Have you ever found yourself wishing you could meet the dinosaurs to see what they’re really like? Did you ever think you’d like to assert your dominance over their species by showing them, through firepower, that humans are the dominant animal on Earth? Have you ever dreamt that you were a mighty T-Rex running amuck while swallowing up fearful puny humans along the way? Well, have I got a game for you! The folks over at Lukewarm Media and Reverb decided it was high time humans and dinosaurs squared off in a multiplayer deathmatch to see who will be crowned the king of the planet. Primal Carnage comes out swinging in a genre filled with realistic military shooters, hoping to bring back some of the glory of class based old-school deathmatch fights of yore. It’s unfortunate, however, that those swings hit you with the grace and power of Glass Joe as opposed to the Mike Tyson knock-out it promises.
Released on Steam earlier this week, Primal Carnage is a class based multiplayer shooter which allows match-made combatants to square off against each other as either the human teams hell bent on ridding the land of the miscreant reptiles or the king of the lizards themselves. Each class within the teams has unique abilities which give the team as a whole an overall advantage if exploited correctly. The unfortunate part is in the deathmatch environment where strangers are thrown randomly into rooms to face off against another, there is little to no teamwork to actually make good use of these diverse skills.
The game itself is nothing you haven’t seen before in standard fare shooters. On the human side there are Commandos which carry a high ammo count, fast shooting machine gun with a single shot grenade launcher on it as a secondary weapon. These are your standard grunts which take consistent high damage from the dinosaurs. The pathfinder class is a Native American armed with a hard hitting shotgun when up close and a distress flare that when launched blinds the dinosaurs when they look directly at it. The Trapper comes out guns blazing with twin pistols and an immobilizing netgun which traps smaller reptiles and muzzles the mighty T-Rex. The Scientist comes packing a hard hitting sniper rifle which becomes next to useless with the speed at which the dinosaurs attack. Finally rounding out the humans is the Pyromaniac with a flamethrower strapped to his back and grenades in his belt. Each class has a unique way of play for either full DPS, blinding the enemy, slowing the animals or causing damage over time with fire. When used in conjunction, it becomes quite easy to take down the dinosaurs in rapid succession, however as stated before, getting a room full of people who only communicate through red text hardly visible in the top left of the screen makes those moments incredibly difficult.
For the dinosaurs, the infamous T-Rex makes a formidable opponent. I recall warping into one map with 24 players only to come around the corner and have three angry T-Rexs bearing down on me screaming and wanting for human blood. Needless to say, I didn’t last that long. The mighty T-Rex is large, powerful and hard to take down but he’s also slow and cumbersome when a group of humans are flailing around below shooting up at him. Another dino that has ample size and good destruction power is the Carnotaurus. His job is to bash opponents with his bone armored skull at full speed and launch them far away from battle where they are either killed or separated from the party where the next group of vicious killers can have a chance. The Raptor stays true to being an ambush predator and by far my favorite class of the game. Quick, nimble, although weak against fire, the Raptor can hide in the shadows and wait to pounce on unsuspecting victims. Its main ability is to leap forward quite a great distance and begin chomping away at human flesh. If left alone, they can devour a human in seconds, but if shot at, they’re quickly dispatched. The support class is the Dilophosaurus. A small dinosaur that spits an acidic mucous which causes whoever gets accosted with this mess to appear as if they’re having an LSD hallucination. Finally, the Pteranodon goes swooping into the skies as the only flying dinosaur in the group. This class had me wishing there was some form of tutorial on how to use the skills as there was no intuitive way to use its only attack, which is to swoop down, pick up a human and carry them off to their death. I found myself flying around, charging down and ending up in the middle of a group of angry humans all pointing their guns at me and ultimately left that class to other players who’d eventually figured it out.
These classes may sound fun, and they are to an extent, but they quickly become clichéd and tired. I found one or two classes that I felt strongest in and rarely diverted from that style of play. That is, of course, when the game would allow me to play. From the very beginning I had quite a few random problems with the game that ultimately worked themselves out, but must be noted for the sheer fact that the problems detracted from my overall experience of the game. Upon initially downloading the game through Steam, I was met with at least 30-45 minutes of pre-requisite installs and reboots. Then, upon finally launching the game and attempting to join a server, I was greeted with the HUD, character select screen and nothing else. The screen was completely black – It took a 4th reboot to take care of that issue. Once that was behind me, I found it impossible to either join a server that didn’t just randomly stop responding or I’d get in and ultimately always have to fight as the human class. For a period of 2 days of off-and-on playing, I’d try to play through a match in hopes of changing teams at the end of the match only to be booted back to the lobby to start over again, as a human. It wasn’t until the dawn of the third day that the game miraculously decided that I was worthy of playing dinosaurs and stay for more than one round of play. All things being equal though, what started out very bumpy and frustrated, once sorted, turned into a fun, albeit shallow, diversion.
Powered by the Unreal Engine, the graphics are good, but not incredibly impressive. Sounds are competent in the game, but the dinosaur roars is where the audio shines. The screeches and shrills put out by the dinosaur players evoke memories of the first time I watched Jurassic Park and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What you’re left with, however, is a game that is fairly pretty to look at but kills that quickly with too many maps that are almost identical and gameplay that although unique in characters is a stale deathmatch shooter with nothing but cheap thrills. Still, at $14.99 this is an appropriately priced entry-level shooter that you can romp around with and have some fun with dinosaurs; Isn’t that what we’ve always wanted?