Dino Crisis 2: Back in Action

When I wrote about my beloved Dino Crisis last year, I noted that I was unlikely to write an article about the sequel. That’s mostly correct; I’m in fact writing two.

The problem is that I quite enjoy talking through games from beginning to end, but I also wanted to bang on about Dino Crisis 2’s structural and gameplay changes, which threatened to be too much for one article but not enough for an extended series. So let’s make it just like the Dino Crisis series, with two entries. Cough.

Since I'll be talking about the entire game, and referencing the first, note that there will be spoilers for both entries.

In this first article, I’m going to look over what Dino Crisis 2 brought to the table in terms of gameplay and structure. For those who never played the first game, haven’t read my Dino Crisis article, or need a refresher, the first game was a traditional survival horror game in which you entered a science facility, collected a variety of keys and supplies, and steadily opened up routes until finally you achieved your objective and escaped.

Combat was fairly static – you could only fire your weapon while standing still. Standard stuff for a survival horror game at the time. You couldn’t dodge, the camera angles often concealed enemies off-screen, and ammo was in relatively short supply (unless you played on Easy, as I originally did).

Dino Crisis 2 took a step away from its roots, most likely after all the criticism about its predecessor being an inferior Resident Evil. It seems that the decision was made to differentiate the sequel from Capcom’s main horror series by taking example from the dinosaurs. Just as the prehistoric beasts were far swifter than Resident Evil’s zombies (if we ignore Lickers, Hunters, et al.), so too was the sequel designed to be faster.

Let’s look at how Dino Crisis 2 shook up the formula.

Dino Crisis: 2 Protagonists

Dino Crisis had you play as Regina, a slightly snarky and naïve special agent. However, in the sequel, you get to hop between two characters, as newcomer Dylan Morton enters the fray. It’s a bit of an odd choice, and I suspect it was more of a compromise than a preference.

You see, Dylan carries practically all of the storyline on his back. Regina gets sections where she bails him out, or goes diving to find a special key, and she even collects the Main Mission Objective near the end of the game, the 3rd Energy Disk.

What she doesn’t do is have any plot or character developments. Let’s be honest, though, she didn’t exactly have much of that in the first either. Dino Crisis was strongly about uncovering the mystery behind Third Energy, and getting out alive, with a slight detour for a mild government conspiracy depending on which ending you got.

Dylan, meanwhile, has a backstory, is connected to two of the side characters, and is central to the grand plot twist at the end. If you took out Regina, not very much would change. Worse yet, various awkward scenarios arise from having two protagonists who need to be in different places but close together at the same time.

Of particular note is at the end of the missile silo sequence, where Dylan pops up after the boss encounter/action sequence, and announces that he’s brought the patrol ship over. You just spent over two thirds of the game unable to access the missile silo because of the poisonous gas surrounding it, but bam – Dylan just rolls up in the ship ready to go.

I was actually quite outraged at the notion that there’d be a second character invading Regina’s personal space, but I got over it eventually. It works out relatively well, to an extent. There isn’t too much of a difference between their playstyles. They have a few guns specific to each, while sharing the rest, and they don’t handle particularly differently either. I’m not sure if Dylan can take more damage while Regina is faster, as seems to be standard for these games, but I really didn’t notice. What I can say is that Regina’s weapons tend to be lighter, while Dylan gets slower, harder-hitting ones.

Where Resident Evil 2 offered two “full” campaigns, along with alternative events depending on which protagonist you started with, Dino Crisis 2 sticks to just one story. You start as Dylan, and from there you occasionally switch protagonist based on story events or gear necessity. For example, you need Dylan’s machete to cut through gates that are wrapped in vines, while Regina’s stun rod is needed to bypass certain electronic locks. It’s not often that both protagonists are on-screen at the same time, and aside from a few shooting galleries and a cannon-based set piece, they don’t back each other up in combat.

There are very few pay-offs to having two characters, and it’s mostly used as an excuse to have you run along the same paths you just covered. As before, I’m largely suspicious that Regina was included solely because she was in the first game (which is just as well, or I’d probably have boycotted it!), and from a purely non-emotional standpoint, I think the game would have likely worked better if you were focused just on Dylan.


Or if all his plot points were booted and you just played as Regina for the full game instead.

For now, though, let’s move on to the meat of the gameplay.

Combat Evolved

Dino Crisis 2 is about killing dinosaurs. Sure, the mission objective screen that interrupts occasionally insists that you’re there to “search the area” and “recover the 3rd Energy Disk”, but 90% of your time will be spent slaughtering the local wildlife. Key collecting is still a part of the game, but it’s been simplified to the point that you can practically forget about it.

