"Extended Play" got word that Capcom was going to release a new first-person shooter at E3 last May in Los Angeles. Currently the market is swamped with shooters, however, and so we wondered how "Dino Stalker" could set itself apart from the pack. The answer is Guncon2, Namco's light gun -- designed for use with the PlayStation 2 console.
| Dino Stalker|
ESRB rating: Mature
Rating: 3 out of 5
Lock and load
Capcom's "Dino Stalker" is not solely a first-person shooter. It was developed with arcade-style light guns in mind. So where players could choose to move through the game using just the PS2 controller, they can also aim at and shoot predators on-screen with the Guncon2. This turns out to add a refreshing spin to the under-supported genre of light-gun games, but stifles much of "Dino Stalker's" potential depth in comparison to other first-person shooters.
What the heck is going on?
"Dino Stalker" was scripted by Flagship, the company behind the stories of both "Resident Evil" and "Onimusha." The game begins during World War II somewhere over the Atlantic. Our hero is veteran pilot Lt. Mike Wired. We join Lt. Mike during an intense mid-air dogfight, but try as he might, he's unable to fend off the Luftwaffe's finest and is forced to eject when his plane takes on too much German lead. But before Mike makes it down, a blinding flash of white light envelops him. Time seems to stop briefly and a heretofore-unnoticed island appears in the ocean below.
Further head-scratching occurs as a bracelet sensor mysteriously attaches itself to Lt. Wired's arm and he receives a sort of souped-up rifle/pistol/launcher combo weapon. What follows is a science-fiction daydream of sorts that borrows heavily from the notions of both time travel and dimensional rifts, while reinforcing the ideas of omnipotent mother computers, damsels in distress, and ravenous bloodthirsty dinosaurs.
The basic gameplay is broken into stages, with mini-bosses and bosses rounding out the back end of each stage. The object of the game is to find your way to the end of the levels, within a time limit, while trying to take out as many predators as is humanly possible along the way. The player can be overwhelmed by predators and subsequently defeated. Similarly, as if there wasn't enough pressure already, the player's bracelet sensor timer can expire, resulting in a humiliating defeat as well.
It's a jungle out there
"Dino Stalker" boasts fourteen different types of dinosaurs to antagonize the reluctant hero. The war rages across land, sea, and air as you're forced to cope with the pressures of raptors, pterodactyls, and assorted water-bound dinosaurs like the brontosaurus. (The last of which may or may not have been an herbivore, but makes for some mighty good shootin' anyway!) Considerably more formidable are the twin end-of-stage bosses, a pale master raptor, and the ever-cranky tyrannosaurus rex.
Each of the predator's behaviors seems appropriate enough. Spitters spit venom, raptors will jog along side of you trying to find a blind spot for a sneak attack, and the T-rex predictably prefers a more direct approach. It's nerve-wracking to see a foe duck under your boat and come up behind you, and a bit disheartening to watch a creature run off with a much-needed power-up that used to be in your inventory.
Simply observing the menagerie of Cretaceous critters in action -- trying to catch up to a jeep for example -- delivers many of the game's more memorable moments. Too bad you're gonna have to waste 'em.
The stuff of legend
Lucky for our lieutenant, the opportunity to acquire additional gear along the way exists. Explosive projectiles, sniper bullets, antivenom, and health packs are among the items scattered and hidden around the stages. A loose trigger finger will help reveal special icons, that when collected, can increase the amount of time you have to complete the stage. It's best to lay waste not only to ferocious dinosaurs, but crates, trees, boulders, cactus, and the like to reveal the occasional hidden items. Ultimately your best ally in the field is going to be your bracelet sensor. It harbors a 360-degree radar of sorts that can tell you the location of any unfriendly creatures that may be rampaging in the area.
"Dino Stalker" misfires slightly as a stand-alone first-person shooter, as it's not deep enough to warrant too much replay. But in connection with the Guncon2, the game outshines any recent competitors, tilting the scales slightly in its favor. Is this the deepest game ever? No. Is "Dino Stalker" fun? Yes. And that's what counts.