Primal Carnage reminds me a lot of Ravaged, another low-priced, multiplayer-only first-person shooter that was released recently via Reverb Publishing. Like Ravaged, Primal Carnage features a lot of interesting twists to the basic FPS gameplay model—and also like Ravaged, it’s missing too many crucial features to be a must-buy just yet. Dinosaur lovers might want to part with their $15 and jump right in, but the rest of us can safely wait until improvements have been made.
It’s been far too long since we had a good Turok game, and FPS fans have been hungry for an opportunity to mow down dinosaurs. Further, Primal Rage never got a sequel, so opportunities to control dinosaurs have been lacking of late as well. Primal Carnage aims to fulfill both needs—teams of armed humans face off against teams of melee-attacking dinosaurs. After each round the players switch sides, with the hunters becoming the hunted.
Then again, it’s probably not fair to call the dinosaurs “the hunted.” They may lack the various gun loadouts the humans have access to, but they have plenty of options for attacking. Especially if they catch a human off guard, dinosaurs will have no trouble biting, clawing, and stomping a person to death.
The five human classes are basically what you would expect—there is a guy who shoots dinosaur nets, which is interesting, but the others are a guy with an assault rifle, a girl with a sniper rifle, a guy with a shotgun, and a guy with a flamethower. The dinosaurs have a bit more variety, ranging from a T-Rex that can destroy humans in seconds (but also provides a big target), to the small, quick Novaraptor, to the flying Pteranodon. Each dino has a roar he can use to activate buffs (for example, the Pteranodon’s roar lets other dinosaurs see humans through walls).
The developers also did a tremendous job, on an indie budget, of making Primal Carnage competitive on a technical level. The graphics aren’t quite top-of-the-line, but they’re definitely up to par, with detailed textures and art that brings out the feel of a dinosaur-infested jungle. Unfortunately, I did encounter a serious glitch—whenever I turned on anti-aliasing, the screen went black.
The sound effects are superb as well—saying “welcome to Jurassic Park” in almost as many words. (The game’s story is that scientific advances have brought dinosaurs back to life, and the dinosaurs have gotten out of control. Sound familiar?)
So far, so good. The biggest problem, unfortunately, is that there’s not a whole lot to the game yet. Unlike Ravaged, Primal Carnage does have a Quick Match option (and it works quite well), but like Ravaged it lacks any kind of leveling system whatsoever. As you play, you earn points, but these points serve no functional purpose after the round ends, and you will not make a character more powerful by using it a lot.
Likewise, you can’t unlock new guns for your humans or new abilities for your dinosaurs; the attack options you have at the beginning are the options you’ll have forever. So, the game quickly becomes an FPS routine: Get control of your character, attack the opposing team until you get killed, respawn, repeat. There’s no real incentive to invest time after you’ve gotten a feel for the various classes, as nothing you do will make the experience change. The dinosaurs’ roar/buff system lets you help out your teammates, and humans need to stick together if they want to win, but none of that ever transforms the game into anything more than a basic deathmatch.
Primal Carnage also shares Ravaged’s lack of game modes. So far, all that’s available is human-vs.-dinosaurs team deathmatch—there isn’t even a regular every-man-for-himself mode, to say nothing of more elaborate and unique modes. This game’s theme provides plenty of opportunity for creativity, so it’s disappointing that this is all we have at launch.
One other complaint: The dinosaurs are controlled from a third-person view, and it’s very difficult to move them with any precision. I can’t tell you how many times I managed to get the drop on a human opponent, only to attack the air for a few seconds as my prey turned around and set me on fire. A first-person view, or maybe some form of lock-on targeting, might make the dinosaurs feel more natural (if it can be implemented without upsetting the balance).
Indie developer Lukewarm Media promises plenty of improvements to come, based on “community feedback,” however. They will be rolling out new modes over time—though there’s no news yet as to what these modes will be—and they might also add NPC dinosaurs that attack both teams. New maps are also on the way.
These will be welcome developments, and they might put Primal Carnage over the top. For the time being, however, the game is a brief, pleasant distraction rather than an addictive experience. It’s not a rip-off at $15, but it’s not a no-brainer buy, either. Especially with the holiday game flood upon us, I’d recommend keeping an eye on this one to see if future developments make it worthwhile, rather than picking it up right away.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
This looks good for an FPS and amazing for an indie game. 2.5 Control
The FPS controls are what you’d expect, but controlling a dinosaur can be clunky. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Excellent sound effects bring the jungle to life. 3.3 Play Value
The idea is great, but there’s not a lot to this game yet. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best