The internet seems obsessed with preparing for an oncoming zombie or robot apocalypse. Neither of these has ever really concerned me that much: reanimating corpses in a style described by most zombie media seems unlikely at best (and surely they’d succumb to decomposition before becoming much of a threat?) and AI research doesn’t seem to be getting to a point where any malevolent intent is on the cards.
Dinosaurs, however, have been a concern ever since I first saw Jurassic Park at the worryingly tender age of six. The film, coupled with my father’s decision to roar in an echoing tunnel immediately after the film, all but convinced me that dinosaurs posed a real and credible threat: a view that I hold to this day.
Previously I’ve never been able to really prepare for this inevitable dinosaur apocalypse, with any attempts to replicate dinosaurs only hastening my demise at their claws, while games like Dino Crisis and the Jurassic Park titles simply don’t provide the kind of realism I require.
Despite being set on an alien world filled with species that bear a remarkable resemblance to terrestrial dinosaurs, conveniently sidestepping any issues about dinosaurs escaping into society, Dinosaur Hunter HD does feel like it’s got the kind of detail needed to prepare for our eventual destruction by these cold blooded monsters.
Unfortunately the alien world the game transports you to is pretty much unspoiled, with you hunting these prehistoric beasts through jungle and forest landscapes. While this doesn’t give you any preparation for the day that dinosaur armies overrun the world’s cities, it’s at least vaguely helpful if you manage to escape into the wilderness.
You start out taking on herbivores, which obviously don’t pose much of a threat. Big, lumbering beasts like Stegosauruses and Ankylosauruses are easy pickings at the beginning, while Parasaurolophuses have the pace to easily outrun your attempted take-downs, although they won’t try and take a chunk out of your arm even when threatened. Obviously all of this is fine training for hunting meat in a dinosaur dominated dystopia: a useful survival skill.
However, avoiding carnivores is probably the most crucial ability you’ll need to learn, and it’s here that my survival skills really fall short of the level required to have any hope of living through the dinosaur revolution. Firing shots from your trusty rifle sends herbivores running, but draws carnivores in with unerring accuracy, leading to some thoroughly terrifying moments when an open jawed monster is suddenly bearing down on you.
Given that it seems carnivores have a taste for my apparently delicious flesh, and the fact that I am a terrible shot when put under pretty much any pressure, probably the most important lesson the game has imparted on me is to avoid carnivores at all costs. One of the easiest ways to do this is by heading for terrain that they can’t get onto, such as tall, rocky outcrops. While a relatively simple solution, it’s not really all that practical if you want to actually go anywhere, something fairly crucial in the hunting of dinosaurs.
Simpler than this is to avoid making too much noise. Unfortunately the game equips you with an extremely loud rifle at first, although you can save up and buy a silent crossbow. The major downside here is that it costs a lot to buy this, at least in the context of the game.
While $250 probably wouldn’t present me too much of an issue in my dinosaur apocalypse scenario, assuming that I’d even pay for it after the collapse of society, it’s more of an issue when I only earn about fifteen to thirty dollars from a hunt. This money isn’t just for weapons either, it also has to be split between gadgets, which help your hunt down more dinosaurs, and hunting licenses, which allow you to place your worthy foes in a trophy room atop a Helicarrier-like base floating in the sky.
Aside from attempting to run fruitlessly away from those dastardly carnivores, hunting can be an odd affair. The first time I played the game I actually thought it was buggy, as there wasn’t a dinosaur in sight, no matter how hard I searched. However, once I figured out certain behavioural patterns (pretty much everything is drawn towards watering holes, for example) then I was able to at least spot dinos, even if it took a little while longer to actually take them out.
It’s actually fairly impressive how factors like wind direction play into how easily your prey can detect you, as do the more obvious elements of sight and sound. Herbivores won’t only bolt if you let off a shot, they’ll also flee if you simply draw their attention. These are all valuable skills that will obviously come in handy when Wayne Knight kills the power and unleashes raptors on an unsuspecting world, although I suspect they’ll probably have humanity firmly crushed before we get a chance to react; once they can open doors what hope do we have?
If you care about graphics in your apocalyptic survival guides then Dinosaur Hunter is actually better than I was expecting. It’s certainly not going to set the world alight, and the rock textures are absolutely awful close up, but it’s got some nice environmental effects and a fairly impressive draw distance. The only real problem it has is that while distant objects don’t actually pop in, they do seem to shift when looking at them through your zoom lens. The number of times I was convinced there was something shifting through the undergrowth only to realise it was a graphical glitch was frustratingly high, and became a near constant source of irritation.
Dinosaur Hunter HD sits at an odd intersection. If you’re playing it as a game then it’s hard to recommend. While I certainly got a huge sense of achievement when I took down my prey, particularly the first time I took down a carnivore, it was never something I wanted to play for hours on end, and hunts can take too long to be good for a quick blast of something. On top of that the speed and ferocity with which carnivores will hunt you down massively unbalances the game, even if you can avoid them with care.
However, while I’ve never been hunting in the real world, it’s hard to fault the title as a hunting simulator. It certainly feels realistic enough, even with its futuristic setting. As a training tool for the impending dinosaur apocalypse it serves its purpose well too, and leaves me wondering if there’s some way to craft a highly selective meteorite strike.
- Release Date:10/09/13