Posted on August 1, 2011, Phil Hornshaw Comic-Con 2011: Jurassic Park: The Game Hands-On Preview, Part 2
Back at GDC 2011, I got a chance to mess around with a level in Telltale Games’ quicktime-event-laden Jurassic Park: The Game. That level featured Dr. Gerry Harding, Jurassic Park’s dinosaur veterinarian, and his daughter trying to get to safety with an injured woman in the back of their Jeep. It ended with a triceratops rushing the vehicle, then tangling with a T-Rex.
Story details have trickled in about the game since then, and we’d learned that the mysterious woman in the back of the Jeep was actually some kind of mercenary working for Lewis Dodgson, an executor of corporate espionage for the genetics firm Biosyn. Dodgson is the guy who hired Dennis Nedry (played by Wayne Knight in the film version of JP) to steal dinosaur embryos from his employer, InGen, the company behind the park. From what we’d learned she was among some of Dodgson’s agents on Isla Nublar tasked with recovering the embryos Nedry stole.
I got a chance to play a little more of Jurassic Park at Comic-Con 2011 on the show floor, and it was that very scene — the one in which Nima, the mercenary woman, and another of Dodgson’s lackeys called Miles Chadwick discover Nedry’s stuck Jeep. It stands at the top of the hill just above the road to the East Dock, Nedry’s intended destination. It’s the exact location from the film where a pair of dilophosaurs — the spitting dinosaurs — cornered Nedry and killed him. And where his Barbasol can of dinosaur embryos disappeared.
Chadwick and Nima arrive on the scene following some kind of tracker left inside the Barbasol can, likely an insurance policy created by Dodgson in order to make sure Nedry didn’t have second thoughts about the deal. Chadwick is clearly in charge, and he’s also a glasses-wearing, twitchy jerk. Nima, on the other hand, is much more capable.
The scene at first plays much like an investigation in L.A. Noire. Nima and Chadwick locate the Jeep and find Nedry inside, a dilophosaur scampering off in a flash after having been…chewing him. Nima is taken aback by the sighting, but Chadwick doesn’t clue her in as to just what Isla Nublar is housing. In short, curt demands, he sends Nima off to look around the scene while he searches the vehicle for the missing canister.
This is where the investigation sets in. The player controls Nima throughout the scene. I played on the PC version of Jurassic Park, although it operated with an Xbox 360 controller. By dragging around the Right Analog Stick, I could look around the scene wherever Nima was standing and interact with objects and other things as they came into sight. When Nima could see something that she could interact with, say a light on the car or footprints she could read, a face button would appear beside it. Tapping or holding would activate information or interaction with the object.
Unlike Telltale’s last major adventure title, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park doesn’t let players steer the main character around as in traditional games. You can choose where you want Nima to go in a given area by pulling up a series of image thumbnails. One was a picture of the bottom of the hill; another was the darkened tree where Nedry has wrapped the winch cable from the jeep; yet another was the tunnel entrance with a sign for the East Dock beside it. I chose the bottom of the hill and took Nima down to the bottom of the muddy incline.
Here I started retracing Nedry’s steps. Nima caught his footprints coming down the hill and saw that the winch cable was meant to free the Jeep from where it had become stuck. Footprints showed Nedry heading toward the tree, and there were animal footprints there, too. No sign of the canister, though.
In analyzing footprints and other things found at the scene, I was able to access Nima’s interior monologue by basically asking her questions. Choosing various dialog options (all of which were made available by pulling them up with the Right Trigger) allowed Nima to interact with Chadwick, but several had her asking questions of herself. During a few of these sessions, Nima mentioned “mi amor,” someone on behalf of whom she seemed to be pursuing vengeance. Against just whom wasn’t clear, though, but later in Chadwick’s dialog is the suggestion that Nima wants to “stick it to InGen.” Could Nima’s love have been hurt or killed by InGen negligence? I have a feeling he was that worker who got snagged by the raptor during the “Shoot hah!” opening of the film (although that’d be a little on the nose, wouldn’t it).
After investigating the bottom of the hill, Nima found tracks leading toward the tree. I switched to the thumbnail of the tree and Nima headed over, but it was too dark to see anything. We’d need more light if we were going to figure out what happened to Nedry. At a loss, I returned to the Jeep thumbnail, where I could bother Chadwick, to no avail, and check the area around the Jeep. There was an impression of the mud where Nedry had fallen and the Jeep’s tire, caught fast by a log. Finally, I found the light on top of the Jeep, which I was able to adjust to shine on the tree with the winch cable. Time to head back down.
