Dino Crisis is a survival horror game developed and published by Capcom for the Sony PlayStation 1999, and both the Sega Dreamcast and Windows PC in 2000. Dubbed as “panic horror”; Dino Crisis adopts much from the Resident Evil series of games before it, along with much of the same team that created the first Resident Evil, including that game’s director Shinji Mikami.
Dino Crisis follows a small team known as Secret Operation Raid Team (SORT) infiltrating a research facility on Ibis Island, with the mission objective of finding and retrieving the illusive Dr. Kirk – a scientist who died 3 years prior, that happens to be working on a project that could have ramifications for the rest of the world. Taking the role as Regina; the player is thrusted into a setting where the bodies of staff at the facility are left in bloody and mangled heaps, and a overhanging mystery punctuated by a nearly relentless presence of dinosaurs.
Often called “Resident Evil with dinosaurs”; Dino Crisis will feel familiar to anyone who has played the mainline Resident Evil titles prior to Resident Evil 4, released in 2005. The player must traverse through the facility while acquiring ammo for your weapons, restorative healing items – with the option to mix certain items for greater results, and various keys that unlock areas previously you are unable to explore, all while overcoming the relentless dinosaurs intact. On numerous occasions, you will have to solve puzzles in order to advance, an aspect that while in other implied Resident Evil titles, is more profound in Dino Crisis, for better or worse depending on the player.
Another occurrence that takes place on occasion are the choices you have to make as fellow team members Rick and Gail will disagree with one another and offer alternative paths for you to take. Do you take the ideas offered by Rick, who is more empathetic about the wellbeing of his team, and usually result in overcoming a puzzle to reach the present goal and avoiding conflicts with the dinosaurs, or do you opt for the path suggested by Gail, who comes across as cold, fearless and objective-driven and takes a more direct approach to the present situation – which involves muscling through dinosaurs to reach the goal. The choice is left for Regina, i.e., the player to decide, in these situations, and while the differing paths may come to the same conclusion in essence, this aspect of Dino Crisis does offer the player the ability to choose which way he or she appeals to him or her, as well additions like learning the fate of team member Tom, and obtaining alternative endings, which wouldn’t be available if said player opted for one path over the other.
Throughout the gaming experience is an unfolding narrative about how and why dinosaurs are running rampant at the facility, and ulterior motives. While it is the Regina show for the majority of the time, and there is no option to switch between the main cast, the moments where Regina, Rick, Gail, and Dr. Kirk interact off one another; creates a more apparent empathises on its characters than the Resident Evil games and other survival horror games prior. This is perhaps most notable with Regina, as she presents herself in an off-handed manner whether its reacting to something like an eviscerated corpse saying “That’s disgusting”, her natural exchanges and responses with Rick, Gail, Dr. Kirk etc, or being confronted by the Tyrannosaurus. Adding that to a cool yet serious, capable nature and a recognisable design, and one has a good and strong representation for women in video games. In truth, all the cast are memorable and played and presented well given the time when Dino Crisis was released, though one’s interpretation may differ from another.
With that all said; Dino Crisis is not a perfect game by any means (truth be told no game is perfect). For all the game’s excellence and innovations (at least in terms for Resident Evil) such as the tense moments where Regina is in a perilous QTE situation and the player is tasked to mash the buttons on the controller when “Danger” appears on the screen, and the ability to move while aiming; it has it faults such as the at times overbearing implementation of the soundtrack during gameplay, respawning dinosaurs in areas previously cleared, and re-use of some puzzles. Due to Dino Crisis incorporating much from Resident Evil titles of the time, the game suffers from aspects like the “tank controls” that have put players off from enjoying Resident Evil as well.
Being a game created to run on the PlayStation in 1999, certain graphical properties of Dino Crisis such as dithering and texture warping are apparent in instances such as cutscenes or traversing through hallways, and becomes more apparent when the game is running on a higher resolution then originally intended. That’s not necessarily the fault of the game, and more of a result of the PlayStation architecture of which the developers of Dino Crisis had to deal with in order to make the game perform as well as it can, but it is noticeable and can be off-putting. Granted; this does occur with several games made around that time, but like certain early 3D games like Metal Gear Solid, the Legend of Zelda Ocarina Of Time, Dino Crisis doesn’t hold up as well visually as others like Castlevania Symphony of the Night nowadays.
The reality is Dino Crisis is an example of what games were like on the consoles and platforms released at the time, a time-capsule if you like. If one can look passed the aged presentation, and the inherited flaws such as the “tank controls”, or simply wants to experience the game; then Dino Crisis is a solid game all things considered, and a survival horror classic to some survival horror fans. Whether Dino Crisis does what it does well or not nowadays, or how it compares to more modern games is up to one’s interpretation, though as a whole for a game released in 1999; it does a commendable job with its premise and does offer replay value thanks to the differentiating paths, multiple endings, unlockable outfits, infinite ammo weapon, and the unlockable minigame: Operation Wipe Out. Perhaps the greatest problem however is as of this moment of writing, Capcom themselves do not support the game or the Dino Crisis series for current platforms.
Whereas Capcom have re-released and ported older Resident Evil titles for current platforms or done remakes of older titles; the same cannot be said for Dino Crisis, and no significant developments regarding the series has indicated that Capcom will bring the series back anytime soon. Those wanting to play Dino Crisis will have to find a copy for the PlayStation, Dreamcast, and PC (most likely preowned copy), which can be pricey, especially if you have to buy the console the game plays on if one doesn’t have that system. While the PC version can be modded to play on current PCs, the process of making it run is not the easiest thing to do, unless you know what you’re doing or can find instructions.
Overall, Dino Crisis is a good time, as long as you tolerate the classic Resident Evil quirks, and can play it.