Blue Stinger is the Dreamcast's first foray into the recently vital "survival horror" genre of games, but it strays rather far from the formula established by Resident Evil. While a solid-enough concept, Blue Stinger is lacking in the execution department. Those expecting anything along the lines of Resident Evil are likely to be disappointed.
A huge meteorite crashes in the Yucatan peninsula, beginning the nuclear winter that drives the dinosaurs to extinction and paves the way for mammalian life. 65 million years later, in the year 2001, an island emerges from the depths of the ocean at the impact site and is promptly given the kitschy name, "Dinosaur Island." Believed to be the crater by that very same meteorite, a biotech corporation quickly sets up camp on the island and soon dominates the market. Eliot Ballad, an elite member of the ESER forces, is vacationing off the coast of Dinosaur Island when a strange object falls from the sky, placing all of Dinosaur Island under a mysterious dome of energy. Shortly afterward, Nephilim, a mysterious, ghostlike being, begins following Eliot around the monster-infested island. Needless to say, it's up to Eliot to get to the bottom of things and save himself from the monsters lurking within his enigmatic prison. Blue Stinger's gameplay borrows a lot from Resident Evil, but it puts a new spin on it. You guide Mr. Ballad through the huge laboratory on Dinosaur Island, fending off hordes of twisted organisms with a variety of weapons. Blue Stinger puts a few interesting twists on the formula that make it feel less like a straight rip-off of Capcom's flagship series. First and foremost is the availability of money. Whenever Eliot kills a monster of significant stature, its corpse spews out $10 coins, which you can collect and use in the myriad vending machines scattered across the island. Vending machines dispense everything from ammo and healing drinks to plasma guns. While the overall game mechanics are similar to Resident Evil's, the availability of virtually unlimited healing supplies and ammo completely removes the "survival horror" aspect of Resident Evil's tension. While different from most games in the genre, the change is a liberating one - no longer is every shot fired a life-or-death decision, allowing you to shoot stuff just for the fun of it. However, this totally kills the tension associated with a scarcity of resources, removing an interesting psychological component from the game.
The Japanese version of Blue Stinger had one major flaw: the camera, which used to glide between fixed viewpoints as Eliot traipsed about the scenery. In keeping with its tendency to improve imported games, Activision has drastically improved the game's camera... sort of. The camera follows Eliot a la Tomb Raider. While this eliminates a majority of the frustration spawned by the original game's camera, gone is the atmosphere that the previous game's camera angles were able to establish. Additionally, a few of the game's cinematic moments can be missed without the aid of a hand-fed view. Finally, the new camera is still a little awkward in tight rooms, but this is a minor complaint.
Blue Stinger's graphics are better than average, but they are riddled with problems. The fully 3D environments are detailed and complete, spanning a variety of locales and are, for the most part, excellently textured. A few areas were censored or redesigned for the US release, and the lack of effort in doing so is readily apparent. The characters and monsters are, however, a different story. While the monster designs look great, the people are bland and simianlike in appearance. Unfortunately, all the game's characters animate poorly, stiffly moving their limbs and waggling their oversized lips like actors in a Godzilla movie. The game's sound is surprisingly evocative, with sweeping, movielike themes that do the on-screen action justice. The voices are surprisingly good, but they still suffer from the camp that you see in most Japanese-produced games with English speech.
Blue Stinger is a decent enough game with just a hair too many execution problems to be great. While it may disappoint dyed-in-the-wool Resident Evil fans, Dreamcast newcomers looking for an adventure fix on their new machine should be pleased.