Also available on Xbox One and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 07/20/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Part of me is still eight years old. What I mean by that is that most boys go through a phase where they’re crazy about dinosaurs, but they eventually grow out of that. I never really grew out of that. Dinosaurs are and always have been friggin’ awesome, so when I saw a trailer months ago for a Left 4 Dead-style co-op shooter about dinosaurs, I flipped. When it came out on Xbox, it kind of flew under the radar even though I had been super hyped pre-launch; I just never heard anything about it when it actually came out. When I saw it as I was scrolling through Game Pass after signing up, then, I immediately downloaded it. It’s a good thing it’s on Game Pass, too, as it’s still in Early Access, and as excited for it as I was, I have a personal rule against buying Early Access games and an iron-clad personal rule against buying live service games. If it’s on a subscription service that I’m already paying for, however, then all bets are off (and so are the dinosaurs’ heads).
The premise of the game is that mutated dinosaurs have taken over the Earth (I don’t think it ever explains how), but a group of humans has survived and formed a new world government aboard an orbital space station. From there, three-person strike teams drop to the surface and carry out missions to retrieve supplies and cull dinosaur numbers and nests. Other than being dinosaurs instead of zombies and teams of three instead of four, this is basically another Left 4 Dead clone. It is, however, the absolute best Left 4 Dead clone I’ve ever played, and because it’s set up as an open world with optional objectives randomly scattered throughout, it’s better than Left 4 Dead in my personal opinion (although, for reasons I’ll explain, missing all of the polish of Left 4 Dead).
As I mentioned, the game is still in Early Access, and while it’s significantly more polished than the average full release for a Ubisoft game, it’s obvious in parts that it’s Early Access. It doesn’t have any glaring technical issues aside from the infrequent abrupt disconnect, but there have been several instances where a group of raptors spawned in the air above me, fell to the ground, died on impact, and exploded in blood. My friend, Grant, with whom I’ve played several hours of this game, described it as “Bethesda bugs,” and that’s a fairly accurate assessment; most of the bugs don’t hinder your enjoyment or overall experience but are just bizarre and hilarious.
As the game is still in active development, it’s changing constantly, but as it stands right now, there are three difficulties, five playable characters, and six core missions. There are a plethora of little side missions that you can find in the world as you play, and the developers have said for sure that at least one more character is coming this year along with new weapons and dinosaurs. There are a variety of types of smaller dinosaurs – regular raptors, electric enemies that can cloak and flit about, acid-spitting dinosaurs, etc – but three big enemies in the game right now are the Ankylosaurs, the Triceratops, and – of course – the Tyrannosaurus. All three of these are virtually impossible to take down solo unless you’ve got some wicked skills and amazing gear, and the Tyrannosaurus pretty much requires at least one teammate.
As you kill dinosaurs, you collect research points and various drops. These are used to upgrade your weapons. Every weapon has three main categories that can be upgraded – usually damage, recoil stability, and switching/reloading speed – with unique abilities in each of those categories that can be unlocked. There are a lot of weapons, so it definitely pays to experiment around and see what suits your playstyle and each individual situation. I, personally, use either the minigun or – if someone else is playing tank – the assault rifle, although the machine gun and artillery cannon are pretty glorious weapons as well. You also unlock more weapons and support equipment as you level up not unlike Call of Duty, so your options continuously expand as you progress.
There are obviously some Early Access issues that still need to be worked out – little bugs, disconnections and crashes, and the fact that the frame rate apparently just plummets on Xbox One when things get busy on screen (this does not happen on Series X) – but for being Early Access, this game is incredibly well-made. If you showed me this for the first time, I would think it’s a final retail release and never question it. It’s a shame that you can only have three people on a team – four would really be ideal, I think – but if you can get a couple of good teammates, this is one of the absolute best co-op experiences I’ve had on an Xbox since Halo 2. If you have Game Pass, ABSOLUTELY check this game out. If you don’t have Game Pass but dig co-op shooters and are okay with live service and Early Access games, definitely check it out; I definitely think it’s worth the $25 it sells for even in its current state.