Public Service Announcement: Dinosaurs are badass! They’re big, they’re toothy and they come equipped with all manner of fascinating adaptations, making each of them feel idiosyncratic and unique. For instance, did you know that the Parasaurolophus had a weird crest on its head that served as an inbuilt resonating chamber? More than just ornamentation, this evolutionary tool enabled the funky-looking herbivore to amplify its warning call and alert the herd to potential threats.
I mean come on, how awesome is that!? It’s no wonder that our culture has such an enduring obsession with these animals when they’re all so visually interesting and have these unique behavioral traits. Dinosaurs are just way cooler than anything we could dream up, hence why they keep popping up everywhere in our media landscape.
Secondary PSA: Resident Evil is also badass! Although it’s not quite the earliest progenitor of survival horror (depending on who you ask, that distinction belongs to either Sweet Home, Clocktower, or Alone in the Dark), it’s generally accepted to be the one that got the ball rolling and established many of the genre’s long-standing conventions. Put bluntly, it’s a masterclass in everything from level-design, to puzzles, atmosphere and – the most crucial ingredient of all- scares.
So to reiterate, Resident Evil is more-or-less the pinnacle of human achievement and Dinosaurs are pretty neat as well. Pairing them together is, therefore, a no-brainer and the result of such a union would is guaranteed to be something special. Indeed, if we were in the Victorian Gentry, we would call them an ‘Advantageous Match’’ and get them hitched before one of them died of cholera or something.
They simply fit together. I mean just picture it: the undisputed apex of horror gaming being given a Michael Crichton paint job. The design document practically writes itself! How has no one jumped on this already?
Well, actually they have. You see, way back in 1999, the industrious folks over at Capcom recognized the potential of this concept and produced the criminally overlooked Dino Crisis. Granted, it was a basically a shameless reskin of Resident Evil, featuring near-identical mechanics and story beats (Same hapless special forces team, same fixed camera-angles, same scavenger hunt gameplay loop, same window-based jump scares). However, the salient point is that it had a fucking T-Rex in it and that goes a long way in my book.
Moreover, it was an effective little horror title in its own right, suggesting that the franchise would eventually grow out of its forbear’s shadow, a promising quality that was retained for its sequel approximately one year later. Indeed, Dino Crisis 2 was a thoroughly decent stab at building upon the first game’s momentum and signaled a bright future ahead for the burgeoning series.
Unfortunately, everything then came crashing down with the spectacularly misjudged third offering. Falling flat on its face by trying to reinvent the wheel, this franchise-killing catastrophe was crippled by an ill-fitting space theme, fiddly platforming sections, irritating navigation and an unwieldy camera that was intent on sabotaging the player at every turn. The end result was so bad that it ultimately relegated the series to a state of dormancy from which it has yet to recover.
Now for the record, Dino Crisis 3 is fully deserving of its bad reputation and you could even argue that it warranted a lengthy timeout for the franchise. But it’s been over 15 years since and Capcom has still not been given a chance to redeem the brand. Therefore, a comeback is long overdue.
On that note, the climate is ideal for a revival, as we’re currently in the midst of a veritable horror boom, courtesy of indie breakouts like Outlast, FNAF and Slender. Hell, even the AAA sphere is starting to take notice. Meanwhile, Dinosaurs are all the rage in pop culture right now, what with the Jurassic World films proving to be incredibly lucrative at the box-office and Ark: Survival Evolved demonstrating that the creatures have a strong appeal on the virtual front. Not to mention that PSOne nostalgia is in full effect, so why not strike while the iron is hot?
If you want concrete proof that this is the opportune moment, then look no further than Resident Evil, which recently staged a fierce comeback of its own, with the fantastically old-school RE:7. In fact, while we’re on the subject, that game could function as a useful template for a new Dino Crisis. After all, it beautifully showcases the benefits of taking a horror series back to its roots and reemphasizing the sense of powerlessness that made it so successful in the first place.
You could even go down a similar path by updating Dino Crisis to be a first-person stealth horror, ala Outlast. Think about it, there aren’t many dinosaur games out there at the moment and the ones that do exist are invariably combat-oriented. Stripping you of your capacity to fight back (or at least reducing it) would, therefore, be a fresh take on the material, leading to something that’s along the lines of Alien: Isolation, but with the Xenomorph swapped out for Velociraptor!
There are so many tantalizing scenarios that you could devise from this premise like you could emulate the nerve-wracking kitchen scene from Jurassic Park. Or you could capitalize on the (scientifically disputed) idea that a T-Rex’s vision is movement-based, and formulate some clever stealth sections around that concept. Whatever comes to mind, the possibilities are endless. Doing this would also inject some life back into the increasingly stale ‘’hide-and-seek’’ sub-genre, by giving us something new to hide from, instead of just more Slenderman clones and P.T Knock-offs.
Of course, you wouldn’t have to resort to such a radical change if you didn’t want to. In fact, you wouldn’t necessarily have to alter anything, as Dino Crisis has aged surprisingly well, with many of its ideas feeling curiously modern and ahead of the curve. For example, it already has a Last of Us crafting system, interlocking level-design that recalls Dark Souls, and an ingenious mechanic that has you activate laser grids in order to barricade yourself away from enemies (much like you would in Amnesia).
Come to think of it, you could probably get away with a straightforward remastering and it would still be a worthwhile endeavor. Perhaps that would be the best way forward, as it would allow Capcom to test the waters and see if there’s a real appetite out there for more of this series. I for one certainly hope that there is because this is one franchise that did not deserve to go extinct so prematurely.