Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter HD makes the act of hunting dinosaurs boring, tedious, and sad.
Let that sink in for a second. Hunting Dinosaurs. The huge thunder lizards that ruled the world 65 millions years ago. Boring. Tedious. Sad. The words just don't fit together. And yet, here they are, not only in the same sentence, but used to describe what, as an activity, should be the complete opposite.
Having played other hunting games, I didn't expect much narrative besides “Go Hunt,” and in that regards, Carnivores didn't disappoint. Your nameless, faceless hunter is given the opportunity to hunt a handful of dinosaurs on a few select wildlife ranges. Whoever you are hunting for offers points and currency for your kills based on the weight of the reptile and the number of shots it took to bring it down. Your point total determines which ranges you have access to, and your on-hand cash determines your weapon selection and which bonuses you are able to have active during every hunt.
The hunt itself is where this whole thing starts its downhill journey. Selecting which range you would like to hunt in, you're dropped off for your first hunt at a randomly determined location with nothing but your rifle and your Gadget. That's right, your Gadget. A cross between an early Palm Pilot and a camcorder, the Gadget serves as your map, information display, and occasional monocular.
Now, if you are lucky, you've been dropped off close to something with a bit of elevation so you can get a good lay of the land. But you're not lucky. I mean, you're playing Carnivores. So chances are, you're in the middle of a flat grassy area, which may or may not be populated with various forms of larger vegetation. So you pull out your Gadget and look around. Nothing for about 200m out. Picking a direction you move forward.
After a few steps you realize that your hunter moves like he's walking through a morass, each step a slow, plodding mess. Try to run, and you find out there little difference between 2 and 2 1/2 miles per hour. Try to jump, and, well you might as well just stand up on your tip toes for all the height you gain. With movement being such an important part of the hunt, you'll also be pleased to know that each and every step you take sounds like it's on a bed of dry leaves that were laid over rice paper. As a hunter, this immediately put you at a tremendous disadvantage. As a dinosaur hunter, facing 4+ ton beasts whose AI is programmed to run like a cheetah with a tail on fire whenever they are spooked, you are doomed to an awful lot of uneventful walking and long distance pot shots.
Thankfully, those long distance pot shots are semi-accurate. Your default rifle fires three bullets before needing a reload, but your entire ammo store for the trip only numbers into the teens. Depending on shot selection, whether or not you are hitting the critical parts (i.e. heart and lungs, or the eyes according to one errant tool tip) of the dino, this can lead to a lot of short trips. Bonuses, like highlighting the critical areas, or masking your scent, can help lengthen these go rounds, but they also subtract from your score, leaving your choice to one of quantity or quality. Combine this with the low cash amount rewarded for actual kills, and you are looking at a grind to reach any of the TWO other weapons (a crossbow, and a sniper rifle).
Once you do manage to drop a dinosaur, which, again, depending on where you are dropped may take anywhere from 5-10 minutes of aimless wandering, confirming the kill is as simple as getting close to it and marking it with your Gadget. Should you also have activated that particular dinosaur for trophy collection, you can also use this time to call in a motorized, flying, dinosaur collect'n 'copter (it doesn't ever specify it's name, but that's what I've taken to calling it, because it sounds sufficiently hunt-y) to take your kill away for an appointment with the taxidermist. Up to eighteen kills can be stuffed and mounted in your specialized trophy room. So... yee-haw.
The first two ranges are populated with Stegosaurs and Ankylosaurs, and it's not until the equally banal third range where you meet your first carnivore. You are warned upon entering that they are around, and that gun shots can be major attractors if they are within ear shot. My first time through, I walked about 15 to 20 feet, lifted my Gadget to take a look around, and was immediately set upon by stomping feet. I managed to swing my view around just in time to see the closing form of the crimson-colored Ceratosaurus. Rather then trying to kill it, I decided to just see what would happen.
NOTHING HAPPENED. It got to me, and the screen faded to black. Are you kidding me? Not even a death animation, or even a silly eating animation! In a game called Carnivores, a Carnivore isn't shown doing anything carnivorous. Laughing back tears, I pressed on and bagged myself a Cera.
By the time you meet your first animationless carnivore, you have seen at least three other dinosaurs. Counting Ceratosaurus, you have seen exactly 66% of the dinosaurs on offer in Carnivores. It's at this point, this realization that things are not going to get any better, that I can't even watch a crudely animated dinosaur devour me, that I put the controller down.
What have we covered so far? Needing to grind for advancement - Boring, check. Poor movement - Tedious, check. Lack of dinosaurs and dinosaur related animations integral to any kind of experience - Sad, check. That about covers everything I mentioned in the beginning... am I missing anything... oh yeah...
The lack of option to invert the Y-axis. Yes, I am one of those monsters of video gaming that likes his gun controls inverted, and the utter inability to change a simple scheme caused many errant shots and wasted movements. The lack of choice, for something this simple, in a first person shooter at the end of 2013 is beyond me. Silly detail for those who don't invert (YOU are the real monsters) but for those that do, this alone might be a game breaker. Well, if the rest of the game weren't already.
Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter HD is a real mess. I didn't pay for this, so I don't feel like I have lost anything other then time, but I feel actual sorrow for the people that have. Avoid this like an extinction-level meteor.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!