Cabella meets Turok in this flawed first-person shooter.
It’s not secret 'round these parts that I have a fascination with all things prehistoric. I loved Ice Age 3 primarily on its merits, but also because it featured sequences wherein you could ride a Pachycephalosaurus. With that in mind, you would think that Jurassic: The Hunted would be something of a Holy Grail for me, in the same way that the original Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was. And it's pretty clear, right from the get-go, that Jurassic is going for the Turok vibe: a lone man lost in the jungle, surviving on his wits and a healthy amount of firepower. And even though it's initially a lot of fun, Jurassic: The Hunted gets bogged down by technical problems, and repetitious missions and dinosaur types.
The control scheme itself presents some awkward moments. For one thing, you reload with the + button, shoot things with B, and use A to interact with objects, which really means "trigger cut-scenes or load screens." The game is compatible with both the Wii Zapper and the ridiculous Top Shot in case you want an air of realism to your Jurassic safari. Jumping, a useless and imprecise motion, is mapped to the C button, and you can hold the Z button to look down the sight. The game's most interesting aspect is the Adrenaline meter, which activates with the - button. It briefly slows time and highlights the dinosaur's internal organs. The game utilizes a Call of Duty-like health system as there is no energy bar, and the more you're damaged, the more tunnel vision you develop until you die. The lack of a heads-up display apart from ammo and grenade indicators is refreshing and adds to the immersion.
Unfortunately, the game's technical shortcomings pull you right back out of the experience. The graphics are pretty terrible, featuring slapped-together textures and a color palette made up entirely of browns and greens. There are some impressive areas featuring glowing lava, but for the most part, everything looks very muddy all the time, even the dinosaurs. Speaking of dinosaurs, there are entirely too many raptors interspersed by the occasional badly-rendered Jurassic Park-style dilophosaur. Big bossasaurs are few and far in between, and when they do appear, they're so overpowered that it's hard to enjoy the battle. Your main mode of attack is to spam adrenaline and pray that you aren't bitten in half while it's recharging. Enemy motion tends to be jerky, as if key frames of animation are missing. Worse, your character moves will all the speed and grace of a musk ox. Walking straight forward is bad enough (there is no run button), but once you start strafing, your speed plummets.
While most of the game is pretty straight-forward in the shooter sense, a few stop-gap missions try to mix things up to varying success. There are some turret sections, which are entertaining as you must shoot down waves of raptors and pterosaurs while watching your overheat meter. In another “missions,” you must guard an empty, rickety base for no reason while raptors try to break in. The base has several windows that are being broken down, and you can run over and hold the A button to repair them. However, because the windows are quite far apart, you'll eventually be overrun, at which point you just stay alive until the arbitrary time limit ends. Finally, the game tosses tightrope mini-games in that have you walking across a narrow surface and balancing by twisting the Wii Remote. These sections are incredibly slow and it's way too easy to overcorrect.
Thankfully, the gunplay itself is pretty fun. The game features a ton of different weapons, each of which handles differently, so you'll switch your weapon based on the situation. Unfortunately, you must manually cycle through your available guns with the D-pad; there isn't any Turok-esque “weapon wheel” for quick selection. Like in The Conduit, grenades are tossed with the Nunchuk. It's the most organic part of the game, but because it's tough to accurately throw a grenade at a charging pack of raptors, you'll find few opportunities to actually use them.
As for the dinosaurs themselves, they lack character. Generic in design, it's virtually impossible to positively identify particular animals at the genus level. The developers did their best to differentiate Utahraptor from Deinonychus fromVelociraptor, but the little Asian dromaeosaur ends up looking like a compsognathid, and Utah’s giant raptor looks like a scaled-up Deinonychus. Interestingly, that genus comes in two distinct colors (red and green) for no apparent reason. You'll catch glimpses of other Mesozoic saurians—brachiosaurs, pterosaurs, and Jurassic Park-style dilophosaurs. 90 percent of your foes, however, end up being raptors. This gets pretty boring. To make matters worse, none of them have feathers. Also, many dinosaurs bizarrely teleport into the environment right in front of you.
I never thought I'd say this, but Jurassic: The Hunted is a dinosaur game I didn't really enjoy. I've certainly played better shooters, and the mere addition of dinosaurs doesn't amount to much when the vast majority of your opponents are raptors. Add poor production values and some technical shortcomings, and this ends up being one time travel trip to avoid.