The subject matter of Lukewarm Media’s Primal Carnage is so compellingly simple that it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before. More immediate than high fantasy and more relatable than zombies, Primal Carnage pits humans against dinosaurs in a no-holds-barred multiplayer first-person shooter (FPS). An almost prefect premise for competitive videogame action.
We may have seen the Turok franchise have a stab at the four-legged multiplayer arena FPS back on the Nintendo 64 with the underappreciated Turok: Rage Wars, but Primal Carnage goes far further in delivering a varied gameplay experience. Humans act as players will be expecting, in a similar manner to most other FPS videogames with a specific class system, but the dinosaurs are something else entirely different.
A significant amount of time has clearly been spent ensuring that the dinosaur teams are balanced, for as much as you might like to jump straight into the shoes of a Tyrannosaurus Rex it’s not as simple as selecting your class, getting onto the map and ripping the human team apart. A certain number of team members on each side are required to spawn the hulking beast, ensuring that the opposing team has the necessary firepower to takedown your giant lizard.
All classes – human and dinosaur – have both primary and secondary fire functions, offering a broad range of different abilities. Players will quickly find their favourite classes on either side and begin to learn the nuances of their use – there is a great deal of minor differences in the use of each class in addition to the more obvious abilities/weaponry – with Electronic Theatre settling in to the Commando and Pathfinder roles with ease, undoubtedly due to their fairly traditional design. The Pyro on the other hand, is a rush-attack thrill that so few FPS videogames offer with their staunch take on competitive action gameplay.
With the dinosaur classes it’s the Pteranodon that is perhaps hardest to adapt to – and rightfully so with its tricky-to-execute one-hit-kills ability – while the Novaraptor is your everyday fast-moving class that can pin enemies down when caught on their own, but taking on even two humans in close proximity with result in a swift and decisive end to your assault. The Dilophosaurus is the only dinosaur class with a ranged attack, with a long-lasting low-damage acid that can blind foes temporarily and allow other dinosaur units to close in. To suggest that Primal Carnage works best when teams work as a cohesive whole is an understatement, which is one reason why you have to question the lack of voice chat functionality in the release build.
Strangely, it’s perhaps the level design that is the most remarkable aspect of Primal Carnage. Clearly designed specifically to accommodate the class structure of the videogame, rather than simply constructed to be fun to play and ignoring special abilities, the wide open spaces covered by foliage are rife with tactical opportunities and the buildings allow humans to take cover from the larger dinosaurs, but make then a captive target for smaller creatures. Working alongside this interesting design is the ability to see the locations of your teammates at all times, and some dinosaurs also have the ability to mark locations of human opponents, allowing others to attempt to creep into action before being taken down by the much longer range of human weaponry.
While Primal Carnage isn’t exactly at the forefront of visual technology, it’s not a bad looking videogame by any means. The sheer density of foliage on the maps more than makes up for the respectively lacking detail of the character models, and the unique character presented in the world – despite the lack of any accompanying storyline – is commendable. That being said, the animation can sometimes judder a bit too much, jerking enemy units out of your crosshair before you’ve had the chance to pull the trigger even when there is no lag on the server. An annoyance to say the least, and hopefully an issue that Lukewarm Media are already looking into.
Available to download now, it’s still early days for Primal Carnage. In a meeting before release the team informed Electronic Theatre of their ongoing plans for content and balancing updates with Primal Carnage, and there’s certainly a basic platform here that warrants greater investment. With that however, there’s no ignoring the fact that the presentation here is best described as basic, and launching in a period in which the slickest, content rich titles of the year are positioned alongside Primal Carnage on the digital marketplaces certainly hasn’t done it any favours. The hope remains that Primal Carnage will find a strong enough audience for Lukewarm Media to continue working on the project and that six months down the line a more comprehensive gameplay experience will be there for the taking, but as it stands Primal Carnage is a videogame full of unexplored potential.