Primal Carnage Preview: Hold Onto Your Butts

 

Developers don’t always pick the greatest promotional screenshots, but damned if the picture above doesn’t sum up everything that’s great about Primal Carnage. Game Front editor Ron Whitaker and I were immediately taken with the game when we saw it at PAX East last spring. The concept is pure, simple: a class-based multiplayer shooter in which one team plays as dinosaurs.

Many games suffer from confusion about what exactly they’re trying to accomplish, but having played Primal Carnage in its beta state at an SF promotional event last week, I was impressed by the streamlined, no-nonsense presentation and gameplay. Despite a modest budget, everything about the game feels slick and dialed in — developers Lukewarm don’t bite off more than they can chew (yeah, that was a dinosaur joke), keeping weapon loadouts and Jurassic abilities to a well-balanced minimum.

Each faction features five classes. On the human side of the equation, the Commando was described by reps from publishers Reverb as the “pick-up-and-play” class, and his light machine gun with underslung grenade launcher will be familiar to FPS players, even if his targets aren’t. I was a particular fan of the Pathfinder, a Native American character with a shotgun, a weapon which seemed the most appropriate weapon for hunting the second-most dangerous game. The Pathfinder is also equipped with flares that should prove tactically critical, blinding nearby dinosaurs and keeping teammates alive.

The Scientist is the archetypal sniper class, though her tranquilizer pistol has an important role to play as well, sapping dinosaurs of the energy needed to perform special attacks like flying and pouncing. The Pyromaniac, as you might have guessed, sports a flamethrower, with the added bonus of an attached chainsaw. Largely useless at range, you’ll want him around when the dinosaurs close in. Finally, the Trapper’s net-gun and dual pistols represent a deadly challenge to any enemy unlucky enough to be ensnared.

The competition to play as the dinosaurs will certainly be fierce, even though Lukewarm have paid careful attention to the balancing — one of the biggest challenges, according to PR reps on hand at the event — and worked hard to ensure that the humans are fun to play as well (see the flamethrower-chainsaw hybrid, above). Dinos come in five flavors, starting with everyone’s favorite, the T-Rex, which can take and dish out a huge amount of damage. On the other hand, it’s slow moving and presents a big target — expect to take incoming fire from every human within range.

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