"This isn't a joke you idiot! We were just attacked by a big-ass lizard!" says Dino Crisis femme fatale, Regina, to her computer-expert cohort, Rick, in one of the pivotal opening moments of Capcom's newest survival-horror game.
Now that I've finally gotten my funky little hands on a copy of Dino Crisis, I can tell you that this game, seemingly a Resident Evil "clone," makes several improvements over the original survival-horror saga. As you might know, the backgrounds in Dino Crisis are fully polygonal, as opposed to the prerendered CG stills in Resident Evil. Perhaps it took Capcom all this time to get up to speed with the PlayStation hardware, but this makes all the difference in the world. Despite being completely 3D, the game still moves at the same speed as its brethren without any slowdown. The game's graphics are also very sharp and appear to be running in medium- to hi-resolution. Character models are very well done with excellent light-source effects that give Regina (the lead character) and crew a very solid feel. The use of polygonal backgrounds also allows the game to enhance the feeling of fear even more than Resident Evil. For example, if you're walking down a hallway from a typical RE'ish perspective, it becomes even more tense when the camera angle suddenly pivots to an overhead perspective or swings to a worms-eye-view. Basically, you have to see this game in action to appreciate the subtleties.
Since the game is completely 3D, there is less to anticipate, as in Resident Evil, since everything looks uniform. In Resident Evil you'd be able to tell what to look out for since the polygonal details would stick out from the prerendered backgrounds. In Dino Crisis, you really have to be on the lookout for anything and everything. The camera angles are vintage RE, designed to provide the maximum tension possible. If that weren't enough, the soundtrack is designed to provide chills and thrills as well. The simple act of walking down a hallway becomes a terrifying exercise in masochism as violins start playing. If you're not too chicken, this is one game best played in the dark.
For those of you wanting to know about the meatier aspects of Dino Crisis (and things do get meaty), bear in mind that these aren't retarded, brain-dead zombies shuffling around moronically anymore. These are hungry velociraptors and Tyrannosaurs stomping around the island as Regina searches for the elusive Dr. Kirk. Yes indeed. No longer are you creeped out by diseased mutants crawling all over the place like some bad B movie. Now you're getting the beejeezus scared out of you as ultra-hungry dinosaurs jump out from every possible hiding place, bent on making themselves a nice Regina burger.
The details in Dino Crisis are excellent too. As Regina takes a little damage, she begins to hold her side, while limping a bit. If she takes a lot of damage she'll pathetically stagger around. She'll also drip blood on the floor, adding to the realism in Dino Crisis. Fortunately there are plenty of power-ups (health kits, weapons, etc.), and an accessory customization system similar to the one in Parasite Eve. Other things like head tracking, auto aiming, and a quick 180-degree turn sort out any combat-oriented complaints from the RE series as well. Interestingly, analog support does not seem to be featured, although Dual Shock action is intact. Loading times are also severely reduced because the polygonal environment takes less memory to render.
So, from the looks of things, it appears as if Capcom has another winner on its hands. With Oni-Musha, RE: Nemesis and RE: Code Veronica on the horizon, Capcom might have this genre all to itself. While games like Carrier, Blue Stinger, and Alone In the Dark 4 will try to pierce the limelight with similar offerings, for the time being, it looks as though Capcom is king of the hill.