To ease up the restrictions on fighting that made the first so much more tense, the developers made a variety of minor changes that add up to the game handling completely differently. Firstly, you can shoot while running, so you can just charge from one end of the jungle to the other while firing your weapon if you so desire. I don’t recommend this, but it’s certainly a possibility.

Secondly, ammo is in heavy supply. You start with a plentiful amount, and save locations around the jungle will allow you to purchase more ammo for relatively cheap, along with increasing the maximum number of bullets per gun. Unlike most other gun games, you never need to reload in combat either. You can just keep firing as fast as the weapon will allow you, until you run out.

Your characters run by default, and you can even dodge! This latter fact might surprise you, if you played the game back in the day. If so, that’s probably because, for some strange reason, dodging is disabled in the options by default. I have very little idea why, since the button isn’t used for anything else, but there it is. In any case, you can hop backwards, or to the left or right, which can be handy if you’re not already surrounded.

And surrounded you will be, because Dino Crisis 2 delights in having you ambushed wherever you go. Somebody watched the “clever girl” scene in Jurassic Park and decided that this needed to happen in practically every screen in the game. The game plays out a little like a light gun game, where you’ll often need to rely on knowing exactly where the next enemy will spawn so you can be ready to shoot them immediately.

Where the first game would sometimes have dinosaurs off-screen, prompting you to move forward and seek them out so you can kill or see how to avoid them, the second has a heavy over-reliance on spawning practically everything off-screen. In one section, you can kill a bunch of raptors on one screen, step into the next, and have your rear ripped off by a rude raptor with barely a moment’s notice.

This is because enemies spawn according to which screen you’re on, rather than being present within the game world consistently. In Dino Crisis, if you enter a room and hear raptors nearby, you can generally rely on the number of raptors not to change as you approach them. However, Dino Crisis 2 will maintain those raptors when you move to a new screen, while spawning in new ones. It’s a mixed bag, as it keeps the action flowing, but at the same time encourages you to stay on whichever screen you’re on until you’ve killed everything, unless you want to get double-ambushed.

This might not be making sense. Let’s go back to how Dino Crisis 2 is presented. The first game is in full 3D, divided into a variety of rooms and outdoor areas in the facility. However, the second game goes back to the pre-rendered backdrops present in the early Resident Evil games. This means that the camera never moves or follows you (except for a couple of first-person shooting segments). When you transition from one backdrop to another, and reach the appropriate trigger point in it, dinosaurs will spawn and attack you, either from bushes or somewhere off-screen. A lot of my screenshots of fighting dinosaurs have my characters standing in empty space firing off-screen, because I heard the dinosaurs there, or using the auto-target button swivelled my characters to face them. Half the time, if you let the dinosaurs actually appear on-screen, it's already too late.

This isn’t necessarily too bad, because, like ammo, medical supplies are fairly easy to replenish. Where it’s frustrating is in the importance of not getting hit. That’s because Dino Crisis 2 dispenses currency based on your combat performance. Kill enemies in a chain, and get extra points. Clear a room without getting hit after killing over five enemies (or not getting hit by certain larger enemies or bosses), and you’ll get a huge bonus. Seriously, it’ll often double your earnings, if not more. This means that getting bitten at any point can be a heavy detriment to your points-collection.

That’s not to say that it’s game-ending, of course. Dino Crisis 2 lends itself well to speed-running, as you can fairly easily identify unnecessary upgrades and weapons after playing the game once, and cut out a lot of that when you give it another try. It just means that, if you care about that sort of thing, you’ll spend a lot of time getting frustrated when you lose out on the no-hit bonus after getting bitten by a raptor that remained invincible during its animation jumping out of the bushes, or slashed by pteranodons you couldn’t see because they spend most of their time off-camera.

Along with the general combat, you have a few set pieces that mix things up, mostly concentrated on the second half of the game. There’s a couple of shooting galleries, a chase sequence in a tank, and an extended underwater sequence where you have access to different weapons, move a lot more slowly, but have a jump button. Most of these sequences don’t last too long, keeping the pace as fast as possible.

On that note, let’s look at the overall structure of the game.

Coming Up Short

Dino Crisis 2 is not a long game. Neither was the first, but the sequel took its five hours and trimmed off two.

You’d be forgiven for expecting the game to be longer, if someone described it to you. The first game is set in one facility, while Dino Crisis 2 sends you to an open jungle, where you’ll explore several facilities, have access to a ship that can take you to multiple locations, and even visit the lost Edward City in the latter part of the game.

