Jurassic: The Hunted Review
Yeah, I know. A lot of you are just plain bored with shooters these days, but when a game involves dinosaurs, there’s always the chance you’ll have great fun. Sadly, Cauldron’s Jurassic: The Hunted falls so far short of its intended goal that we’re left with a virtual mess of a FPS; the controls are loose, the battles can be both frustrating and boring (at the same time, if that’s even possible), the technical aspects are poor, the story and voice acting is borderline abysmal, and we never get that “oh damn, that thing is after me!” fear. All we end up doing is running around, doing the same thing over and over, occasionally laughing at the programming mistakes and getting seriously annoyed at the erratic behavior of our weapons. For a game that’s supposed to feature an adventure that would appeal to all old-school Turok fans, The Hunted needed at least a few more months in development to be taken seriously. Sure, it’s only half the price of a normal new game but…does that really matter?
The graphics aren’t exactly the worst you’ll see on the PlayStation 3 these days, but they’re definitely a big disappointment. Muddy and washed-out textures predominate, the environments allow for little to no exploration (the game is insanely linear), and there’s only a moderate amount of detail applied to those gigantic roving lizards of yesteryear. Your environment never really sucks you in and leaves you glancing about, wondering what might be lurking behind every tree and bush. It’s all too dark, too cramped, and too “bleh” for anyone to pay close attention to his or her surroundings (but perhaps that’s a blessing in disguise). I liked some of the effects and the animations of the dinosaurs weren’t too terrible but for the most part, Jurassic seems like a game that should still be in a testing phase in more ways than one. I suppose some of the more open spaces and larger dinosaurs are better depicted, and there’s something to be said for the slightly varying atmosphere, but that’s about it.
The sound is hardly any better, as the voice acting is so bad it makes you cringe and the sound effects suffer from definite balance and what I like to call “lack of intensity” issues. There just isn’t a commanding “crack” to go along with your pistols and rifles, and explosions provided by your grenades also don’t resonate appropriately. Then you’ve got the music, which is okay for brief spells of action – a decent rock track often kicks in during especially tough encounters – but usually takes a significant back seat to the gameplay. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, provided the gameplay was something in which we could lose ourselves, but as you’ll soon see, that didn’t happen. This means we’re all the more aware of the graphics and sound, neither of which are up to snuff. The roars and screeches of certain dinosaur species add a little something to the experience and the rushing footsteps of an approaching foe can be pretty scary, but the positives end here. The voice acting really is atrocious, the soundtrack doesn’t play a big enough role, and the effects are all over the place.
It’s not a difficult or foreign concept. After a brief intro, you somehow find yourself in another time on a remote island infested with the most dangerous cold-blooded animals ever to roam the earth. During a parachute drop with your elite military team, you jumped directly into a lightning storm and that somehow opened up a portal to this other time, and also managed to scatter your team all over the island. There’s no knowing who might be left alive, and whether or not you’ll be able to survive for more than a few minutes. But thankfully, you quickly come across an assortment of weapons and ammunition, which is surprisingly effective against even larger dinosaurs and you’ve even got a nifty Adrenaline skill to assist you. In short, the designers really set it up well…but then I started to move and shoot, and everything went downhill awfully quickly. Perhaps my first clue that things were going to go badly is when I realized that my shotgun had just about the same potency as my handgun. Pretty soon, I was just switching around between any ol’ weapon, because it didn’t seem to matter much.
Perhaps the biggest problem that plagues this game is the various and blatant inconsistencies. As I just said, the shotgun didn’t seem to be any more effective than any handgun and the collision detection also appeared to be way off in certain situations. For instance, I could stand the exact same distance away from a Spitter (one of those irritating dinosaurs that spit green junk at you; ala Jurassic Park), fire at the exact same part of its body, and take only two shots to take it down. Then, I’d do the exact same thing again – same distance, same weapon, same bullet placement – and it would take seven shots to take it down. That’s a bad sign. Then there’s the fact that no gun seems to be significantly stronger than another; it was only a matter of switching to any weapons that had the most ammo. Furthermore, with the loose movement and aiming control, the mere task of taking down dinosaurs got really frustrating after a while. The grenades seem to only be useful when the dinosaurs haven’t spotted you; any other time, they’re usually moving too fast.
And while I usually don’t mind a linear progression in a game, this felt more like a rails shooter it was so restrictive. You really couldn’t go anywhere off the beaten path and even if you could, exploring likely wouldn’t get you anything new or interesting. The only vaguely intriguing part about the game is that Adrenaline ability. You’ll see a little meter on the left side of your screen; it’s in the shape of a bullet and whenever it has some red color in it, you can activate Adrenaline mode, which slows down time and highlights the vital organs of your target. The idea is that you can easily target the heart, the head, or maybe the lungs when in Adrenaline mode. But that nasty collision detection issue rendered this skill almost useless, although there were times when I was thankful to have it. The Adrenaline option is one of those “what if” options that, while cool and very effective at particular times, really suffers from other problems. Lastly, you can’t really dodge or block or take cover, so you’re always vulnerable to attack. It’s just a very plain, vanilla, bland experience.
Jurassic: The Hunted is a budget title that might only be worth it when it drops to around ten bucks and you have nothing else to do on a rainy day. Besides that, what with all the amazing titles currently available (and more on the immediate horizon), I really can’t see any reason to recommend such a lackluster game. There’s nothing laughably terrible about this effort but just about everything ranges from mediocre to average, which is painfully obvious within the first few minutes of play time. It’s just…so “meh.”
3/1/2010 Ben Dutka