaur?
In simple terms, Primal Carnage is an online FPS game that, in the core game mode, pits a team of human hunters against a pack of ravenous (maybe even a little ravishing) dinosaurs. As you’d expect, the human players are forced to group together in order to survive, while the dino team is all about brute force - mixed in with a little bit of tactical thinking. Like a few FPS games out there, (no, wait, all of them) the teams are further split into classes. You’ve got your sniper, regular trooper, flamethrower, heavy and trapper when playing as the humans - each of them playing pleasantly differently. Although the core aim of ‘shoot the dinosaur in the face’ remains largely unchanged whichever you chose. The human side may not be the most popular of choices, but running from enraged dinosaurs and working successfully as a team feels incredibly satisfying.
Playing as a dinosaur is a very different experience, and something that really takes some getting used to. While anyone familiar with any previous FPS will jump straight into the human side, working out how best to use the dinos at your disposal can be more than a little tricky; it doesn’t help that there’s no real tutorial to speak of. Contrary to playing as a human, things are viewed from a third person perspective, making it easier to both gauge your surroundings and admire the excellent dino models that Circle Five has created. Sadly, that viewpoint does make it a little tricky to attack enemies, and most encounters consist of the dino player sprinting around the human until they get enough lucky strikes in to get a kill - or vice versa. Of course, once you get used to the mechanics, it becomes a lot more strategic, but a lot of current players have yet to advance past the ‘manic’ stage.
In all fairness, there are a several types of dinosaur to get used to. Just as the humans have their rather typical collection of classes, the dinos also come in various shapes and sizes. There’s the small but nippy predators like the Novaraptor, and spitting dinosaurs that’ll bring back memories of that scene from Jurassic Park. There’s a bruiser Carnotaurus that’s great for just charging enemy players down and then the terrifying tyrants like the good ol’ T.rex. Oh, and if you’re feeling really adventurous then you can play as one of the flying dinosaurs that swoop down from above and pick up unsuspecting humans - dropping them off cliffs after that is entirely optional, but recommended. With all this variation, it’s not surprising to see a few irregularities in terms of balancing. While the game does a good job of making sure there aren’t too many players of one type (or too many in one team), there’s definitely an advantage to playing as the lumbering giants - so long as you play it right.
The games themselves are pretty frantic, and also extremely fast paced. Primal Carnage has a blatant Unreal Tournament or Quake feel about it, in that games have a tangible pace that errs towards the ‘frantic’ side of things. There’s very little in the way of original content; the humans all come loaded with pretty typical FPS weaponry - the only real exceptions being a very bright light that can be deployed to blind dino players and a net-gun that the trapper can use to tangle up smaller prey. In terms of game modes it's also pretty standard fare: team deathmatch, an objective-based mode as well as a horde-esque survival mode in which you have to defeat waves of dinosaurs. That last mode can be particularly fun, especially if you’re playing with friends, but it would have been nice to see a few more modes thrown in. The devs very recently added a dinosaur vs dinosaur mode although this certainly needs some balance tweaking.
Saying that, there are technically a couple more modes, although for most players these probably won’t occupy much time. There’s a freeplay mode that essentially drops players into a world map and lets them get up to any kind of mischief, and also a ‘roleplay’ mode in which people just... act out being a dinosaur? Yeah, I don’t quite get that one, but I suppose if that’s what people are in to, then more power to them. There’s no doubt that if you’re a big fan of dinosaurs then Primal Carnage: Extinction should be more than enough to fill your boots. I could certainly see kids dropping hours to that roleplay mode, although how long the main game can hold one’s attention is questionable. As mentioned, there’s not a large amount of content here that’ll be surprising or especially exciting (unless you really are into your dinosaurs).
Primal Carnage: Extinction is an odd game purely because it seems as though it should be much more interesting than it actually is. By most accounts, it’s a fairly standard FPS. Of course, the dinosaurs do bring a slightly unique factor, especially considering you can actually play as them. Yet that doesn’t prevent Primal Carnage from feeling a tad run-of-the-mill. There’s no doubt that the game is worth the price asked, and if you can get a group of friends together it’ll be a great experience, but we’ve seen almost all of this before. It doesn’t help that the game is practically primordial in terms of netcode and online functionality. It’s a real pain to set up a private server and there’s no auto-match available. What’s more, you’ll often find yourself joining a game that supposedly has 20 people in it only to find it has no more than three or four. In short, Primal Carnage feels old. It’s fun, sure, but well past its sell-by date.
Primal Carnage: Extinction (Reviewed on Windows)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
A simple, but fun, FPS that could have been so much better. The dinosaurs are certainly fun, but it won't take long for you to grow tired of the game at large.