Not only that, but the game will often have you backtracking between locations on more than one occasion, in part because you’ll be retreading your partner’s footsteps when you switch protagonist at set story points.

However, there are a few things that contribute to its short runtime. Basically everything I described in the combat section above does, obviously. Where the first game encouraged you to approach enemies with caution, the second pushes you to engage enemies swiftly. Most enemies drop dead in one-to-three shots. Many fights can simply be bypassed.

As for key-collecting, there’s very little of that. The facilities are tiny, with roughly six rooms in each on average. Some of these are safe rooms where you won’t need to stop to fight. There are very few puzzles to solve, and many of these basically tell you the solution in full before you’ve even attempted to think about them. The longest set piece of this sort is probably the sequence where you need to get your keycard back from a rude compsognathus (compy) by using a handful of shutters to direct it towards a trap.

One of the keys, in a bit of design I really like, is hidden in a spot you pass early in the game, where you cannot see it. You’ll find a note later in the game advising you where to find it, and on returning to the spot, some visual cues have been added to guide you to it as well. However, you can grab the key at any time if you already know where it is, allowing you to skip that little bit of backtracking.

When you do get access to the ship, you can travel to two locations, but one of those is locked, prompting you to leave it immediately for the other. While you return there after getting the key, it does immediately shut down your choice in where to go. Edward City, for all of its size in the cutscenes, is restricted to a handful of damaged streets, before culminating in the aforementioned tank chase sequence. Once that’s over, you’re done in the city.

Even the finale of the game shoots by. You enter a mysterious futuristic facility after two brief set pieces, get a massive plot twist, immediately hop into a boss fight, and then get the ending straight after. There’s rarely time to pause and take stock of things.

In Conclusion

Is the game’s short duration a bad thing? I’m basically a committed fence-sitter, so I can go in either direction. Certainly with open-world burnout these days, it’s a bit of a relief to be able to sit down with a game and be done with it in an afternoon. Not for a full £30+, mind you, but you can do worse than a playthrough of Dino Crisis 2. In fact, I had a memory card issue doing the playthrough for this article, and had to restart the game after my save in Edward City refused to load. I zipped through the earlier acts of the game and trimmed an hour off my playtime, which was quite satisfying.

However, the game can outstay its welcome a bit. Wherever you go, you’re going to get jumped by beasties from all angles, and firing off-screen or being bitten immediately on switching areas can get tiresome. If someone offered to make the game three times larger, I would really prefer that they did not, unless they made some heavy changes to the combat. I likened it to a light gun game earlier, and I think that holds true here – I really wouldn’t want a light gun game that lasted ten to thirty hours.

Story-wise, the game does its job to an extent, but it feels fairly low-stakes. Dylan shows some occasional emotion here and there, but Regina is pretty stone-cold. She still snarks, but she comes across as more grouchy than in the original, as though her experiences have hardened her. That’s fine, but she and Dylan have quite minor reactions to the populace of Edward City being slaughtered in the game’s closing act. In the first game, Regina cared more about getting people out of the facility safely than focusing on the mission like Gail, but here she seems much more interested in grabbing the 3rd Energy Disk. In any case, I’ll go on about the story in my other article.

In terms of atmosphere, I’m a lot less fond of the jungle than I was of the facility. Part of this is, I suspect, down to 3D-vs-pre-rendered snobbery, since Dino Crisis 2’s world felt quite static. Additionally, where the first was criticised for being too grey, I feel that the sequel is very green-and-brown, which is ironic given that that’s my favourite colour combination. In any case, I could get into the facility’s world because it felt like somewhere people lived. The jungle and its small facilities are, by necessity, wildernesses, and I never really became attached to them over my time exploring.

The light nature of the game, with everything fairly expendable, also contributed to that. Dino Crisis required you to memorise locations and take care with how you managed your items and chose which fights to take on, while Dino Crisis 2 just has you blasting everything as fast as you can (with some minor care taken if you don’t want to lose that no-hit bonus). I noticed that some areas stopped respawning after a while, so maybe you can just clear out all the dinosaurs eventually, but for the most part I could never really relax and take in the scenery.

All-in-all, then, Dino Crisis 2 is a fun and short game, and not a bad one for replayability, but it isn’t one that really stuck with me after I’d turned off the console.

Just as before, though, I’ll beg Capcom to make a new game. Just imagine how good it could be with current tech!

As for next time, let's talk about the game's story!

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