Imagine a team shooter with current-gen, bleeding edge graphics, all the perks, level ups and unlocks that are common to these games, a plethora of modes and match types, and an arsenal of awesome weapons. Now, to really get your pulse pounding, imagine one of the teams was made up not of aliens or Russians or Nazis, but dinosaurs. Spry raptors, lumbering Tyrannosaurs, gliding predators, each one a scaled nightmare able to inflict its own brand of reptilian carnage on the human squad.
Hopefully, someday, someone will make that game. In the meantime, we have Primal Carnage: Extinction. It does have that basic, almost unassailably great core idea of a team shooter of humans fighting dinosaurs, but it pretty badly bungles just about every aspect of the execution.
Primal Carnage: Extinction looks like an early last-gen game, replete with abundant texture pop in and clipping issues. Sometimes they are amusing -- a Tyrannosaur’s head clipping through a wall provides an easy target -- but mostly the clipping, texture, and frame rate problems just contribute to the game feeling low-rent and half-finished. The level design isn’t bad, but up close the textures are fairly ugly and blocky.
Coming in even worse is the game’s physics. Humans and dinosaurs alike glide and float across the ground like rollerbladers with no feeling of weight, mass, or contact with the environment. Swooping and diving as one of the flying dinos feels the best, but a horrible camera -- all dinosaurs are controlled in third person -- takes a big, Tyrannosaurus-sized bite out of the fun of playing the “king” of reptiles.
Whatever shallow joy there is in Primal Carnage: Extinction comes from playing as a dinosaur, especially one of the wily and quick little raptors that sacrifice killing power for agility. However, when there is no lock-on targeting, that sacrifice turns reality to theory as the vast majority of raptor leaps at a victim end in embarrassing misses, and a frantic, leaping searches to hunt down where the humans have moved to. If real dinosaur movements had been this imprecise, the species would have died out ages earlier. The larger dinosaurs, on the other hand, trade nothing to become impenetrable bullet, flame-thrower, sniper rifle and/or shotgun sponges, which is why it’s not much fun playing as a puny human armed only with a semi-automatic rifle. The odds are just not in their favor.
There are only a few modes: team deathmatch with up to 30 players, an objective-based mode called Get to the Chopper, and wave based co-op survival mode featuring brain dead A.I. dinosaurs. Getting into even a moderate 5v5 team deathmatch is a waiting game, as the servers are not exactly overflowing with shooter fans anxious to ditch Battlefront or Black Ops 3. The game is constantly forced to rebalance the teams, since no one in their right mind wants to play on the human squad.
All the bad news aside, there are brief moments of pleasure to be had in Primal Carnage: Extinction, as long as expectations and standards are dialed way down. Converging on a pair of humans as part of a small pack of raptors is cool, even as the enjoyment is snatched away by the complete absence of any guilty, visceral satisfaction upon making a kill. Watching a fellow Tyrannosaur snatching up a victim and shaking him like a ragdoll is also fun.
Over and over, you think: people fighting dinosaurs! Awesome, right?! Then you come back to the reality of Primal Carnage: Extinction and kind of wish it was just an idea, because in your head it’s all shadowy, mist-filled jungles, stealthy dinosaurs, and soldiers with high-tech equipment and copious amounts of dread, waiting to kill or be killed. Suddenly the raptor’s head clips awkwardly through the tree and you remember where you are what you’re doing: playing a pretty mediocre video game version of a great idea.