Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis impressions

We check out Universal Interactive's upcoming Jurassic Park game.


Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis

We recently had a chance to play an early version of the upcoming Jurassic Park game for the Xbox. The title is being developed for both the Xbox and the PC by Blue Tongue, and it will be a departure from the more action-oriented games that have used the license. The game will charge you with creating a theme park from the ground up, similar to the RollerCoaster Tycoon and Zoo Tycoon series for the PC. While the developer is still adding polish to the game, at this point Jurassic Park seems to be coming along pretty well.

The game's structure is pretty straightforward. You start with the barest of essentials and build up every aspect of your fledgling park to five-star standards. Success will require careful management, as well as a little showmanship, since you'll have to appeal to a wide variety of visitors. One of the biggest challenges when you start out will be establishing your dinosaur population. At the beginning of the game, you'll have access to only one breed of dinosaur to dazzle your visitors with. However, once you hit your stride, you'll be able to take your hard-earned cash and buy DNA that will let you create 25 different species of the enormous creatures. While stocking your park with dinosaurs is cool, you'll have a lot more to worry about than that. You'll have to sweat every detail in your park, including building placement, souvenir prices, security, and even the weather, to name a few. Though this may sound daunting, you'll be helped out by the park staff, who will e-mail you reminders and suggestions.

While the core gameplay in Jurassic Park will obviously revolve around building and maintaining your own dinosaur park, Blue Tongue has also included some action sequences for those looking for a change of pace after a long session of building. These missions will put you in vehicles such as jeeps and helicopters and give you objectives ranging from mellow acts such as going around the park and taking pictures of the dinosaurs for points to more stressful acts like stopping a band of marauding carnivores from treating your guests like a buffet. The missions will offer a visual change of pace to the game as well by letting you roam around your 3D park.

Graphically, the game is coming together pretty well on the Xbox. Jurassic Park shows a range of detail in the environments and the assorted visitors to your park. The dinosaurs look quite good and lumber about convincingly. The trees and grass react to them and to the weather by swaying or getting brushed to one side. You'll also see some nice effects associated with weather in the game. Unfortunately for meticulous architects, the weather effects are more than just eye candy. Tornados may look cool, but you're likely to have a different opinion when one is tearing through your painstakingly crafted park, flinging people and dinosaurs everywhere. We did see a bit of pop-up and slowdown in the version we played, but the graphics engine isn't fully optimized yet.

So far, Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis is coming together pretty well. The gameplay has been scaled back enough from a hard-core PC simulation to keep it accessible, and the graphics are looking solid. Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis is scheduled to ship next year on the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and PC. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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