Shinji Mikami. A Japanese video game designer, and something of a genius. He created Resident Evil, a series that put horror games well and truly on the video game map. If I was a gambling man, I'd bet that Mr. Mikami was a big fan of the Jurassic Park movie. Why? Because he also directed and produced this horror masterpiece, Dino Crisis. The game was developed by Capcom, published by Virgin Interactive, and released on the PSone in 1999.
An elite task force has been sent to a remote island right smack out in the middle of goodness-knows-where. Their mission is to find and capture Dr. Kirk, a stereotype mad scientist who was believed to have died in a lab accident three years earlier, but is actually alive and conducting research on a new type of energy called "Third Energy." After finding out what it does I think I'll stick to gas and electricity, thanks. But as you probably know by now, no mission in a video game is ever as straight forward as it sounds.
The agents consist of Gail, a tough-as-nails leader who prefers to let his supply of lead do all the talking (yes, he is a man!); Rick, a conservative computer hacker and general nice guy; and Cooper, an idiot who dies right at the very beginning of the game, nuff said about him. You play as the fourth member of the group, Regina, a woman who's very good at handling firearms, and rocks the flame-haired look...that plus she has a very nice backside.
Dino Crisis definitely has PSone Resident Evil vibes. In fact, if you've played RE1, 2 or 3, you'll feel right at home with the controls and the inventory screen after a few minutes of play. Running and shooting feels the same; finding items in one place in using them in another may give you a case of Déjà vu; and you have to use every piece of available weaponry to take out the zombies...except we're not dealing with zombies. We're dealing with fear-inducing, flesh-eating, Steven Spielberg-loving dinosaurs, which include things like Velociraptors, Pteranodons, and a T-Rex.
It's easy for sceptics to dismiss Dino Crisis as nothing more than "Resident Evil with dinosaurs." However the game does bring its own ideas to the table, and if anything has actually influenced future games from its zombie neighbours. For starters Regina has a 180° move, later seen with Jill in RE3. A quick tap of the R2 button and she'll turn around and be able to run in the opposite direction, away from any danger.
RE1 featured the art of mixing herbs, but DC expands on this by allowing you to mix a series of items to create more effective things. You can mix two small medical packs together to make a larger, more effective medi-pack; or you can mix one An.Aid with some Tranquilizer darts to make stronger darts. There are many different combinations to try in order to create medi-packs and darts, and once you've gotten to grips with them they'll make your life so much easier. To me at least, the different kinds of darts influenced the ammo-mixing feature in RE3.
But perhaps the most outstanding feature that this game offers is in the graphics. Resident Evil offered 3D characters but pre-rendered backgrounds; and while I was fine with that setup, there were a few people who weren't so fond of it because it made the characters and important objects stick out worse than an acne-riddled teenager in a school photo album. But here we have 3D characters in 3D environments. Regina and co. look like they actually belong in their surroundings. On top of that the camera is not fixed in position, but actually moves around with the characters, and creates more of a TV/movie like experience. Hardcore fans of the Resident Evil series will notice that the same graphical setup was used in RE: Code Veronica X on the PS2. The most important aspect of the graphics is that, by PSone standards at least, they are very good. Rooms are trashed; blood spews out of dinosaurs when you shoot them; and glass shards litter the floors.
There's a bit of decision-making to be done in this game as well. For some reason your comrades, Gail and Rick, hate each other more than Noel and Liam Gallagher. They have different ideas on how to deal with certain scenarios, and it's at those points where you have to make a decision between Gail's idea and Rick's. Which one you choose depends on whether you prefer to use brawn or brains. Speaking of brains, this game is puzzle-heavy. A lot of doors are locked, and not only do you need two discs for a single door, you also need to crack a code before you can actually open them. The upshot of this is that it's a good workout for those who like a bit of code cracking, and since there is a lot of them there's a great deal of pride in actually figuring them out.
Dino Crisis has its own ideas, but just like Resident Evil it manages to create a terrifying experience, especially for the first time player. There will always be a sense of fear when you enter a new room as you won't know what's actually in there. You can easily get startled when Velociraptors jump out of nowhere and attack you; and when you shoot them you can't be certain if you'll make it out of the fight in one piece. The cutscenes are cleverly used, and the acting is on par with RE2. A little cheesy in places, but mostly great. Unfortunately the T-Rex will still eat you whole if you stand still and remain quiet, thus proving that Dr. Alan Grant is a big fat liar!
The conclusion? It's as follows: If you loved playing the Resident Evil games, then Dino Crisis will satisfy your appetite for survival horror gaming immensely. If you don't like RE but enjoyed watching Jurassic Park, then this game will provide you with more Dino entertainment that any DNA cloning theories could ever manage. Oh, and if you hate both? Then you've left me completely bemused as to why you've just wasted five minutes of your life reading my review.