Developer: Lukewarm Media / Publisher: Reverb Publishing / Played on: PC / Price: $14.99 / ESRB: Not Yet Rated
One of the benefits of a free economy is the ability to charge a premium for intangibles. In Starbucks, you’re paying for relaxing lighting and wood finishing everywhere. A chunk of an iPad’s cost is justified by the undeniably awesome marketing around the product.
Similarly, Primal Carnage in no way justifies its price with its content, so the rest of the value is left to novelty. How badly you want to recreate Jurassic Park will determine whether or not Primal Carnage is your game.
MULTIPLAYER AND MODES
The premise of Primal Carnage contains most of the game’s value — class-based human vs. dinosaur online combat. Even so, Primal Carnage’s class-based system achieves some success, at least for the dinosaurs. Every dinosaur has a support ability that works in concert with other players and can even neutralize some of the human’s advantages. For instance, the human pathfinder can throw out flares that blind the dinosaurs, but the flying Pteranodon can spot enemies, revealing them through walls and even the flare’s glare.
Equal attention has been given to the humans’ abilities but they end up playing far less nuanced. Most differences come in the effective ranges of the weaponry. Sniper rifles excel at swatting Pteranodon out of the air while shotguns and flamethrowers can knock down the speedy Novaraptors. I thought the trapper class was particularly original. He sports a net gun that completely immobilizes smaller animals and stops attacks from the larger ones (for instance, the T-rex’s mouth becomes tied shut preventing him from eating anyone). Still, the tactical depth is not as rewarding on the human side as it ultimately comes down to “shoot at the dinosaurs.”
Even with Primal Carnage’s mild success in mechanics, there’s simply not enough content or functionality in the game to extend its experience. You get five maps and two modes, and even then the modes are basically identical. To make matters worse, some expected functionality is completely missing. You can’t set up a map rotation for a server; you just pick one map and play until you get sick of it. As you might expect, the maps aren’t all equal in quality either. The generic jungle map has been adopted as most popular for good reason; the thick vegetation and differences in elevation set up the most interesting combat encounters. Other maps have more open ground, which tends to cut away the dinosaur’s advantages and are justifiably less liked.
Numerous little glitches speckle the game as well. These range from raptors occasionally turning completely invisible to team chat not being a different color from normal chat. I rarely played any match without some functionality going awry. Due to a collection of minor problems too numerous and small to completely list, Primal Carnage doesn’t remotely hit the standards of feature completeness set by other games.
Primal Carnage’s unfinished-ness extends to the controls, which are easy enough to grasp when playing as a human but weird as balls as a dinosaur. The game completely lacks any kind of instructions, manuals, or tutorials that compounds the problem. It took me about thirty minutes to figure out how to reliably fly as the Pteranodon, and just for fun I’ll list the steps here: First you have to be sprinting along the ground. Then jump and hold jump until you enter flight mode (it takes about half a second). You can then let go of sprint AND jump to remain flying. If you do anything in the wrong order like jump without sprinting, you’ll just flop back down on the ground as a useless sack of reptilian meat.
There’s another interesting problem with Primal Carnage’s controls. Thanks to latency, it’s extremely difficult to track the faster dinosaur’s movements. The Novaraptor is meant to be a fast hit-and-run type class, but being attacked by one usually looks like a jittery dinosaur blinking all around you in a tight radius. It’s not tense or exciting to fight this way, just aggravating. Using the flamethrower or shotgun helps in this situation, but only because those weapons excel in spray n’ pray.
Though Primal Carnage’s graphical prowess is limited to five maps, they all look great. I particularly liked the game’s vegetation. High-resolution leaves, blades of grass, and shrubs uniformly wave in the wind and set a great atmosphere. Lighting is particularly potent as well, especially the aforementioned flares the pathfinder can throw. Seeing the red glow from the flare reflect off of individual blades of grass is very cool. Vegetation is just thick enough to provide cover for dinosaurs as well, which can lead to some exciting ambushes. Overall the game’s visuals are superb; I just wish there were more of them.
There’s a little more depth to Primal Carnage than its premise might imply, but only a little. The interplay of the game’s classes provide some intelligent play, but at the end of the day there’s simply not enough game here to justify its cost. It’s possible that the game will eventually update with more modes and maps, but as it stands you’ll have to fill in a lot of the game’s value with your own enthusiasm.
+ Subtle depth to asymmetrical teams
- Not enough maps
- Buggy, lacking in features
6 / 10