By Nathan Grayson on November 15th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.
Dinosaurs vs humans with high-powered modern weaponry. It’s a tale as old as time – or at least Jurassic Park. Games, though, have struggled desperately to strike a proper balance between man and his planet-populating predecessor, but to little avail. So then, can Lukewarm’s Primal Carnage finally break the lukewarm streak kicked off by the likes of Dino D-Day and Orion: Dino Beatdown? Here’s wot I think.
I am a Pteranodon, and I am in love.
I still remember the first time I saw you. The glint of your sniper rifle’s scope caught my eye as I was soaring overhead, and even in that moment of total happenstance, I could feel a certain kinship. Maybe we’d fallen for each other in a previous life. Or perhaps it was simply meant to be, and this was Fate’s way of planting a spark between us – one that would explode into an all-consuming chemical ember without so much as a warning. Or, most likely, it was because one of my Novaraptor teammates pounced on your back seconds later and began using you as a scream-prone scratching post, and I was reminded of somebody: myself.
We’re not so different, you and I. Sure, I might weave between trees on webby, membranous wings while your deft Scientist hands squeeze off round-after-round into a hungry T-Rex, but in truth, we’re both outsiders. Loners. Losers. Castaways. Our role on this battlefield of man and prehistoric beast is nebulous at best, but that leaves our place in the un-ending battle that is life all too clear. We are forever intertwined. To the bitter end.
Don’t misunderstand: I’m not trying to downplay your formidable accomplishments. I’ve seen you sleep dart a hard-charging Carnotaurus until it was nearly out on its feet and then flee to higher ground, and that rifle of yours packs a seriously mean punch. But let’s not fool ourselves: as soon as anything takes away your range, it’s as though they’ve – to drop into Pteranodon parlance – clipped your wings. Yes, we invented that one. Bet you didn’t know that, did you?
Honestly, though, it’d be fine if you could ever get a little elbow room. But sadly, there’s rarely a chance for that. Big, chaotic skirmishes – oddly enough – tend to bunch up in one portion of fairly large, 16 vs 16 maps in a hurry, and a strange lack of accessible high ground means you have to get in too close for comfort. Speaking of, Novaraptor says he’s sorry. He didn’t mean anything by it. It wasn’t personal. He was just doing his job, and you were doing yours. I hope this unpleasant incident won’t affect our relationship going forward.
But then, I’m hardly any better. Sure, I can emit a roar that clues my teammates in to even the craftiest of humans’ locations, but they rarely ever need me for that. The point of these “deathmatches” – as your species has oh-so-quaintly named them – is to kill fastest and fiercest. Everyone immediately searches for and finds each other. And sure, it’s over-the-top fun in a mindless sort of way, but what do tactically inclined dinos like me even contribute? Much as I hate to say it, I’m basically only here for my stunningly cool dino-looks – even though I, like all of my compatriots and foes, bring some pretty unique skills to the table.
To be sure, you and I have been placed on two interestingly diverse teams, but it doesn’t feel like the goal we’re trying to accomplish really takes advantage of that. When I swoop in and – after missing a few times or running into a tree – scoop up some flamethrower-wielding jerk and drop him to his skull-shattering death, I want it to matter. But why should it when T-Rexes can quickly gobble him up, or raptors can simply leap right on top of him without all this time-consuming flying and positioning nonsense? (I apologize for talking about your childhood best friend like this, but I needed an example.)
Decent-ish class balance all around means I’m hardly a sitting duck, but I can’t help but feel semi-superfluous most of the time. As is, the best combat classes – assault-rifle-wielding commandos, shotgun-toting pathfinders, high-flying raptors, damage-sponging T-Rexes, etc – hog all the glory more often than not. And sure, supports like you, me, and the acid-spitting, blindness-inducing Dilophosaurus (also the name of my upcoming screenplay) occasionally pitch in, but we’re not really built for wild brawls. I mean, my bones are hollow. I make love - not war. Also, ear-piercing terror bellows.
Maybe if we had some more varied objectives, things would be different for, well, everyone. What if, for instance, your pitiful species had to focus on sneaking to some kind of escape point while mine feverishly attempted to pick up your trail of blood and tears? Then, my ability to spot you would actually be useful, as would your species’ penchant for all sorts of diversionary blinding flares and nets. Or heck, even dinos vs dinos, free-for-all, or some kind of objective-based thing (which is allegedly on the way as free DLC) would help immensely. All the tools are here to give us something truly interesting and unique to do, but the pieces just haven’t quite clicked into place yet.
Paleontologists speculate that I have a large brain. Violence for violence’s sake, then, will only sustain me for so long. But at this point, that’s all there is. XP-based unlocks are – depending on who you talk to - thankfully not in the picture, but an often strategy free team deathmatch just isn’t enough to keep me motivated. And while the interplay between the five breeds of dino and five brutish broods of human definitely creates lasting appeal beyond that of a truly vanilla deathmatch, I must confess that I sometimes have trouble stirring from my human skin cot in the mornings. It’s just, like, why even bother, right? I’m sure you can identify. In truth, the chance of feeling your cold scope caress my scaly flesh from afar is all that keeps me going.
It’s in those perfect moments when everything clicks, though, that I remember just how much fun there is to be had in this crazy walk of life we’ve chosen – fleeting and insubstantial though that fun might be. You’ve found a rare spot that suits both your range and vantage point, and you’re making my friends re-extinct like an asteroid given sultry, seductive lips. Circling overhead, I take notice of your handiwork and sigh with a mix of bliss and lovelorn wistfulness. Then we lock eyes. Who will act first, I wonder? Both our teams are too far away to come to our respective rescues. It’s just you and me. You take aim. I swoop, beams of sun scattering in my wake. War, death, and the implausibility of a millions-of-years extinct race of giant lizards suddenly returning surround us on all sides, but in this moment, we are alive.