Game developers have been trying to do something with the Jurassic Park license for decades, and no one has gotten it right. It seems pretty simple what gamers want from this franchise. They want to hunt dinosaurs. And they want to control a dinosaur that eats people. Primal Carnage isn’t officially a Jurassic Park game, but it is the Jurassic Park game that no one will make!
It’s a team-based multiplayer-only game where one group of players is a bunch of heavily-armed humans, and the other team is an assortment of dinosaurs. Shoot dinos. Eat humans.
The humans control like they would in any other first person shooter, and players can select from five classes that each have a unique loadout of three weapons. These compliment each other with clear specializations like a long-ranger sniper, a short range shot gun, an even shorter range flame thrower, a Hunter with a special Net Gun that is very powerful against the smaller dinos, plus a standard soldier with an assault rifle. They all come with a melee weapons and a secondary weapon that debuffs enemies or inflicts area-of-effect damage.
The dinos are a very diverse lot too. There’s the obligatory Raptor and the T-Rex, plus a poison-spitting Dilophosaurus, a flying Pteranodon, and a charging bull-like Carnotaurus. While it would seem like these are unbalanced, this isn’t the case. The T-Rex is a giant killing-machine, but it moves slowly and makes an easy target, while the other creatures can fly, shoot poison and move very quickly.
This diversity leads to a very well-balanced party. When a player controlling a T-Rex lumbers onto the battlefield, all of the humans panic and open fire on it. This leaves people wide open to be pounced by a clever raptor, or carried off by a flying Pteranodon.
One of the neat features is that the dinosaurs all have a roar that provides temporary buffs. But aside from any gameplay bonus, it’s just fun to stand over the corpse of an enemy and roar into the jungle.
There are other cool dino-isms too. When the dinosaurs need to heal up, they (Obviously) can’t use First Aid kits. Therefore the levels have the bodies of dead dinosaurs scattered around, and the Players can feed on these to regain health.
Dinosaurs are controlled from a third person view, while humans are always first person. This give the dinos an advantage in terms of situational awareness, while the humans are restricted to a narrower view that’s better for shooting (But makes them easier to take by surprise).
This sort of asymmetrical gameplay has been all the rage since Left 4 Dead showed up with its playable zombies, but it first started with the Splinter Cell games. The trick to making it work is balancing the characters. Primal Carnage has done an excellent job in making sure that all of the characters are fun to play, and all weapons have their use.
Neither team has a clear advantage, and the key to victory is using teamwork. When humans work together they become a wall of bullets that strikes down dinosaurs before they get within biting distance. When the dinosaurs use pack tactics they become an unending swarm that strikes from all directions without warning.
Unfortunately, this all gets rather tiresome after a while. The humans have only one loadout each. They can’t be customized, and there aren’t unlockable weapons to reward good players. The dinosaurs don’t get any upgrades either. What’s available in the first minute of play is all there is.
At the time of this writing, there is only one game mode: Team deathmatch. The developer has a DLC update coming which will add an objective-based mode where the humans need to reach a particular destination while the dinos try to stop them. While that DLC will help, at the moment Primal Carnage gets repetitive very quickly.
The core mechanics of Primal Carnage are a lot of fun, and the game definitely fills a long-empty gap in the gaming landscape. Yet the initial thrill of gobbling up a human whole as a T-Rex wears off after doing it a few dozen times, and the same is true for incinerating raptors with a flamethrower. If the developer continues to release new game modes and adds in some of the features that gamers have come to expect from their shooters, then Primal Carnage will have what it needs to draw in the fan-base that its gameplay deserves.