Hands-onDino Stalker

We check out a playable version of Capcom's dino shooter.

Dino Stalker, the third installment in Capcom's Gun Survivor line, has arrived in our offices in a fairly complete form. Judging from what we've played so far, we're inclined to believe that Dino Stalker for the PlayStation 2 won't turn out half bad. Like its predecessor, Gun Survivor 2, the game blends the mechanics of arcade light-gun games with the free-roaming controls of a first-person shooter, and the result seems to make a lot of sense. The build we saw didn't have functional Guncon2 support, but Capcom officials assured us that unlike the US release of the original Gun Survivor game, Dino Stalker will feature full light-gun support and a competent control scheme for the standard PlayStation 2 controller.

The game starts out during World War II, with your character--an American airman by the name of Mike Wired--engaged in a series of intense dogfights over the Atlantic. But then suddenly, Mike's plane gets shot down, and he finds himself free-falling. Then, mid-fall, both time and space seem to start melting away (depicted by signal interference and noise on the screen), and Mike finds himself surrounded by pteranodons. The FMV then ends, and you start the game. The story behind it all involves secret government experiments, temporal and dimensional shifts, and flesh-eating lizards. We wouldn't dare spoil it any further.

On the PS2 controller, the gun's aim function is mapped to the right stick, while the left stick makes you move around. The R1 button lets you shoot, while the X button reloads your gun. Circle and square are used to swap weapons, and triangle puts you in sniper mode--which grants you a zoomed-in view with your default weapon. The L2 and R2 buttons, finally, are used to sidestep. We're not too sure how these controls will be mapped to the Guncon2, but if they're anywhere near as functional as they are on the standard controller, everything should be cool.

A bunch of new gameplay elements were added to the series for Dino Stalker, and it feels a lot more playable than its predecessors as a result. The assist with the game's free-roaming nature, there's an onscreen radar that alerts you to the presence of enemies from all sides. Given that you'll be fighting enemies on the ground, in the sea, and in the air, you can imagine how useful this is. The radar, in combination with the way that the camera pans automatically when you're attacked from above, makes the madness pretty easy to cope with. You're also able to switch weapons on the fly, though you can only carry one weapon aside from your regular gun. Judging from what we've seen in this build of the game, though, weapons are scattered all over the place, so you'll usually have your pick of what to wield. We've seen a whole bunch of weapons in the short amount of time we've spent with the game, and the arsenal seems quite varied--it includes everything from rocket launchers, shotguns, and grenade launchers to shockwave cannons, chain lasers, and dematerializers. The chain laser cannon is particularly neat--like those chain lightning spells popular in fantasy RPGs, its bolts will jump from one enemy to the next if they're grouped close enough together.

The enemies you'll be shooting at are just as varied. In the four or five levels we played, we encountered pteranodons, velociraptors, Loch Ness-monster-looking creatures, devil-horned T-rexes, two-legged smallish lizards, and more. One variant of the red-crested, two-legged dinosaur--a wily, greenish one--seemed to grab items from the ground and run off with them. It's quite funny.

Overall, Dino Stalker seems like it could be quite a bit fun, though we really wish we could get it running with our Guncon2 at this point. We'll have more information as it becomes available. Dino Stalker is currently scheduled to hit stores in mid-September.

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