Primal Carnage preview

By Ozzie Mejia, Aug 13, 2012 12:00pm PDT

There are numerous class-based shooters available in the gaming landscape. So far, none of them feature playable dinosaurs. Indie developer Lukewarm Media looks to change that with Primal Carnage, an online multiplayer class-based shooter that pits a team of human mercenaries against a team of dinosaurs.

A military-controlled island is the setting for Primal Carnage's team deathmatch. Players will choose between five human classes or five dinosaur classes, though the production team notes that the game will shuffle players between human and dinosaur after a certain number of matches. Humans consist of Commando, Pathfinder, Trapper, Pyro, and Scientist, while dinosaurs are comprised of the T-Rex, Raptor, Dilophosaurus, Pteranodon, and Compsognathus. The humans are controlled in a first-person view, while the dinosaurs are seen through a third-person perspective.

Each class has its own distinct advantages. The Trapper, for instance, is the only class that can effectively center his offense around melee attacks, since any smaller dinosaur caught in his Netgun is susceptible to a one-hit knife kill. Raptors are nimble enough to navigate platforms effectively and use the full map to their advantage. Pteranodons are the only class that fly -- a valuable skill, since many FPS human players don't tend to look up for enemies. Scientists are armed with a sniper rifle and, while snipers are mostly unable to camp due to all the chaos around them, sniper rifle bullets do not travel, leading to instant hits. Players are encouraged to try out every class and find the human and dinosaur class that suits their style best.

In addition to each class feeling distinctively individual, the collective human and dinosaur teams feel very different from one another. Humans need to rely on their weaponry, while dinosaurs need to rely on their predatory instincts. Humans must use their ammo effectively and their melee attacks defensively. Dinosaurs, on the other hand, have a stamina meter that allows them to unleash their attacks. Running out of stamina at the wrong time can turn these giant lizards into sitting ducks.

Primal Carnage's fun mostly comes from the number of ways to dispatch opponents. While humans can use standard issue weaponry, there's also room for creativity. For example, if a Pyro is swarmed by a group of Raptors, he can toss down a sacrificial grenade and take the dinos down with him. Raptors can use their platforming skills to jump atop rooftops and pounce through rooftop class to pounce on unsuspecting humans. Pteranodons can pick up hapless humans and, rather than simply drop them to their death, can simply opt to leave them atop a tall building with no means of escape other than a suicidal leap.

As with many class-based shooters, working as a cohesive unit is essential in Primal Carnage. Humans can use their diminutive stature for stealth and gang up on unsuspecting T-Rexes. On the other hand, T-Rexes can cause a lot of damage, but its teammates need to occupy the humans long enough to allow the slow and lumbering beast to wreak havoc. Pteranodons can take to the sky and scout out enemy locations to send to its teammates, while the Pathfinder can use his flares to light up dark areas for his human brethren. Teammates also need to watch each other's backs during recovery phases. Dinosaurs can feast on dino corpses for health while humans can open med kits, but they're both lengthy processes, so they'll need cover from teammates in order to avoid enemy attacks.

While Primal Carnage is currently in a pre-beta state, the game looked surprisingly polished. The action was solid and the ragdoll physics were functional and highly entertaining. The environments were gorgeous and also added a deep sense of immersion. Raptors that attempted to be stealthy would often create a rustling in the nearby foliage, which gave humans plenty of reason to sweat. Meanwhile, an approaching T-Rex would stomp loudly, creating sound cues that would reach across the map and lead to panic amongst the humans.

While clashes are violent affairs, they aren't gory ones. Lukewarm Media has opted to focus more on ragdoll physics over intense gore and the result is far more enjoyable. Even without blood, there's still immense satisfaction to be had watching a Dilophosaurus barrel into a human at full speed and send it flying across the map. Likewise, it's a lot of fun to watch a T-Rex pick up a human with its teeth and toss it into the air before catching it in its enormous jaws.

Team Deathmatch is the only game mode currently available, but the Primal Carnage team pledges that the game will receive long-term post-release support and DLC. The team is already looking into adding more maps and possible new game modes for the future. The Primal Carnage forums are filling up with suggestions and Lukewarm Media says that they'll take all of their community's suggestions to heart.

Primal Carnage is preparing to enter its beta phase, with the full game expected to be ready for a Q4 2012 release.

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