Primal Carnage: Extinction ReviewMartin Segarra
Imagine playing Team Fortress 2 with your friends, but instead of fighting class-based enemies, you're fending off prehistoric beasts that are out to chomp on your minuscule corpse. Or, should the tables be turned, picture yourself stomping majestically through the landscape as a flesh-eating T-Rex while some idiot soldier tries to take you down with what feel like pellets.
That's basically the concept of Primal Carnage: Extinction, one of the latest games to come out of Steam's Early Access that's somehow not another survival game. Instead, what you'll find here is an online-only multiplayer shooter that pits humans against dinosaurs and allows you to pick sides.
When playing as the soldiers, you'll soon realize that the game offers little in the way of innovation, relying instead on 5 puny classes that include the Scientist, a sort of sniper that carries tranquilizers, the Commando, who wields a rocket-launcher and an assault rifle, the comically named Pathfinder, whose sole weapon is a shotgun, the Trapper, the only one who can insta-kill the small dinos with the use of his trusty net and avoid the ferocious bites of the larger ones, and the Pyro. Selecting to play as any of these guys feels like trying out a crappier version of Team Fortress 2, so why anyone would actually choose to step into the shoes of the humans is beyond me.
No matter which of them you choose, you'll always end up going through the same routine every time. You'll walk around aimlessly trying to find dinosaurs to shoot, you'll get eaten by one of them out of nowhere, and it's back to wandering about again. When you do actually get to shoot some big lizards, the gameplay varies between somewhat fun and tediously painful. Your rifle may unzoom itself randomly while you're in the middle of a fight, a bug which still hasn't been fixed, and that's not to mention the fact that the process of shooting feels terrible, thanks largely due to it being both ineffective and pointless. In short, it's really unsatisfying.
If you absolutely have to play as one of these mentally challenged individuals, you should pick the Pyro hands-down, a character which can prove to be pretty enjoyable to handle at times (seriously, I can't stress the "at times" part enough). His flare gun can incinerate smaller dinosaurs with ease, which makes it a great weapon to master, while the flamethrower itself is simply OK. It suffers from the same ineffectiveness as the rest of the weapons, but seeing the enormous dinosaurs burst into flames and walk around helplessly is truly a sight for sore eyes.
You'd think that after the bad taste playing as the humans left in your mouth, stepping into the claws of the dinosaurs would be a much better experience, especially since the game packs the word carnage in its title right?. Wrong. Playing as the prehistoric animals is absolutely atrocious.
Sure, it's cool to run around chomping on puny humans at first, but you'll soon realize just how poorly implemented the controls are. They make moving around as the dinosaurs feel mundane and lifeless, a task which should have felt empowering and satisfying. All of them have mildly interesting abilities, but in practice it all comes down to this: big dinosaurs can kill with one bit but move slowly, small dinosaurs need more hits to kill but move rapidly, and flying dinosaurs can drop people from the skies to kill them. That's really all there is to it.
The game comes with four game types in total, which include Team Deathmatch, Get to the Chopper, Survival and Free Roam. Team Deathmatch pits the dinos against the humans in an all-out battle for kills, while Get to the Chopper has you moving from one point on the map to another in order to escape. This mode is definitely the best one, but there's hardly anyone playing it. Survival consists of your basic wave-based gameplay while Free Roam rounds out the package by dropping you in a map with no timer or points and allowing you to do whatever you want to. It's good for testing out the different weapons and abilities, but not much else. As you might expect, the only mode you'll find yourself playing is Team Deathmatch, which grows really tiresome after a couple of matches.
Extinction doesn't fare much better in the technical department, with its dated textures and dubious character models. The framerate tends to drop and there are jaggies to be found in almost every corner, which isn't good when you're trying to sell the idea of prehistoric. The sound design is pretty cool though, thanks to the distant roaring of dinosaurs or the helpless cries of the soldiers as they go down. It's by no means enough to save the game from being a total mess, but it's good nonetheless.
While the idea of pitting humans against dinosaurs may sound exciting on paper, the execution that Primal Carnage: Extinction brings to the table has absolutely missed the mark. There are some scattered moments of fun to be had, but they're few and far between, and the gameplay that separates them is bland, boring and, frankly, not worthy of your time or money.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.