Primal Carnage (PC) Preview & Interview
On Thursday, October 11th, I attended Reverb Publishing’s showcase event in San Francisco. If you had been following my previews, I already took a look at a handful of the promising games due debuting shortly (or in the cases of Ravaged & Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken, already released) on PC. There was one game that I went into the event expecting to see a lot more of, which I know some folks out there have been asking about for a multitude of reasons. Primal Carnage is a first-person, team-based shooter pitting a team of mercenaries against…wait for it…dinosaurs. Not robot dinosaurs, not zombie dinosaurs, not time-traveling dinosaurs, not even generic Middle-Eastern terrorist dinosaurs. Real, legitimate dinosaurs. And yes, you can control the dinosaurs (including the T-Rex, if you’re so inclined). If you’re not as excited about this title as I am, then I would like to revoke your gamer card this instant.
Primal Carnage is a very meat-and-potatoes first-person, team-based shooter. The classes, at least on the mercenaries side, is familiar if you’ve played any FPS in the past decade, though the game puts its twist on conventionary characters to fit with the premise. For example, you have your soldier class (the commando) replete with assault rifle & grenade launcher attachment, your pyro guy (known as “The Pyromaniac”, fittingly enough), but the other classes have smart alternate weapons used to subdue dinosaurs in different ways. “The Pathfinder” class wields a shotgun but also has flares which can be used to blind any dinosaurs who come near. “The Scientist” can take out enemies with her sniper rifle or her dart gun. “The Trapper” uses a netgun which can trap smaller dinosaurs for a short amount of time (perfect for a knife kill) or otherwise slow down the larger dinos, making them easier targets for the team.
I know you all want to know about the dinosaurs, of course, so I’ll break it down for you. The raptor uses a bite & claw attack, as well as a pouncing attack which will kill your opponent if one of their teammates doesn’t push you off first. The dilophosaurus can bite an enemy but would rather use their venom spit ability to subdue a human. The pterandon is unique in its function as a support class. Though it can peck at enemies, the pterandon’s strength is flying in the air, calling out enemy locations with the “roar” mechanic & even swooping down & grabbing an opponent when timed right. One of the larger dinos in the game, the Carnotaurus, acts as a bull more than anything, with its powerful charge & headbutt attacks. Last, but certainly not least, the tyrannosaurus acts exactly as you’d expect it to- slow & largely immobile but devastatingly powerful. Stomp on humans, chew your enemies to bits, even give a rallying cry/roar to your teammates for an adrenaline bonus. It’s all possible if you are able to select that class (the game limits how many T-Rexes can be at play during each match).
Now that that’s out of the way, what can you expect from the game? Total carnage. The map I played took place in a jungle, complete with a human base waiting to be decimated by the dinosaur squad. Most of the match had the humans holed up inside the base area, picking off dinosaurs as they spawned nearby, though leading a group charge for the dinosaurs worked in getting the mercenaries to disperse quickly. It’s chaotic and silly, especially considering the insane premise, but the game itself is incredibly well-made and extremely polished. The build I tried out didn’t have any framerate issues or performance bugs. The controls were intuitive (again, as long as you’ve played an FPS in the past decade, you’ll catch on quickly), the shooting on the mercenary side felt arcade-y but satisfying, and the dinosaurs were all just a blast to play. Personally, I was drawn to the pterandon, considering its function as the de-facto “pacifist” of the group. Although I felt that flying was a bit clumsy (I had to use the crouch, sprint & jump buttons to get in the air, then use sprint & WASD to control my character in-flight), it paid off handsomely when I grabbed an opponent & dropped him to his death. Nothing more satisfying than conquering a steep learning curve.
I have to say, considering the premise, Primal Carnage would either succeed or fail miserably. As much as I (ironically) enjoy stuff like Jurassic: The Hunted and Dino D-Day, it still never quite felt natural to play as the dinosaur. Primal Carnage succeeds where those other titles faltered. You feel threatened as a human. You feel powerful (though not invincible) as a dinosaur. Best of all, the game itself is just a blast to play. It’s an old-school shooter at its finest- no fat, no pretenses, just fun.
