Death, Destruction and Dinosaurs: A Look at the ‘Primal Carnage’ Beta

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We’ve been covering the dinosaur-filled madness of Primal Carnage for a few months. Having recently been granted access to the beta, along with everyone else who has decided to pre-order, I’ve had some time to dig into the intricacies of this childhood fantasy turned indie game.

If you’ve dabbled in Team Fortress 2, or any similar style class-based shooter, you already understand approximately how the humans control. Each character tends to have two different types of weapons unique to their class. There’s the Commando, your basic machine-gun wielding soldier, and the damage powerhouse of the Pyro, but there’s also support classes if that’s your thing. Trappers can shoot nets, restricting larger enemies and completely incapacitating smaller foes, while the Pathfinder can disrupt a dinosaur’s vision with flares. Overall, there’s a good bit of variety so far, and the classes mesh well together. Humans benefit greatly from sticking together, as a lone player is at an extreme disadvantage even against a single dinosaur.

The dinosaurs stray more from the norm. Controlled from a third-person perspective, they take a bit more getting used to. Unlike the humans, which mostly control the same, the dinosaurs vary greatly and tend to have extreme advantages and disadvantages. The Tyrannosaurus can “one shot” anyone if he gets close enough, but his size makes navigating some maps very difficult and a coordinated group of a few humans can easily run circles around him. Likewise, the Teranodon can swoop down from dizzying heights to grab a human and seconds later drop him to his death, but getting caught on the ground is guaranteed death. The rest of the ranks are filled by the Novaraptor, Dilophosaurus, and Carnotaurus, each of which control similarly, but vary in size.

What makes the game so fun is this dichotomy between the sides. Unlike many other class-based shooters, the sides aren’t equal. It end’s up more like the Left 4 Dead series, but without the excess zombies. In a one-on-one fight, the dinosaurs have the clear advantage, with most having a way to quickly eliminate enemies. But, if a lone Raptor comes up against even two humans, he’s probably done for. It encourages team play on both sides, but in different ways. Humans benefit from sticking together in a tight group, while dinosaurs benefit from surrounding and attacking from everywhere.

The visuals are nothing mind-blowing, but they do what they need to do. Each class, on both sides, has their own unique color palate, making them easily identifiable from a distance. Sound design follows suit, and is at times quite impressive. Each dinosaur tends to have a unique sound it makes while attacking, and players will quickly learn these ques. Tension can build to a surprising crescendo while sprinting through jungle environments looking for any allies to watch your back.

Content-wise, there still isn’t that much, but it’s difficult to gauge what the final product will entail with the $14.99 price. Game types are limited to the expected team deathmatch, and there are only three maps. That being said, each map seems pretty balanced. The utility base has a great set of structures dead center in the map that the humans can exploit, but a coordinated group can lose itself completely in the surrounding forest. Maps go on to include docks and an air base, and each has multiple locations where either side can thrive.

Primal Carnage is an odd game, but what matters is it knows exactly what it wants to be. Lukewarm Media appears to have had a single vision, and they’re executing it quite well. The game is quick and easy to get into, and a hell of a good time as well. I can’t wait to see what it develops into for release.

Chris is an odd sort of thing from the wilds of central Pennsylvania. You can hit him up on Twitter under @chrishauge, PSN under faceless_page, or Xbox Live under teh sledge.