is not going to be one of those "why you dont need a PS2" pieces almost
every rag on the market is running this month. Of course you need one [!] as anyone lucky
enough to have one already can tell you. If, however, you are among the millions waiting
in agony for your local distributor to get another shipment ("any day now," as a
certain Toy Store I cant mention keeps saying), you might want to take a break from
THPS2 and check out one of the coolest titles to come along in, well, ever.
After the shockingly idiotic Resident Evil: Survivor, it is reassuring to see that Capcom has not in fact lost its talent, quality, or sanity. Like the aforementioned survival horror game, Dino Crisis 2 expands on and tweaks the by now familiar conventions of the genre. In this case though, the tweaks work to the games advantage and make it a much more satisfying experience than its predecessor, a game we all tacitly admit was simply an RE clone with a dinosaur patch. DC2 is an entirely new style of gameplay, an arcade-heavy round of pure Jurassic slaughter that can probably more accurately be called "survival-asskicking".
This story takes place shortly after the first one ended. SORE (and TRAT for whatever actual differences the two represent) discover ongoing Third Energy experiments, and head to the testing site, which is rumored to have disappeared. En route they pass through a Timegate and find themselves in some indeterminate past?/future? infested with thousands of pissed off dinosaurs and screwy dialogue. The military base is attacked by raptors (and, yes, a T-Rex) in the opening FMV, after which Regina and Dylan start looking for survivors. The storyline is goofy and convoluted enough that I wont spoil it for you, but, suffice it to say, it makes about as much sense as a time-travel/secret government research with feral children/Japanese/dinosaur plot can reasonably be expected to. Just try and follow it; I dare you.
Yeah, the storyline is satisfying enough, but what really makes this game so great is the gameplay itself. Forget about conserving ammo, pulling levers, and finding box plugs. This game is about buying the biggest gun you can afford and using it as often as possible on an endless supply of dinos, whose death shrieks are some of the most satisfying on the market. Stringing together kills and surviving stages unharmed gives you "Combo" points that can be parlayed into guns, ammo, health, and special tools (like a Combo doubler, a flak jacket, etc) at any of the numerous save points. If Dylans initial run through the Jungle with a combat shotgun and a machete isnt enough to make you smile uncontrollably, just wait five minutes and buy a pulse rifle (or a "solid cannon" as the game insists on calling it). If that still isnt enough, hold out for the Firewall, Chainmines, Antitank Rifle, Rocket Launcher, Twin Uzis, Heavy Machine Gun, or AquaTorpedo. The weapon animations and sound effects are as good as any around, and better than most. The rocket launcher especially is a truly gratifying death machine.
The dinosaurs, who are major players this time around, are also very well done. The first games dinosaur population was a bit on the sparse side, and the fact that killing one took a whole lot of doing was frustrating. This time, however, the dinosaurs (twelve different types in all) are highly individualized. Their attacks require different tactical decisions on your part, and keep the basic action of the gamekill dinosaurs, open a door, kill dinosaursfrom getting overly repetitive. The raptors, for instance, attack en masse and from all directions, so setting up a Firewall at your back and unloading your pulse rifle to your front is the most effective way of "decommissioning" them while remaining unscathed. Pterodons, on the other hand, attack in pairs, a fact that makes your twin Uzis (that track enemies separately) a nice deterrent. There are of course a number of requisite boss fights (Allosaurus, T-Rex, Pleisiosaur, et al) that I wont spoil by explainingbelieve me when I tell you that some of them are truly spectacular.
During a couple of game segments, the play shifts into high arcade mode. You find yourself in first-person cam manning a vehicle-mounted machine gun blasting down a horde of dinos that move fast and play rough. Although the game itself is already pretty arcadey, the mini-games break up the pace and add a nice bit of variety.
Dino Crisis had what I thought was an advantage in its polygonal backgrounds. But DC2, which has brought back the pre-rendered genre hallmark, is actually a much more integrated game. Specific scenes, like the underwater research facility, are totally amazing and I kid you not. The camera ripples, the echoes are murky, and your character moves in zero g style with a jetpack. Almost all of the scenery, in fact, is spectacularly well done. During an opening scene a herd of Triceratops tromp across the horizon just to make you wet your pantsnot from "horror" mind you, but from mindblowing happiness. Details like that are abundant, and, with the possible exception of the lava cave, the scenes are as much fun to look at as to walk through. I actually watched a friend of mine play through the entire game right after I finished it, something I have never done before in my life, and probably wont do again.
Which brings me to a small quibble. The game itself, much like the RE games, is pretty short. The first time through took me about six hours, but with some coaching my friend made it in about half that. All is not so glum, though. The "Hard" mode is a significantly different game than the normal one, and doing well on either of them unlock "Extra Crisis" which is a mildly entertaining set of fighting games. Total game points earned throughout can be used to buy characters for the extra modes, including characters from the original game and all the dinos in this one. Finding eleven "Dino Files" in the game gives you the option of playing back through it with unlimited ammo, which makes the experience a bit different (and lets you kill pterodons with a rocket launcher, which is so satisfying I cant describe it). Basically, if you like the game at all you wont mind playing through it at least a few times, and will probably come back to it some day down the road just like all the classics. In fact, for no reason I can explain, the game reminded more of Caselvania SoTN than anything else (probably just because every great game reminds me of Caselvanianow that I think about it, almost everything somehow reminds me of Caselvania). The gameplay and the narrative movement are actually, however, more similar to Blue Stinger. Except better.
Simply put, this game kicks ass. If, like me, you liked the concept behind the RE series but found the pacing and puzzle solving a bit tedious, then this is the game for you. It delivers an old-school punch in the stomach that I had been looking for and didnt even know it. Its a cinematic exercise in ass-whuppin and a great last gen title for the PSX. Buy it. And then by DC3 when it hits the PS2.