Early Access Investigations – Primal Carnage: Extinction

I have an adoration for dinosaurs that borders on the socially unacceptable. Thus, any game I can get my mitts on that sport a saurian cast in any form — and however tenuous — immediately wrangles a focus undivided. After discussing it with colleagues, we’re shocked and appalled how few dinosaur games there actually are. Like, real dinosaur games, not cameos. There are proxies and shorthand in Monster Hunter and the like, but I don’t need faux-beasts when the fossil records offer up the real deal. Leviathan constructs of tooth and bone and scale and feather.

There’s certainly serious pursuit of these prehistoric creatures happening, but we’re here to put a quick light on the semi-redux of 2012′s Primal Carnage. Extinction, currently in Early Access but accomplished and mechanically sound, continues the asymmetric man versus beast multiplayer established by its forebear. It’s a fast and uncomplicated game, and with fewer player-dependent variables than another high-profile multiplayer game, Extinction’s simplicity is one of the game’s strongest assets. You jump in, have a shoot or a chomp, jump out.

The humans side is relatively unchanged from the original game, with its five-strong roster of pathfinder, scientist, commando, pyro and trapper. They’re a good spread, covering the spectrum of range proficiencies. My anecdotal observations see an online gravitation to the Scientist, with her sniper rifle and tranquilizer gun, but each character does offer a distinct experience with little overlap. My personal preference is for the Pathfinder, but blame Robert Muldoon for that.

On the saurian side, it’s a good mix of the old and new. The Rex and Spinosaurus, in a strange homage to the most questionable of the Jurassic Park films, make for thundering set-pieces in the tropical heat of battle. Thankfully, the Rex remains the tougher of the two. Novaraptor and Oviraptor form the predator class, with Pteranodon and Tupandactyl the flyer duo. The spitters feature the classic Dilophosaur and Cryolophosaur, and Carnotaurus the only member of the bruiser class. The dinosaurs offer an even greater spread of discrete experiences, with the tyrant class being one of severe power and monstrous damage-soak. Raptors are done justice as leaping, slashing menaces that zip through the foliage at dangerous speeds, with the spitter class a slower but no less deadly support subset. The Carnotaur continues to be my personal pick, on account of its speed to stopping power ratio, as well as just being one of the most strangely menacing beasts of the prehistoric world.

The maps, as was the case in the original Primal Carnage, proffer some terrific locations. It really is a Crichtonian love-letter; big, dense jungles encroach on decrepit InGen-esque facilities, strewn with the detritus of an ancient world taking back what’s theirs. A fantastic example of where Extinction is going beyond the tight and somewhat constricted map design of the original is Free Roam mode’s Valley. A sprawling environment centered around a lake, fed by a waterfall and sporting a hidden cave complex, an outpost, dense peripheral forests and some interesting vales. So far, Valley only allows for the perennially open Free Roam mode, which doesn’t tally score or end in any conventional sense. It’s a nice place to stretch saurian legs and see which dinosaur does what. Valley is also a crucially important map because it offers a variety of encounter spaces that are on offer in other maps. Claustrophobic combat in the confines of the outpost or cave system, or open-range firefights around the lake or on the walls of the installations. It’s a good mix, and I’d like to see such a broad and encompassing map be slipped into the rotation of environments used in traditional modes like Get To The Chopper or Team Deathmatch.

And not to rain on another high-profile game again or anything, but there are plans afoot for the addition of Hunt Mode, whereby a team of humans must survive and take down a large raptor, with said beast charged with taking out the team. This sounds very much like my cup of tea, slugged quickly ‘neath the fronds of an Acanthophoenix before tracking the hoots and footfalls once more.

Being Early Access, there’s still some work to do. I’d like slight more chunk to the human weaponry. It might be due to hit detection not being registered with gouts of blood, but there needs to be more emphasis on unleashing a hail of dino-dropping lead. Extinction is a fast game for the humans, so having a little more weight to the combat encounters would be a perfect balance. It’s a touch too light at the moment for most weapons. A hefty rapport and deeper boom from firearms would not go astray.

Outside of this niggle, I’m pleased to report Primal Carnage: Extinction has become a go-to multiplayer game. This is far from the lazy developer hand-off it may appear to be, with new studio Circle 5 and Pub Games taking over from Lukewarm Media, doing right by the consumer. Everything feels far more polished and less like an exuberant Unreal mod. For a quick and dirty bit of fun, it gets a hearty thumbs. Being one of the more polished Early Access titles out there for multiplayer fans and dinosaur tragics, Primal Carnage: Extinction is an easy sell.