Now I was able to check footprints that showed Nedry approaching the tree to free himself, and something else: animal tracks following Nedry. Not quite hunting him; more curious of what was happening. The tracks showed Nedry heading back up to the Jeep, so I returned there, where Chadwick had grown frustrated. He abandoned the search of the Jeep and Nima took over.
Inside the Jeep, I was able to get more of a picture of what had happened to Nedry and who he was. Candy wrappers suggested he always had food on him, and Nima found a can inside similar to the Barbasol can. Holding it, she began to workout what had happened. Nedry had been pursued to the Jeep. He’d hit his head. He’d fallen backward. And if the canister had been on him — which she believed it would have been, it was too valuable not to be — it could have fallen down the hill. Nima dropped the can and it slipped down the hill to a mound of mud. Heading down, she swept away some gunk to reveal the lost embryos. Mission accomplished.
But not quite. The dilophosaurs were back, making creepy noises in the woods. Chadwick started panicking, pulling a gun and aiming recklessly into the woods. Meanwhile, I could choose dialog options for Nima, and I suggested we jump in Nedry’s Jeep and make for the docks. There were other dialog options, but they generally just amounted in Chadwick disagreeing and my picking another option until the story moved forward.
Nima triggered the winch to bring the Jeep down, but it went careening down the hill and nearly flattened Chadwick before slamming into a tree. Now the dilophosaurs were circling, cutting through the woods, and Chadwick was at a full panic. Trapped beside the Jeep, I had to figure out what to do; several useless dialog choices later, I suggested we try to start the Jeep, and when that failed, that I fix it.
Reaching into the hood, Nima discovered the problem — a loose battery cable. (From a head-on collision. No big deal.) Tightening it (I was prompted to push buttons and move the control sticks carefully), she got the car started again, just in time for the dilos to make their move. Chadwick fired as the two ran for the hill, where they stood in the dark, surrounded and fearful. Nima suggested Chadwick give her the gun, but he refused. Then she (I) suggested a distraction, and Chadwick gave her (me) one, by shoving Nima to the ground for the dilos to have.
It didn’t quite work, however. The moving meal proved more enticing and the dilos ignored Nima for Chadwick. But Nima wasn’t free yet, and like in the Harding chapter I played at GDC, I now had to make it through several quick-time events to avoid death. A dilo sprang for my face, but a quick tap of the right stick when prompted made Nima shove it out of the way. Another appeared beside the Jeep as he ran to it, but rotating the stick a half turn caused Nima to open the Jeep door and slam it in the face. Rotating it back when prompted closed it just before the dilo’s blinding venomous spit slammed into the window.
Now one was trying to come through the windshield. I had to floor it backward by holding down a shoulder button, but Nima crashed again in her panic. She jumped out of the car after the accident, avoiding another dinosaur but becoming more and more defenseless. Just before the dilos could take her, there came some new animal noise from the woods, and the dilos turned and ran off.
Momentarily safe, I had a second to contemplate what was happening — something had caused the predators to flee — and to search Chadwick for the embryo canister. Just then, an animal flashed past, leaving Nima’s arm bloodied. Quickly and fearfully, she stumbled off into the woods, as glowing white eyes appeared all around and the demo ended.
It’s worth mentioning that I died a few times in the attempt to push through the demo. Not every botched controller cue results in failure, but several do, like gassing the Jeep backwards or dodging a few of the dinosaurs at key moments. When that happens, we’re dragged back to a checkpoint somewhat earlier in the quick-time scene. As I mentioned in my last hands-on preview, the QTEs might turn off some players, but they’re quite well-executed and they keep the tension up while allowing the game to run its story at full bore. It’s not unlike Heavy Rain (in a good way), but with less control (in a good way).
I’m even more excited for Jurassic Park, which hopefully falls sometime in October or sooner, after playing this second demo. The game seems to remain true to its source material while expanding things in a logical, Jurassic Park-like manner. If things continue to progress in this vein, Telltale should have something that JP fans will enjoy and that surpasses its last effort, Back to the Future.
Nima images courtesy of Game Informer.