It’s no secret that I have a special love for Dino Crisis; it takes a slew of my favorite elements from games and combines them into a delightful package. I’ve easily played through Dino Crisis enough times that I have lost count. I still frequently think about the game almost 20 years after its release, and pray it gets the remake treatment that the Resident Evil series has been receiving. So I want you, dear reader, to understand me when I say this; I absolutely adore Dino Crisis 2 far above its predecessor. Mechanically and technically, it could be considered a step backwards. The game does not feature a creepy soundtrack, instead trading out the bass-focused, techno-horror for action movie beats and high tempo riffs. It plays its hand immediately; instead of well build suspense and an industrial accident shrouded in mystery, it drops you into the dinosaur-shaped meat grinder immediately. The game has gone back to 2D prerendered backgrounds, which is arguably a change for the better, allowing some really detailed backdrops for all of the mayhem. Dino Crisis 2 mostly takes place in a jungle rather than a high tech facility, which takes away from the surprise of finding dinosaurs where they aren’t supposed to be. However, all of this works because the game plays this as strengths rather than weaknesses or shortcomings. It refines what is at the core of the Dino Crisis experience, turns all of those elements up to 11, and creates a tightly focused action horror game.
A Return to Form
So this time around, an entire city and research facility have switched places with a jungle from the past; people apparently don’t learn when it comes to Third Energy. In response to this, the Army sends the Tactical Reconnoitering and Acquisition Team (TRAT, for short) back in time to conduct a rescue operation, with Regina from the first game in tow as an adviser. Soon after arriving, things go wrong and, the entirety of TRAT is wiped out, save for Dylan, David and Regina. You spend roughly 60% of the game as Dylan; the rest is spent with the ever capable Regina, with her game time being the more memorable of the two. Both characters play identically, with the exception of a few sections of the game exclusive to both of the characters.
A Different Kind of Beast
Right away, anyone playing this can tell it’s fairly different from the first itteration. You can now run at full speed and shoot with most of the weapons, which opens up new strategies when it comes to fighting the fast enemies known in the first game. Raptors don’t stalk you like a lion, advancing down tight corridors and following you from room to room. Instead, dinosaurs advance on you relentlessly, throwing themselves at you in brash charges and ambush attacks from the underbrush. Luckily, there are plenty of tools available to our team (in the past, somehow) to aid in dinosaur disposal.
The weapons themselves are varied enough to keep dinosaur extermination interesting. Things start out slow with the basics, like a shotgun for Dylan and a handgun for Regina. Both weapons are solid and can carry you somewhat far into the game, but if you were to do that, you would be missing out on some very fun toys. As you progress through the game, more weapons become available, which give you the ability to take on some of the tougher variants of dinosaurs more easily. The average Allosaurus, for example, is a real pain to tackle with the default weapons. They not only are medium sized, easily towering above our protagonists, but they have a surprising amount of stamina and agility for a giant bird; they bob and weave around our heroes, making them surprisingly difficult to pin down. However, your first weapon unlock as Dylan makes them almost a non threat. Dubbed the “Solid Cannon,” this weapon looks like a satellite array and an assault rifle had a baby. When the player fires it, it emits a stationary ball of bright blue light, damaging enemies that are caught in it. The energy mass lingers for a moment after firing, catching anything that jumps, leaps or swoops in to attack Dylan.
This is just one of many weapons available, and they don’t stop there; split between Regina and Dylan is some pretty respectable firepower. Regina’s guns are based around her agility, equipping her with dual Sub-Machine guns, a ridiculous Assault rifle, a Homing Launcher and a special rocket launcher for her underwater section. Dylan’s arsenal is much more military based, gained the aforementioned Solid Cannon, a wicked Anti-Tank rifle and a Rocket Launcher. Additionally, the characters now have new “sub-weapons” to assist in the increase dinosaur traffic. Regina gets a stun gun, and Dylan has a machete, with the option to grab a sub-weapon that creates a wall of fire, and a “mine layer” that makes a certain kind of enemy cake to deal with.
Changes for the Better
Speaking of all these guns, ammo doesn’t take up a spot in your inventory; rather, its measured in an ammo pool, with no switching magazines or Finally, medical supplies are simplified. No longer are you mixing An. Meds and darts; medical kits are now strictly Small, Medium and Large, with Resuscitation Packs and Hemostats making a return. Bleeding makes a return, but is only mildly annoying until you get the inner suit. Running a little low on shotgun rounds or med packs? Hit the save station like you’d hit a Wawa. The new shop operates on a point system known as“Extinction Points.” The more dinosaurs you kill in a combo chain, the more points you get. A bonus is given if you make it through a room without taking damage on a combo of 5 or more. Rack up enough of these points, and you can extend the amount of ammo you can carry, buy medical supplies, combo timer extensions, armor and bleeding prevention, and most importantly, new weapons.
Besides increasing the weapon count, the game also decreases in complexity. Puzzles are almost completely gone. The closest thing to a puzzle in this game finding lost keys at various points in the game. However, this loss of puzzles comes with an increase in variety concerning gameplay. Most of the game takes place in the traditional third person style of the first game, but littered throughout the game are turret sections, a tank battle, an especially eerie underwater sequence, a mortar relay race (it sounds lame, but trust me it’s fun) and, of course, and escort quest.
The story is a goofy as you can imagine, but that’s part of what makes the game such a fun time. Save for a few moments near the end, the game does not take itself seriously in the slightest. Time travel, dinosaurs, a sidekick straight from an 80’s movie, big guns, explosions; this game is not an exploration into video games as an art form. Rather, its a fun-house ride with a lot of variety coupled with an extensive amount of weapons and enemies. I still play this game almost monthly since the day I opened it it over 15 years ago, going so far as to still possess my original disk, and keeping a PlayStation 2 on standby for it (and other survival horror classics, of course).
So the real issue with this game and its older sister, unfortunately, is trying to find a way to play them. Outside of finding a hard copy of Dino Crisis 2, the only reliable (see legal) way to play these games are downloading them on the PlayStation Network for the PS3 or PSP.
I know that I am absolutely more than a little bit biased when it comes to this game. I understand it is no where near the pinnacle of the media per se, what with the controls, the story and the dinosaurs (which to this day puzzles me; people don’t like dinosaurs anymore?). The games bring me back to a time where developers ran with a concept they found generally interesting and unique compared to other games that were popular. I personally would hate for a treasure such as this to be lost to time, so do yourself a favor: find a cheap PlayStation X, a copy of the game, and strap in for a ride. Bring that childhood enthusiasm for dinosaurs back to the surface, then blow those menacing birds away .