When Capcom unveiled Dino Crisis last year, it proved that its now-classic Resident Evil formula could not only be used to create more games in the Resident Evil series, but also to create brand-new franchises. It was highly reminiscent of Resident Evil, so much so that it could be argued that Capcom simply replaced the zombies with carnivorous dinosaurs and then thought up a story to tie it all together. Still, its solid gameplay and several interesting deviations from Resident Evil made Dino Crisis a solid addition to Capcom's survival-horror lineup. Unlike its predecessor, Dino Crisis 2 successfully steps away from the shadow of Resident Evil and ditches the tired formula of the original in favor of more action-orientated gameplay - and it's an exceptional game as a result.
In Dino Crisis 2, the government has secretly been continuing Dr. Kirk's mysterious third-energy experiments - which caused all the dinosaur havoc in the first game - and it has once again ruptured time. Consequently, the entire island housing the secret facility and the neighboring metropolis have completely vanished. The government has organized a crack team of operatives to enter an experimental time device and travel to the era they suspect the island disappeared to in an effort to rescue any survivors and recover the third-energy device. As the opening sequence reveals, most of the team is killed by a savage dinosaur attack, and only three operatives survive the brutal onslaught. Over the course of the game, you'll run into oddly futuristic characters and will learn that your mission isn't as simple as you may have first thought.
During the game, you will take control of Regina, a veteran dinosaur hunter and the Special Operations Raid Team leader, as well as Dylan, the young but talented Tactical Reconnoitering and Acquisition Team member. The third surviving operative, a heavy-weapons specialist with a kitschy cowboy hat and American Indian features, will occasionally pop up to help you out. Although they share most weapons, items, and medical supplies, both playable characters have their own special abilities and strengths. Regina and Dylan make a good team - as you alternate characters, you'll use their special abilities to accomplish tasks that the previous character can't. However, both characters are equally skilled in the art of shooting dinosaurs, which will frequently come in handy.
The dinosaur crisis is much more severe in the sequel than in the first game, as the island is crawling with carnivorous life. Whereas the first Dino Crisis consisted of mostly puzzle solving with only a few dinosaurs tossed in to shake things up, Dino Crisis 2 is exactly the opposite - dinosaurs are everywhere, and they sometimes attack in groups of four or five at a time. There are more than ten types of dinosaurs in Dino Crisis 2, and most of the types have several different variations. Capcom has devised a completely new combat system for the game, and it's faster, simpler, and more exciting than the original's combat system - Dino Crisis 2 is more like an arcade shooter than a game like Resident Evil.
Specifically, instead of trudging your way through dark hallways and carefully conserving your ammunition and medical supplies, Dino Crisis 2 encourages you to charge in headlong by bringing three completely unique elements to its combat system. The game awards you points for each dinosaur you kill, and it awards you more points for each successive dinosaur you kill within a short period of time. As you rack up the combo points, dinosaurs get more aggressive and deadly, as they're motivated not only by their thirst for human blood, but also by their newfound desire to deny you a large combo bonus. You spend the points you acquire at special computer terminals that exist only to sell you weapons, ammunition, medical supplies, and tools. Dylan and Regina can wield two weapons simultaneously, although only certain weapons can be used together. Arguably the biggest enhancement to Dino Crisis 2's combat system is the ability to run much faster while shooting. Instead of just strolling toward enemies while you fire bullets into them, you can now backpedal and even charge your adversaries. While it sounds simple, this is an exciting feature that becomes absolutely necessary when dealing with large groups of dinosaurs.
The game still retains some semblance of its roots. There's still an item and inventory screen that's laid out similar to the ones found in Resident Evil titles. You can use this screen to manage your items, change weapons, consume medical supplies, read the various notes and memos you've filed, and check your map. Though you still have this inventory screen, its importance has been significantly reduced from the first game, as there aren't many worthwhile items to manage in Dino Crisis 2. Most of the game's puzzles involve finding keys and taking them three or four rooms away. There are occasional puzzles that aren't spelled out for you, but none of them are especially difficult. It's admirable that the game doesn't pretend to be anything it's not - the savage hordes of dinosaurs are the problems at hand, not finding the magical scarab jewel that will open the locked door.
From a visual standpoint, Dino Crisis 2 looks significantly better than the original game. In yet another big departure from the first game, Capcom decided to ditch the polygonal backgrounds of the original Dino Crisis and has instead created beautiful prerendered backgrounds for the sequel. Since there aren't many polygonal items to stand out against the prerendered backgrounds, these new settings work extremely well and create a lush and distinctly alien atmosphere. The trademark cinematic camera angles are also used to good effect - plenty of dramatic angles successfully intensify the game. The dinosaurs themselves also look fantastic - they not only move realistically, but they also seem to inspire an instinctive sense of fear whenever you run into them. All of the game's cutscenes are rendered using the game engine, so the game never stops for an intrusive CG sequence or a long loading time. Regina and Dylan also animate extremely well - everything looks right, from running to shooting to getting hurt. Attention to little details like characters that leave trails of blood, weapon recoil effects, and even visible wounds on dinosaurs all really pay off and top off Dino Crisis 2's visual presentation.
The game's excellent sound effects complement the graphics perfectly. Plenty of detailed sounds like different types of gunfire, footsteps that change depending on the surface, and different dinosaur cries and wails really help the game's audio stand out. Considering Capcom's last Resident Evil-style game had superior voice acting, it's no surprise that Dino Crisis 2 has some first-rate voice work as well. Dino Crisis 2 even has some great music tracks, all of which seem specifically designed for the moments they are heard. When you're hoofing it through a dense jungle thick with raptors, the game pulses with upbeat techno that inspires you to run and shoot, but when you get to a safe area, the techno is replaced with a mellow trance-like beat with a deep, long bass hit. The game is significantly improved by its great sound effects and its soundtrack, which would be excellent even they weren't in a video game.
The Dino Crisis series has emerged from its developmental cocoon and has undergone a great metamorphosis - from droll Resident Evil clone to a brand-new type of game. Dino Crisis 2 is an original, enjoyable experience that can no longer be considered just another entry into the survival-horror genre. Dino Crisis 2 avoids the stereotypes of the genre and delivers one of the most refreshing takes on the third-person action shooter to date.