Welcome to REWIND, a new feature where we look back at overlooked games and hidden gems from yesteryear! If you’d like to submit a review, get in touch via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After Resident Evil thrust the survival horror genre into the spotlight, a wave of similar titles arrived on the scene. Countdown: Vampires, Evil Dead: Hail to the King, Galerians, Martian Gothic: Unification, Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare and the incredible Silent Hill to name a few. Capcom, despite already having a hit with Resi, once again joined forces with creative director Shinji Mikami to create Dino Crisis, a high-octane survival horror experience.
The setup is short and sweet; You are Regina, member of an elite special forces team assigned to capture Dr. Edward Kirk, a rogue scientist working on a secret weapons project. As you arrive on Kirk’s island facility, you find it seemingly abandoned. Where is everyone and what exactly has torn the facility apart? (Hint: dinosaurs.)
Regina and the Secret Operation Raid Team assemble.
The game looks and plays just like Resident Evil, right down to the camera style, tank controls and inventory menus. But make no mistake, the vicious dinosaurs Regina faces are bags more fearsome than any zombie. From raptors that lurk in the darkness to the pterodactyls that circle above the facility, you’re up against a greater threat. Dino Crisis takes Resi‘s core gameplay and ups the ante considerably. Though the game is recognisably part of the survival horror genre, it was marketed as a ‘panic horror’ due to the change in pace. Dino Crisis was released a mere two months before Resident Evil 3: Nemesis with the two titles sharing a new feature; the 180 degree turn. With the addition of this simple manoeuvre, ‘fight or flight’ situations feel a whole lot scarier.
Another big change from Capcom’s flagship horror series was the use of three-dimensional environments. Whereas Resi used detailed 2D backgrounds to create a rich game world, Dino Crisis utilised polygons and textures like Tomb Raider and other action titles. The cold, hollow facility lacks the complexity of Raccoon City’s ruined, apocalyptic streets so it’s the perfect place for Capcom to start experimenting with 3D. This crucial change allows Dino Crisis to be more dynamic when it comes to the camera, pulling away from the static placements of Resi and often following Regina. It’s a subtle difference but one that helps the game enormously, bringing new levels of intensity to cutscenes and gameplay.
Well, that escalated quickly!
For me, the setting itself is the best part of Dino Crisis. A hybrid of Jurasssic Park and Hadley’s Hope from Aliens, the facility feels eerie and dangerous, a major shift from the frequent gothic elements of Resi. Lonely corridors sealed off by laser gates, air vents and blood-splattered offices bring lots of tension to the game. Though a lot of the interior rooms are tight and isolated, Regina will often find herself running through huge atriums and across the facility grounds. The emptiness of the environment is perfectly complimented by a distant camera, showing the expanse of land around the player and reinforcing the fear of an aerial attack. The puzzles too are a change from Resi, focusing more on computers and rewiring than statues and pianos.
If you’re a horror fan looking for a taste of classic survival horror, then give Dino Crisis a go. With a fantastic setting, terrifying enemies and some really excellent risk/reward gameplay, it feels creatively fresher than ever. If you can’t handle the tank controls and dated mechanics though, it might be worth checking out the action-heavy sequel. The game has stuck with me ever since I first played it as a child (when I was far too young!) and I can’t recommend it enough. For me, Dino Crisis is one of the best titles to hit the original PlayStation and a masterpiece in its genre.
Jordan’s love for video games started with late night sessions of Streets of Rage II. Almost two decades later, not much has changed. Check out his blog for more articles, or follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.