August 12, 2011
On the warm summer mornings of my childhood, one of my favorite things to do was gather up my dinosaur toys, grab the big bucket of army men, flood a small portion of the driveway and have an all-out dinosaur war in the mud. The dinosaurs would usually win—on principle alone, I just couldn’t let Tyrannosaurus lose—but it was still a lot of fun to imagine grand battles where WWII weaponry met prehistoric power. Now, thanks to the online multiplayer game Dino D-Day, I can replay some of those imaginary skirmishes.
The background for Dino D-Day is pretty simple: Adolf Hitler has somehow resurrected dinosaurs and is using them in his plans for world domination. It’s up to the Allies to stop him, and players spend the entire gaming experience bouncing between the Axis and Allies sides in this first-person shooter. It’s run-and-gun action all the way. If you have played any first-person shooter since DOOM the feel of the game will be familiar to you.
While I wouldn’t say that the two factions are unevenly matched, it is disappointing that most of the dinosaurs are only playable on the Axis side. The Allies only have a single dinosaur—a Protoceratops equipped with machine gun—to fight against the Velociraptor, Dilophosaurus, Stygimoloch and Tyrannosaurus of the Axis side. (The Nazis also have a Desmatosuchus with a back-mounted tank turret, but this animal is actually an aetosaur and not a dinosaur at all.) The dinosaurs are more fun to play than their human counterparts. There are already plenty of WWII games that offer players the ability to step into the boots of a mid-20th century infantryman, but how many games offer you the ability to gallop around the battlefield as a Protoceratops mounted with a .30 caliber machine gun?
The dinosaurs themselves don’t look too bad. The graphics are relatively simple, but they’re not awful, either. At least the Velociraptor has feathers—a feature other game developers have seemed reluctant to adopt. Hard-core dinosaur fans will notice some things that are wrong about each of the models—like the size of the horns on Stygimoloch—but at least each dinosaur generally looks like the creature it is meant to represent! (Though it says something about the state of dinosaurs in video games that I’ve become content with near-accuracy.)
Frustratingly, only the multi-player version of the game is available at the moment. There is no single-player campaign for new players to gain experience or otherwise avoid being constantly blown up by more experienced players who simply sit in one comfy spot and snipe at everyone else. (I hate to be a poor sport, but anyone who spends all their time picking off other players from a safe spot for the whole game should be devoured by a pack of ravenous Dilophosaurus.) As with Project Blackout’s dinosaur stages, this means that Dino D-Day gets repetitive pretty quickly. A variety of maps helps keep the novelty for a while, as do the stages where Tyrannosaurus becomes a playable character, but at present, there’s nothing more to the game than the ability to run around shooting at soldiers and dinosaurs. Likewise, the fact that the characters often go down after just a shot or two can be frustrating for new players—it’s no fun constantly being gunned down and waiting 10 seconds or so for your character to reappear on the map.
A single player campaign would go a long way toward making Dino D-Day a better game. There’s a lot of potential there—Return to Castle Wolfenstein showed how unusual elements could be brought into a WWII shooter to make an engrossing player experience. Just replace the supernatural and archaeological elements of that game with dinosaurs. As it stands now, though, Dino D-Day is a fun way to kill an hour or two on a lazy afternoon.
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