Photo credit: Circle 5 Studios, Pub Games, and gamespot.com
It’s rare that games emerge from early access without being a first-person survival game where you gather resources and fight zombies, and with recent trends it’s even rarer for a game to come along and be about dinosaurs. With the dinosaur games having, well, gone the way of the dinosaur in the early-to-mid 2000s, it’s an incredibly pleasant surprise to see a developer making a game that doesn’t fall into the cookie cutter formulas a lot of indie devs follow. So, we have “Primal Carnage: Extinction” by Circle 5 Studios and the question stands: Is it any good?
“Primal Carnage: Extinction” is a revamping of the arena fighting game, drawing clear inspiration for “Team Fortress 2” while throwing away the equal teams. As opposed to “Team Fortress 2”, which plays more like a game of chess where players only have the option to use tools identical to the other team, “Primal Carnage: Extinction” has a main game mode that pits two vastly different sides against each other: humans vs. dinosaurs. As with “TF2”, you play on a red or blue team with a diverse team of fighters. In the most commonly played mode, “Team Deathmatch”, it’s a showdown between dinosaurs and humans for which teams can rack up the most points within the match duration. “FreeRoam”, where there’s no win condition, and “Roleplaying” servers are also among the highest populated servers. “Get to the Chopper” is a game mode where humans must capture points before getting to an escape helicopter, reminiscent of the Mercy Hospital from “Left 4 Dead”, where instead of regular enemies there are only special varieties. Then there’s “Dino Deathmatch”, where two teams of dinosaurs face off.
The humans have access to a trapper, a pyro, a machine gunner (commando), a sniper/medic (scientist) and a tracker. The trapper has access to a net gun to capture and quickly kill dinosaurs, as well as disable larger dinosaur’s attacks or abilities to eat players. The pyro wields a molotov, a flare gun and a flamethrower and exists to do quick group damage, but it does a mediocre job. The commando wields a high ammo-capacity rifle with a grenade launcher and brings most of his damage from his grenade launcher. The rifle itself is rather unimpressive, though. The scientist brings a high-damage, slow-fire rate sniper rifle, a gun that saps dinosaurs stamina, and a med-kit that appears to do absolutely nothing. The final cast member of the human team is the path finder, a native American with a shotgun and a desert eagle because, “why not?” I guess.
Several of the classes have a tendency of being dead weight for their team and the play style tends to not be particularly engaging. The scientist brings a single-shot, slow-shooting, high-damage rifle that does a better job getting the attention of dinos than it does killing them. The feedback with the sniper in both zoomed and hip-fire situations has unsatisfying feedback and damage that leaves you wondering what her place in the team is. Hitting rounds from her tranquilizer gun never seems to drain raptor or T-Rex stamina enough to stop them from sprinting at you and jumping on you/swallowing you whole. The pyro’s role is as a damage over time with a weapon that can hit more than one dinosaur at once, so what’s the problem? Often times, no matter how much fire the pyro puts out, it never feels like enough to do the job without the help of a few teammates, and this is a team-based game, despite what the game wants you to think. More often than not, the pyro will find themselves out of ammunition, surrounded by flaming dinosaurs, and shortly after, dead. No class compares to the dead weight that is the commando, though. The pyro can at least make it a pain in the ass for dinosaurs to find him or get close without getting some damage and the medic can at least drain her target’s stamina. Without several teammates holding the commando’s hand at all times, the commando is only capable of wildly spraying bullets from his rifle at dinosaurs or shooting the most embarrassingly weak grenade I’ve ever used in a video game. He has no ways to escape, outwit, or fend off dinosaurs beyond his wimpy rifle and sad grenade launcher. He’s a sitting duck with clipped wings.
During the time I played “Primal Carnage: Extinction”, I found two of the human classes to be particularly engaging and fun. The Tracker has a shotgun, a flare, and a pistol to fend off dinosaurs and is a class that requires intense patience. The shotgun has an effective range of right in front of you, so you better be prepared to hold your fire until oncoming raptors/pterodactyls are about to slam right into you before you pull your trigger. If your timing is right, enemies will drop dead. If not, you will be the one dropping dead. Use of his flare to blind dinosaurs is invaluable, as it allows the Tracker to dodge dinosaurs with more ease while trying to finish them off. As a result, the Tracker is the only class that is well-equipped to handle the bigger dinosaurs on his own or multiple dinosaurs at once. The Trapper is by far the most satisfying aspect of this game with his secondary weapon alone: the net gun. The net gun offers the Trapper a one-shot, one-kill weapon with a slow reload time, though he is capable of shooting flyers out of the air, sealing shut the bigger dinos mouths, and pinning the small dinosaurs to the ground for an easy kill. Either class brings a level of adrenaline that I only wish the other three classes could bring along with them.
The dinosaurs get a tyrant, a predator, a flyer, a spitter, and a bruiser. The Tyrant capable of swallowing humans whole is either a Tyrannosaurus Rex that focuses on mobility and wields a tail swipe or a Spinosaurus that focuses on durability and has a pair of claws to swipe at humans. Predators can be either a Novaraptor, capable of pouncing on opponents or charging them and attacking with quick swipes, or an Oviraptor that focuses on mobility and using pheromones to track humans and pin them down. Flyers can be a Pteranodon, which is capable of picking up and dropping humans to their death, or a Tupandactylus that uses its thick skull to ram into humans. Spitters can be either a Dilophosaurus that blinds its targets with acid before closing in for the kill, or Cryolophosaurus that spits boiling acid. The bruiser can only be a Carnotaurus, which has a decent bite and swipe attack, but has the main feature of sprinting into humans and sending them flying into the air.
The dinosaurs are all equally good in their own right, so instead of focusing on any aspect in particular, it’d just be easier to point out what is not right about them. The Tyrants and the Bruiser are too strong, often require a whole team of humans to dedicate all of their firepower to them, only for them to often walk away and heal back up before returning. Spamming a jump is much too easy of an option for players using the small dinosaurs, as the stamina punishment is almost minuscule, removing the requirement for good play. That lack of necessity for good play is a common thing among most of the dinosaur classes, which is a great cause of frustration for players. The room for poor play and good performance is much greater for the dinosaurs than it is for the humans, which makes it difficult to understand why they thought it would be a good idea for equal teams of humans and dinosaurs to be fighting one another.
Out of the six hours of gameplay I’ve had in “Primal Carnage: Extinction”, I can count on one hand the number of times humans have won a deathmatch game. “Team Deathmatch” and “Free Mode” are really the only modes that are accessible in the game and that’s mostly a result of the community being incredibly small. “Dino Deathmatch” and “Get to the Chopper” go almost entirely unplayed, though with “Dino Deathmatch” it makes sense. Dinosaur vs dinosaur is painfully boring and often involves two players spinning around each other, mashing their right mouse button.
I had a thoroughly good time playing “Primal Carnage: Extinction” and, if it weren’t for the poor balancing, the low threshold for good performance with dinosaurs, and the overly punishing gameplay for humans where there are only two really viable classes (in my opinion, of course), I’d give this game a much higher score. As it stands, I would be a dishonest critic if I gave this game a high score only for liking certain aspects of it.