“Primal Carnage” review

Do you like dinosaurs? Of course you do. Who doesn’t? Don’t answer that.

Would you like to fight dinosaurs? How about devour humans as a dinosaur. In this “Counter Strike” meets “Turok” game, you can do just that. Get ready for “Primal Carnage,” available now on Steam.

Just what is “Primal Carnage,” you ask? Well, it is a multiplayer game wherein two teams, dinos and humans, face off against each other in a battle to the death that would make Charles Darwin proud and the producers of “Jurassic Park” drool at the sheer brilliance.
Some of you are probably really concerned about the teams being even. I mean, I was, because honestly dinosaurs are way more powerful and deadlier than humans. At least, according to every single movie I’ve ever watched.

That being said, it is a fairly  balanced system. But, I’ll get into that in a second after I detail the classes and teams.

What does help to balance things out is the ammo and health caches for each team spread about. Humans can find first-aid boxes or ammo crates, while the dinosaurs can feast on the various flora scattered about the map to replenish their health.

For the dinosaurs you’ve got your velociraptors, flying dinos, spitting dinos, charging semi-t-rex dinos, and your t-rex.

The raptors can run fast, sneak up on the enemies and their alt-fire is this awesome lunging jump that has them maul the poor victim to death.

The fliers are actually really helpful because they’ve got this skill that allows them to see where the enemies are if they screech while in the air. Not to mention it’s pretty fun to pick up a human and drop them from the tree tops to their doom.

The spitter is handy, much like the Boomers in “Left 4 Dead.” They can blind the humans, and then allow the team to converge for a feeding frenzy of awesome.

The ramming t-rex dino is pretty much the heavy for the dino team. It can crash through the human forces and go toe-to-toe with the best of them.

The t-rex itself is the equivalent of an actual tank. It lumbers about with an enormous amount of health, but has a crap turning radius and really slow speed. However, it basically does an insta-kill no matter what.

You might need a bigger gun than that…

What I was actually impressed with was the fact that the giant t-rex can’t spawn unless there’s a proper amount of people on the server. This means that the game actually ensures that it’s a fair fight between the teams without actually giving one team the dinosaur equivalent of a nuke to trounce the other.

In the human corner, you’ve got your machine gunner, shotgun surgeon, pistols guy, rifle lady and flamethrower dude. Now, the alt-fires for the humans get a little varied because each is suited to do damage in their own way.

For example, the commando machine gunner can fire grenades from his gun. Trappers can actually shoot a net that traps the dinos and allows the humans to run up and kill them. It’s smart actually. I found myself trapped a few times while pouncing at a human and thinking, “Damn, I had him! But, that was kinda cool.”

The maps are cleverly crafted to allow both humans and dinos to hide in large shrubbery or sneak up behind each other. This means open floor plans with very little elevation, which also means a little running around aimlessly. Of course, there are roofs and walkways for humans to run up to and attempt to gun down dinos from above. But that becomes moot when the raptors can practically jump onto the roofs of low buildings and the flying dinos can swoop from above. That and the spitters have a pretty good range to get folks on buildings.

Here’s a fun little design choice that I liked. When you play as a human, it’s all first-person, while as dinos it’s in third-person. This means, as a human, you’re literally watching your back and turning around frantically to make sure that the dinos don’t sneak up on you from behind. I was blindsided dozens of times by pouncing raptors. However, the rex’s weight means that the screen visibly shakes when one is nearby, so you know to duck and cover.

As a dino, the flares from the pathfinder or the tranq darts from the sniper blind and disorient the whole screen so that you will actually turn away from the bright light, or run from combat as you stagger aimlessly and sluggishly until the effects wear off. Clever ways to level the playing field for both sides.

Unfortunately, the game suffers from a few problems that, while totally fixable, are very common for multiplayer slugfests like this.

Fighting without a shirt and that safari hat are actually dino-hunting musts.

The raptors are almost too fast. Even while playing as one I had a hard time not over-shooting the target from sheer movement speed with both the melee attacks and the lunges. This might also have to do with the fact that you have to be incredible precises with every weapon. Humans and dinos. I mean, like, Bethesda targeting system accurate.

I found it nearly impossible to melee a human as a dino within the first three strikes before I finally connected out of sheer frustration and luck. Meanwhile, the humans are spraying-and-praying about in the hopes of hitting the almost unbelievably speedy raptors or how-the-hell-did-I-miss-that-sized rex classes.

In the midst of all of this, it’s a meat-grinder. Sure, I was on a server where people were getting upwards of 17 kills or so. But they were also dying a dozen or so times themselves, making the kill/death ratio not nearly as impressive as any other multiplayer game like this.

As a human, I found myself rushing into the fray, shooting wildly, and then respawning within three minutes to do the same, almost infinitely until the round ended. As for dinos, I felt like I’d run about, pounce on a human or pick one up, only to be shot from the sky or blown to pieces by three or four enemies.

Not to mention the de-evolution of tactics that most people seem to go through. At first, the round starts good. The dinos are weaving through the map, trying to hunt down the humans, while some of the humans try to stay in groups and others go off on their own in the hopes of trying to bag a couple kills themselves.

As the round progresses, it seems like all the humans will invariably find a corner near a weapon or health cache and stick there with flares and wait for the dinos to come into the line-of-fire. The dinos will then send spitters to blind the humans and either a rex or a rammer to break up the humans and the raptors will swarm in. Half of each team will die, and then those that respawn will go back to their positions on their teams.

People will get bored of this, some will use the respawn to try and outflank the other team, which then results in entire teams respawning from death, and the cycle to repeat itself.

The game is a hard 7, maybe a 7.5. It’s fun, but it suffers from meat-grinder syndrome and there is definite room for improvement. You may not even get to play a match to find out because often times I find myself having to restart the game half an hour after one try because the game will tell me that there’s no servers available. Then when it opens up again, there’s like 7 or 8.

So, if you do get online and get to play with a nice 20+ person game, you’ll have fun, but probably only want to play for half and hour to an hour. For the money, it’s a good buy, but you really have to want to play these kinds of games to try it. If you’re looking for a study in how to do things a little differently or on how to make a new spin on the “Counter Strike” formula, this is a great study tool and example. I’d check it out purely for academic purposes if I was a game developer.

I can see your house from here!