Before I got a chance to play the game, I sat down briefly with Ted Lange, executive producer at Reverb Publishing, to get a short, quick interview concerning the game.
Vince Osorio: So first off, could you tell us a little about Primal Carnage? What was the thought process that went into making the game?
Ted Lange: We looked at other popular first-person shooters, with special consideration towards Team Deathmatch. We wanted to focus on making a solid team deathmatch game first and foremost. Many of us in the office are huge fans of dinosaurs, and we wanted to incorporate that into a game that was balanced and fun to play. We wanted to be able to make a game that we would want to play ourselves as gamers. We looked at games like Turok, which had a following back on the N64 but came back on current consoles & flopped. The team said “let’s make an awesome dinosaur experience, let’s make the dinosaurs fearsome towards humans, but most importantly, let’s make it awesome to play as a dinosaur”. It was a dream project for most of us involved.
Vince Osorio: You brought up Turok as a bad example of how to do a dinosaur game, and I know there are other people out there comparing your game to other titles with a similar premise, like Dino D-Day. How did you make sure that Primal Carnage stood outside of the pack?
Ted Lange: With Primal Carnage, we took a serious approach to the material. As opposed to other games in the genre that focus on mayhem & destruction, we wanted to make a game that was as realistic as the premise could be. Primal Carnage is a much more hardcore experience, as realistic as we wanted without sacrificing the fun.
Vince Osorio: Is there a specific story attached to set up the events that take place in Primal Carnage?
Ted Lange: Similar to Jurassic Park, we have an island inhabited by dinosaurs and mercanaries are sent in to squash the threat before it, though we didn’t focus on the set-up, as we wanted to focus on the gameplay first. We want to see these mercs take on the dinosaurs & we want to see the players have fun.
Vince Osorio: How does each dinosaur differentiate from one another & how does this compare to playing as a mercenary?
Ted Lange: The mercanaries need teamwork to survive. Each class is core to the group mechanic, you’ll have a pyro expert, a sniper, a commando class and so on. You will get picked apart easily when separated but can easily take down T-Rexes if everyone cooperates.
In comparison, there are a lot of nuances with each dinosaur class that isn’t immediately apparent. For example, the Pteranodon class can fly and use a roar technique, similar to the UAV killstreak perk in the Call of Duty games. The roar will call out a specific enemy (or group of enemies) and will direct your teammates to their location. Other dinosaurs have further depth to their abilities- the Dilophosaurus can aim and spit venom as a ranged attack, obscuring the enemy’s vision. There’s much more to the dinosaurs than at first glance.
Vince Osorio: What does the game itself consist of?
Ted Lange: Right now, Primal Carnage is a multiplayer-only game featuring only a Team Deathmatch mode. We wanted to get the beta out as soon as possible to let word of mouth spread, so we focused on making a great deathmatch mode first and releasing that to the public. As of right now, there are five maps playable, including a jungle, a shipyard/dock, and an abandoned airbase. The airbase in particular takes place at night, playing up the low visibility & terror of hunting dinosaurs in a different setting.
Vince Osorio: Do you have any plans for future DLC? Perhaps new maps, new modes or even new playable classes?
Ted Lange: We’re not talking about other modes quite yet but we’re excited to announce them when we have the chance! We have lots of ideas in store for the future, different maps & new gameplay modes. If you pick up a history book today & can see all of the different classes & species of dinosaurs that walked on the Earth, you should have an idea of what other dinosaurs we’d be looking to incorporate in the game down the line.
Thanks again to Ted Lange and everyone at Reverb Publishing for speaking with us. Primal Carnage is currently in beta for the PC, though you can gain access if you pre-order the title from the Primal Carnage website today.