Jurassic: The Hunted Review
Written : Sunday, November 15, 2009
By: Nate Gillick (GT: ThrawnOmega)
Despite never actually existing at the same time, humans and dinosaurs have a longstanding animosity with each other. We shoot them, they eat us. Humans versus dinosaurs battles have raged in specialty amusement parks, on other planets, in warped regions of time and space, and probably a dozen other scenarios. For any trigger happy gamers itching to make hundreds of dinosaurs extinct (again), Activision's budget title, Jurassic: The Hunted, will fill that need in spades.
Prepare to get rushed relentlessly.
Jurassic's story plays out like a B-grade, made-for-TV movie. After being lost at sea for 30 years, mysterious transmissions for Dr. James Syrus are coming out of the Bermuda Triangle. Eager to investigate if her father is still alive, and how his research may have progressed, she sets off after him, along with two bodyguards from a private security company. While flying over the Triangle, they encounter a storm of temporal energy that sends them back to the time of dinosaurs. From there, it's cheesy soldier dialogue and silly plot explanations all the way to the finish line. Jurassic's story exists to provide some sort of framework for why we're killing hundreds of dinosaurs, and that's it.
Bloodthirsty carnivores litter Jurassic's environments, and are surprisingly satisfying to gun down. While Velociraptors will occasionally harass players, the most common enemy are Deinonychus (incorrectly called Velociraptors in the Jurassic Park films). The Deinonychus have just one attach strategy: charge. With their speed, evasive maneuvers are frequently necessary to stay alive. Over the course of the game, players will also encounter the Utah Raptor, T-Rex, Spinosaurus, Dilophosaurus, and giant scorpions. Disregarding the fact that all these dinosaur species didn't actually exist at the same time, and that there probably weren't giant scorpions, Jurassic's enemies are larger than life and entertaining to kill.
Whilst being completely unaffiliated with Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, Jurassic: The Hunted owes the film franchise a clear intellectual debt, as many aspects of the dinosaur design are too similar to be a coincidence. Dilophosaurs have frills around their necks and spit venom, just like in the movies. The barking sounds of the Deinonychus could have been ripped right from Jurassic Park's sound effects files. Even a certain dino-on-dino confrontation later in the game feels like a stripped-down version of a scene from Jurassic Park III. While this likely creates some quick dinosaur recognition for the average games, it would have been nice to see this game endeavor to break away from that a little and be more original.
Two different aspects of the gameplay keep Jurassic from being an utterly standard shooter. The first is "Adrenaline" mode, which slows down time when activated and gives players a view into the dinosaur's body, making vital organs like brains and hearts visible, and hitting these targets deals extra damage. "Berserker" powerups in certain locations grant players unlimited use of the Adrenaline mode for a brief period of time. It's a useful system for taking down the larger enemies, or when confronted with multiple enemies at once.
Spinosaurs literally lives up to its name.
Fortification objectives are Jurassic's other interesting feature. At certain parts in the game, players will be placed behind a barricade and tasked with repelling waves of enemies. It can become a nerve-wracking struggle, particularly on hard, to run from window to window, trying to shoot down assaulting dinosaurs, repairing the damage, and getting to the next point before the containment gets breached. Fortification objectives are generally well spaced throughout the story to break up the standard shooting action.
Jurassic's Survival mode is the game's own version of Horde, pitting players against wave after wave of assaulting dinosaurs. Survival is essentially the main game's fortification objectives on steroids. After each wave of dinosaurs dies out, there's a brief window of opportunity to run around and repair damage without interruption. Completing waves also unlocks progressively stronger weapons, and more fortifications to your base. It's a fun mode, but the fact that it's single player only and that there's only one map really shortens the mode's longevity. It would have been a blast to shoot dinosaurs with a buddy, and have a few locations to choose from, but alas, that's not the case. Survival is a great diversion while it lasts, but that's likely to be only a couple hours.
Jurassic: The Hunted provides some intense moments while it lasts, but it's not a long game by any means. The story can be completed in under five hours. Even if players replay the game on hard, or spend some time in survival mode, there isn't enough content here to stay engaged for long. Sure, Jurassic's a value title, but even for $40, there needs to more content than what's on offer here.
Inconsistent checkpoints may cause players some irritation, particularly if playing on hard. Most are reasonably paced, but there are a few that are so off the mark it can be maddening. Having to spend five minutes retreading what I just did isn't fun, especially when checkpoints are staged so that a lot of time spent getting back to where you died involves traversing unpopulated areas where nothing happens. My personal favorite was a certain two-stage boss fight that lacked any checkpoints, meaning a death in the second half of the fight would result in doing everything all over. When attempting this level on hard, I was ready to pitch my controller through a wall after a dozen failed attempts. Would it have killed for a few more checkpoints?
Standing still won't save you.
Like the checkpoints, dying is overly inconvenient for players. Upon death, a screen will load up letting players know they died, as if there was any mystery in the matter. Then, you have to wait several seconds to have the option to load the last checkpoint, and then wait for the whole thing to load up again. It's far too time consuming a process to get back into the action. Instead of keeping the action going, this death system is likely to only speed up any frustration players may have during the game's more difficult checkpoints, as it can sometimes be half a minute from death to getting back into the action.
Jurassic's visuals get the job done, but are hardly inspiring. The dinosaurs look pretty decent, but the human characters are bland and stiffly animated, weapons look generic, and blood effects are so bad it's hilarious. Look at the red pixels flying off that dinosaur! Audio is lackluster, with painfully cheesy dialogue and bad, generic grunge background music. The dinosaur roars are probably the only things in Jurassic that sound right.
Gaining the full 1000 in Jurassic will require two playthroughs, but it's not all that hard. Jurassic's list is straightforward, with a lot of points coming for simply killing dinosaurs in a variety of ways. It's necessary to beat the game without dying, but any levels where a played died can simply be replayed to try again. If the previously mentioned Jurassic Park similarities weren't enough, Jurassic: The Hunted game also references the movies with the achievements "Clever Girl" and "Life Will Find A Way." With a little effort, the full 1000 can be yours over a weekend's rental.
For those eager to blast away hordes of dinosaurs, Jurassic: The Hunted provides some decent fun while it lasts, though the game is quite short. Best enjoyed as a rental, Jurassic's fortification objectives can provide some nerve-wracking moments, though inconsistent checkpoints and the wait time to get back into the action after dying can be aggravating.
Cheesy dialogue and uninspired background music dominate the soundtrack here. At least the dinosaurs sound respectable.
Humans look bland and are stiffly animated, and blood effects are hilariously bad.
In terms of controls, Jurassic: The Hunted is a stock standard shooter in almost every way, making it easy to pick up and play. Inconsistent checkpoints and and an overly lengthy reloading process after death cause some frustration.
Jurassic's B-grade script is a joke, but the game offers some intense moments. The major problem is that the game is over in the blink of an eye, and the survival mode won't hold a player's interest more more than an hour or two.
It's a straightforward, uninspired list, which can be knocked out without too much thought. Just keep fragging dinosaurs and the points will be yours.
Clocking in at under five hours, Jurassic: The Hunted comes and goes in the blink of an eye. It packs enough thrills to be worth a rental, but the replay value of this cheesy Dino-slaying extravaganza is limited.