The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a polarizing film. It got a lot of flak for a variety of reasons, most notably the now infamous “Tyrannosaurus in San Diego” scenes, but I loved it, mostly because of the character of Roland Tembo. Tembo was a big game hunter who was hired to lead the villainous Injen team across the island, but he wasn’t in it for the money. All he wanted in exchange for his services was the right to hunt a Tyrannosaurus. I thought he was a fascinating character, and since I saw that movie for the first time, I’ve always wanted a game that would allow me to hunt dinosaurs.
In a lot of ways, then, Carnivores HD: Dinosaur Hunter is kind of my dream game. Or at least, it wants to be. You’re a dinosaur hunter dropped onto various islands with a weapon of your choosing and a Gadget, which functions as a GPS, radar, and a pair of binoculars, among other things, and tasked with hunting dinosaurs.
There’s no real story to speak of here, but that’s not the draw. Hunting dinosaurs is, and it that regard, the game does fairly well. Hunting the dinosaurs is fairly simple: all you have to do is shoot them. The trick is getting close enough to do so. These prehistoric beasts can see, hear, and smell you, so you’ll have to use cover and make sure you’re downwind of them to get a good shot, which is where your Gadget comes in.
Aside from its other functions, the Gadget also tracks wind speed and direction, as well as whether nearby dinosaurs can hear and see you. Paying attention to your Gadget makes it a lot easier to line up the perfect shot without spooking the dinosaur in question, which is something you’ll want to do. You only start out with so much ammo, so conservation is important if you want to bag as many dinos as you can, and the less you shoot a dinosaur, the more money it is worth.
In addition to giving you cash, each dinosaur will provide you with trophy points, which can be used to unlock more levels. You’ll only start off with one level, which only has two dinosaurs to hunt, but there are nine in total, which can feature up to six types of dinosaurs. However, the number of levels is deceiving, as there are really only three islands to hunt on. The other levels are merely the islands at night, or when they are shrouded in fog. These do change the game rather significantly, but it’s a shame they aren’t entirely new environments.
Once you’ve done all the hunting you’re going to do in a specific level, you can call in an evac and head back to the menu to spend your hard earned money on gadget upgrades, camouflage, new weapons, or other useful items. Unfortunately, the unlock system is where Carnivores’ problems start to arise. Dinosaurs only give a small amount of money per kill, and upgrades are extremely expensive, so while you might get twenty six dollars for a perfect kill (or tranquilization, if you don’t feel like murdering the poor beasts) on one of the more difficult dinosaurs, a new weapon might cost two hundred and fifty dollars, and a new Gadget upgrade one hundred dollars, and that’s for the fairly inexpensive stuff.
This means that you’ll be grinding for a long time if you want to get the really good items or equipment. Acquiring enough trophy points to unlock a new level can be time consuming as well, as the requirements are fairly steep by the mid-point of the game. To make matters worse, the game’s most useful upgrades will reduce the amount of bonus trophy points you get per kill, which makes the grind even longer.
Thankfully, hunting the dinosaurs themselves is pretty fun. Despite the game’s name, there are only two carnivores in Carnivores HD, but all of the dinos are fun to hunt. Each one requires different tactics to bring down, and the AI behind them is fairly intelligent. Dinosaurs will alternate between running you and charging you, and the more intelligent ones will bob and weave as they attack, or try to flank you. Unfortunately, the fact that there are only six major dinosaurs in the game means that you’ll eventually have hunting them down to a science, especially given the amount of grinding you’ll need to do unlock new gear and levels.
The levels themselves are fairly impressive. Each one is a good size, and for the most part, they look good. The skyboxes are beautiful, and the game handles the different times of day and fog effects nicely, as well. The only downside visually is the foliage on the ground, which looks oddly two dimensional. Ambient noises, such as frogs, bugs and dinosaur calls add to the atmosphere, and the ground shakes when dinosaurs get near you, which is equally awe-inspiring and terrifying, depending on the circumstances.
In the end, though, the hunt is all Carnivores HD offers. Sure, there’s a trophy room where you can display your best kills, and leaderboards, but in the end, your enjoyment of the game will depend on how much you like the realistic take on dinosaur hunting, and how willing you are to put up with the grind. In all, the core game is fairly enjoyable. It’s just a shame there’s so little of it, and that you have to jump through so many hoops to get to it.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.