Dino Crisis: Dino Types

Let’s talk about the dinosaurs a bit. They are, after all, the alleged focus of the game. I’ve encountered three types so far (one of which isn’t technically a dinosaur), and Wikipedia tells me there are only two others to be seen.

The first and most common type is the velociraptor. Or, well, the thing that corresponds to the popular post-Jurassic Park conception of the velociraptor: they’re about human-sized, more like Deinonychus, and lack feathers. I’ve always kind of wondered about Spielberg’s decision to make velociraptors larger in order to make them scarier, and yet leave in the dialogue about how physically unimposing they seem and how deceptive that is. The featherlessness is easier to excuse: firm evidence for feathers has only been around for a few years now, so you can’t really blame a game made in 1999 (or a movie made in 1993) for getting it wrong. If it can truly be said to be wrong: these creatures could simply not be velociraptors at all. It’s not as if they’re authoritatively identified in the game. I think of them as velociraptors because I’m clearly meant to — as much as this game is a blatant imitation of Resident Evil, it’s also a blatant imitation of Jurassic Park — but the central characters here are soldiers, not paleontologists. No one was expecting them to encounter dinosaurs when they embarked on the mission. (Unless there’s a plot twist coming up where their commanding officer turns out to be secretly in league with the dinosaurs or something.)

Anyway, velociraptors are the basic grunts in this game. You find them wandering in corridors or sleeping in rooms, sometimes in groups. Other creatures can also be identified in terms of their standard videogame roles. Pteranodons are the obligatory flying unit, capable of lifting you off the ground and dropping you like an eagle trying to crack a tortoise. There’s at least one tyrannosaurus, which seems to fill the role of recurring boss. I’ve only encountered it once so far, when it interrupted a cutscene by smashing its massive head through a second-floor plate glass window, and at the end of that encounter, it was clear that I had driven it off rather than killed it.

The two types I have yet to encounter — compsognathus and therizinosaurus, apparently — seem to fill other standard niches. Compsognathus is most familiar as the tiny guys at the beginning of Jurassic Park 2 that seemed more like what the velociraptors were supposed to have been than the velociraptors were. So there’s your small, annoying, and hard-to-hit type. Therizinosaurus — a singularly freaky-looking species, to judge by pictures online — are probably the high-level grunts, the replacement for velociraptors when you’re far enough into the game that they don’t seem threatening any more. I’m expecting this mainly because of the way that Resident Evil replaced its standard zombies with tougher, faster, freakier-looking zombies halfway through.

Presumably the sequels introduce more species, filling other familiar roles. One imagines a water level where you’re menaced by a plesiosaur. Triceratops seems like a natural for the part of first-level boss that charges at you and is rendered temporarily vulnerable when it smacks into a wall. Unfortunately, the genre more or less demands that dinosaurs have to be monsters, and that makes it difficult to use the less threatening herbivores. For example, I’ve recently developed a certain fondness for the stegosaurus, having found them enchanting in Evolution. (They were the first really large creature you could develop, taking up immense quantities of space to just drift about lazily, grazing.) But it’s hard to imagine a convincing stegosaurus assault, because the only weapon they have is the thagomizer, which is on the wrong end to be used offensively.

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