Primal Carnage Preview: Hold Onto Your Butts

 

The Carnotaurus is an interesting runaway-freight-train class, which deals more damage as it picks up speed. Charging headlong into people is exciting, and this largish class has enough health to survive such close encounters. No dinosaur game would be complete without a Raptor (thanks, Spielberg), and Primal Carnage’s Novaraptor is fast and agile, able to pin human players with a pounce move that leaves them helpless unless an ally can shoot the Raptor off.

The Dilophosaurus is as close as the dinosaurs come to a ranged class, flitting along and spitting poison at unsuspecting enemies. Having experienced this effect as a human player, I can confirm that it is a. effective and b. annoying, draining your health but also, more importantly, impairing your vision. My personal favorite, the Pteranodon, is a flying class that allows you to swoop down, snatch up an unsuspecting human, and drop him to his death from a great height. Let me be clear — this never gets old. The class also has an important secondary mission, using a roar ability that temporarily highlights the location of the nearby enemy players. Each dinosaur has a different roar to confer a sort of bonus on its allies, but the Pteranodon’s was the only one that was noticeable when triggered.

This is partially due to the satisfying franticness of the gameplay. As I mentioned earlier, Primal Carnage isn’t trying to be something it’s not — the game is simply balls-to-the wall team deathmatch, with dinosaurs. Expect to die often, and quickly, in small maps that enable you to get back in the thick of the action as soon as possible. There are scattered ammo and health dumps for humans, and dinosaur corpses to cannibalistically gorge on for the dinos, but I didn’t find myself using them much. I should mention, however, the extreme lushness that Lukewarm team managed to eke out of the Unreal development kit — the map I played was teeming with plant life, which, given the genre-defining tropical setting of Jurassic Park, felt entirely appropriate.

A brightly-colored UI makes it easy to keep track of important information, and while some of the controls — particularly dinosaur abilities like the Raptor pounce and the Pteranodon grab — take some getting used to, it’s a game that’s easy to learn and easy to love. I’m looking forward to seeing the kind of emergent tactics and tricks are sure to develop when people master the game and learn to work together — the possibilities of a well-coordinated, well-composed dinosaur team seem positively endless. No word yet on mod support, though apparently it’s being considered.

Primal Carnage is currently in closed beta — pre-order on Steam to get an invite — and will be released in full, for $14.99, later this Fall.

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