The Flintstones never had to deal with this.
Dinosaurs have been gracing our consoles and computer screens in various ways since the dawn of gaming. We’ve fought them off in survival horror, shot them to pieces in sidescrollers, and even played as them (oh Rampage, how I love you). Jurassic Park itself is responsible for nearly thirty titles. Monstrous in shape, with purely primal motives, these reptilian beasts make for excellent adversaries. Unlike the undead, who often come with an extra helping of social commentary, dinosaurs are completely inhuman, making them even more perfect for gunning down in droves. Enter ORION: Dino Beatdown, a cooperative survival FPS built using the Unreal engine by the guys at Spiral Game Studios.
Alongside four other players, you fend off encroaching waves of dinosaurs at bases scattered throughout three distinct worlds (forest, desert and grassland themes), which look pretty enough, if a little dated. Like Valve’s popular Left 4 Dead, ORION features several types of enemy that each take different approaches to killing you. Raptors dart and leap around, often dodging left to right as they try and flank you, and while they don’t take many bullets to kill, they hunt in packs that soon become swarms as you defeat more and more waves. The hulking T-Rex is more direct, ploughing through anything and everything in an attempt to murder you. Should you get out of their reach, these leviathans will use their powerful jaws to tear a chunk of rock out of the ground and hurl it at you – probably one of the most unintentionally funny ways to die in a video game in ages. The Rham is a flying beast that swoops down to snatch you up in its claws, flying you to great heights before dropping you to your doom.
To counter the incoming waves of hungry dinosaurs, you must first pick one of three classes, each with a unique ability. You have the assault class, equipped with a jetpack, the recon class which sneaks around using a cloaking device, and a support class which heals teammates and eventually repairs vehicles. As you slaughter the reptilian hordes, you are awarded credits which can be used at different buildings around the bases to upgrade your character (with perks such as increased damage or clip size) and buy new weapons. There’s a decent array of guns to choose from, and while you start with nothing more than the most basic of weapons, you can end up with devastating laser rifles and rocket launchers. You can also get several vehicles, which range from speedy bikes meant for exploring to the VTOL, an air support vehicle that packs quite the punch.
Sounds good so far, right? Unfortunately, despite having a solid concept, it’s the execution where ORION falls flat. For starters, the AI of the dinosaurs ranges from slightly awkward to downright stupid. Raptors and the T-Rex end up running into corners and getting stuck while you empty clips into them, or will change target for no apparent reason in the midst of battle, making them seem completely clueless. For the two classes without a jetpack, the Rhams are incredibly aggravating, especially when more than one decides that you are going to get slam-dunked, teaming up and rendering you helpless. The game’s difficulty curve is incredibly steep, and by the third or fourth wave you’ll be fighting ludicrous numbers of dinosaurs, forcing you to huddle away inside buildings where only the fragile raptors can get to you. This feels cheap, but is often the only way to survive. On the other hand, the assault class will find it all too easy, able to escape to rooftops where raptors can’t reach with the jetpack trivializing the threat of the airborne enemies. The only thing that becomes dangerous then is the tyrannosaur’s rock-throwing ability, which can blindside you without warning, killing you instantly. The worst thing about the massive increase in difficulty is that when you join a game in progress, or respawn after dying on later waves, it is almost impossible to get into the swing of things because the starting weapons are nowhere near effective enough for that stage of the game. Even worse, the combat doesn’t really feel all that fun to begin with. Dinosaurs don’t seem to react to being shot at all until they die, at which point they ragdoll with hilarious results (T-Rex backflips are not uncommon). It just feels a little too stiff and mechanical.
ORION also suffers from a lot of glitches. Models clip through the environment on a whim, especially the T-Rex, whose head seems to bust through walls more regularly than the Kool-Aid Man. The in-game menus are unresponsive at times too, as well as uninformative – you can’t even see how many credits you have when upgrading/buying weapons. The sound effects aren’t particularly great and often just don’t work, mostly where vehicles are concerned. As it turns out, you can also get stuck in the terrain fairly easily.
When it comes down to it, ORION has a great concept but is ultimately deeply flawed. This is somewhat forgiveable given the shoestring budget it was built on, and the relatively cheap price of $9.99 on Steam, but it’s baffling how the game made it to release in the state it’s in. Spiral promises free DLC in the future to add new dinosaurs/vehicles, as well as patches, but it’s going to take a whole lot of time to put ORION: Dino Beatdown’s many issues right. Even then, it probably won’t be on par with the other co-op survival titles that are available.
(4s are hurting in quality. There are instances of fun that are overshadowed by major problems, technical or otherwise. It could be fun, but the issues may not make it worthwhile.)
|Dave Herrington is an aspiring writer, movie enthusiast, failed superhero and gamer. He writes from his house/cave near Oxford, England, and enjoys watching just about anything in good company. His favourite thing ever is Calvin & Hobbes, and hopes they never make a movie out of it. Or else.|
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