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ups: Targeting system; arcade action.
downs: Weak enemy AI; no multiplayer; landscape needs more detail.

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Dino Stalker Review (PS2)
game: Dino Stalker
three star
posted by: Monica Hafer
publisher: Capcom
developer: Capcom Production Studio 3
date posted: 09:10 AM Tue Dec 10th, 2002
last revision: 01:01 PM Sat Oct 29th, 2005

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The plot is an amalgam of everything we\'ve heard before. A time-space transference accident in 2009 has caused problems in the Cretaceous period which have jeopardized the emergence of the human race. Being the brilliant people that they are, the U.S. government fragments time and \"moves\" this period into the future to avoid harm. This causes all sorts of problems (duh) and this is where our hero comes in. Mike Wired is a WWII pilot who is pulled away from his plane right before it crashes. He is sucked into the Cretaceous period and somehow obtains state-of-the-art weaponry to fight the dinosaurs (which is odd, because I thought they were trying to save them). He fights for his life while trying to figure out his purpose in this time period. Helping him is the mysterious Pola (read girl who is present only as a helpless but beautiful love interest) and her father, who leads Mike through the game via wrist communicator. Since he would have died in his own time, his only chance for life and love is to save the future.

The game is an arcade-style FPS and can be played with a gun or a controller. It reminds me of the arcade game House of the Dead (minus the zombies, of course). In some levels Mike has control over his movements as he walks through dense foliage or arid desert, which is more like some of the familiar FPS games. In other levels, he is carried by boat, jeep, or is falling through the air and only has the ability to rotate, target, and fire. In the walk-through levels, the motion sensor also features an arrow that points you toward your goal. This, along with the fact that your missions are timed, encourages you to move through the levels without a lot of exploring. You can pick up crystals to increase your allotted time, but as you venture farther afield, they are less prevalent and you are more likely to be trapped in the gaming area by the terrain. Although I liked the fact that they changed up the gameplay, I really would have liked a game of this type where exploring was actually encouraged. Each level contains a \"boss\" dinosaur, or sometimes a pack of dinosaurs, and the game either keeps track of numbers killed for your goal or, if it is a single dinosaur, it has a life meter to keep track of your progress.

Targeting in this game is actually very easy and smooth, which is a must. The only issue I have is when you\'re trying to use the automatic lock-on. It is generally off by enough to miss your enemy completely (although I think that sometimes the game cheated in my favor and killed the dinosaur anyway, even though the cross-hairs were pointed at a dirt pile by its feet). The only real use of this automatic system is when you\'re in a multi-dino melee and you want to get a quick bead on your next victim. There are a variety of cool weapons to add to your main single shot gun (which has endless ammo) and the sniper shot works very well, especially when you use your motion sensor to do some early detection of enemies. The movement within the walk-through levels is smooth and the control is solid. One of the bonuses of this game is the fact that it is really pretty easy for novices to pick up and play. Plus there are unlimited continues and saves at each level, which cuts down on a certain amount of frustration.

The landscape graphics could really use a shot in the arm. Rocks and foliage are pretty blocky and non-descript and some of the horizons are foggy rather than having added details. The grasslands are a little better and the \'city\' elements aren\'t bad, if still lacking detail and imagination. There was one point that I hope was homage in the game, but when I saw the Statue of Liberty buried in the sand a la Planet of the Apes, I swear I groaned. However, you can tell that a lot of love was given to the dinosaurs in this game and they look great. There are fourteen different species and each is easily distinguishable, even in the heat of battle, and they move realistically and uniquely as well. The only dinosaur I thought looked cheesy was an alligator looking foe (called a Kronosaurus) that jumps out at you while you\'re in the boat. But other than that, kudos to the dinosaur designers.

Although Dino Stalker is appealing in an arcade-like way, I have two major problems with this game. The first and probably my biggest problem with this game is the poor AI of some of our Cretaceous foes. Especially in the boss sequences, as soon as you see the movement pattern establishing, the rest is a piece of cake. There are some levels where the sheer number of dinosaurs plus their ability to remain motionlessly in hiding makes the slaying more difficult, but this is the exception rather than the rule. The difficulty level makes some difference, but it is more related to the time/weapons/ ammo/enemy number than AI. A friend of mine compared one part of the game to a glorified Duck Hunt, and although I don\'t think I\'d go that far, it does bear an occasional resemblance.

My second problem is the fact that this game is only a single player experience. Granted, no one ever said that every game had to allow multiplayer action, but with all the titles that support versus modes or cooperative action, players are getting spoiled with lots of options. Couple this with the fact that this game is pretty short and you have a game that doesn\'t go the extra mile. The sooner companies realize that a precedent has been set, the sooner we will have more games striving for that type of completeness and variety.

Overall, Dino Stalker is a fun game that is reminiscent of some of our arcade favorites, but really lacks the ability to be a favorite on the shelves at home. It\'s limp landscape design and graphics, old-hat storyline, and lack of variety and solid AI keeps its long-tem appeal at a minimum. It is a solid bet for renting and for get-togethers where there are novice gamers and no one minds taking turns, but under the comparative spotlight, Stalker just can\'t hold up to the asking price.

Monica Hafer (12/10/2002)