Home > Chronological Challenge > Chronological Challenge Reviews – Driver / Dino Crisis

Chronological Challenge Reviews – Driver / Dino Crisis

It’s review day again, and it’s time to take a look at two games from 1999 that history has often put in a backseat when compared to series with greater legacies. It’s an unintentional connection, but it works.


Publisher: GT Interactive | Developer: Reflections | Year: 1999
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: Beat all missions

Actual Outcome: Got to the penultimate mission and just could not get past it

When it comes to crime-related driving games, the name that always springs to mind is Grand Theft Auto, which is a multi-billion success story, as we all know. But back in the 90s, it was still a sprite-based top-down affair that had more in common with Micro Machines on the visual side than the HD spectacle of today.

It took GTA three entries to make the leap into 3D, and another British developer leapt in to make a full 3D crime driving game before they had the chance to. And here we are – Driver. A game which would go on to have a mixed legacy, but at the time, it was the closest thing to GTA in 3D. Admittedly, you couldn’t get out of the car, and mowing down pedestrians and leaving a trail of carnage in your wake wasn’t an option. But despite this, a cool 70s aesthetic was enough to garner a ton of critical praise at the time.

Today, it’s easy to see why it faded a little in the eyes of gamers. It was only two years later that a true 3D GTA happened, and revisiting the game now, it’s clear that it’s aged worse than its bigger contemporary.

First of all, the lack of hopping between cars does limit the variety of the gameplay a little bit. Mission types can often be boiled down to three kinds – drive to a checkpoint (either timed or not), chase someone down, or evade a pursuer (usually the police). It rarely ever ventures beyond these mission types, and as a result, Driver swiftly gets repetitive.

In addition, the environments you’re driving through don’t help. Most of them are often criss-crossed sections of straight roads with copy-pasted buildings lining them, with nothing to really act as a landmark or break up the monotony. And considering that the game’s four locations are representative of four of America’s most vibrant cities, this lack of personality is all on the development team.

The plot that holds the whole thing together is rubbish too. What could have been an entertaining homage to 70s cop shows and action movies is instead of collection of stiffly-animated models colliding with each other while people off the street mumble generic lines in terrible accents. I played through most of the game here, and I can’t for the life of me tell you anything that happened. It got to the point where I just skipped cutscenes because I couldn’t tell who anyone was or why they were doing what they were doing.

That said, Driver isn’t a bad game, just one that’s representative of its time. The car handling is superb, and there is an addictive quality to the missions, even if they can sometimes feel tedious. The cars themselves also look pretty decent for the time, although this seems to be because the graphics budget was spent on them and not the scenery.

Ultimately, Driver is an average game. A bit of knockabout fun with good intentions and decent handling, but nothing too memorable or exciting. Could be well-served with a solid remake though. I hear Ubisoft own the license…so actually, scratch that.

Dino Crisis
Publisher: Capcom | Developer: Capcom | Year: 1999
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: Escape the dinosaur-infested facility and figure out Dr Kirk’s whereabouts

Actual Outcome: Quit somewhere in the middle

Dino Crisis, on release, was advertised as Resident Evil with dinosaurs, and reviewed heavily that way too. And it’s easy to see the comparison. It’s made by the same developers, and is also a survival horror game.

Oh, and the fact that it plays exactly like Resident Evil in practically every way goes some way to justifying the comparison too.

In fact, this game is incredibly easy to pick up if you’ve played Resident Evil as the controls are the same. It follows largely the same structure – you’re wandering around a large facility made up of multiple rooms you can explore in mostly any order, with specific routes locked off until you’ve found the right key. You solve puzzles. You awkwardly battle dangerous monsters. You struggle to manage your inventory. It is, for all intents and purposes, Resident Evil. With dinosaurs.

There are some significant differences though, and not all of them are improvements, I’m sad to say. One notable difference is the ability to move while aim, ostensibly added because dinosaurs are faster than the shambling undead, but in practice it does little to highlight just how much more frustrating raptors are to deal with than their rotting counterparts in RE. Enemies are bigger and incredibly agile, are often prone to cheap shot attacks such as tail whipping you to the ground, and seem to be bullet sponges. In essence, converting RE’s rather clunky control scheme into a game with faster enemies simply doesn’t work without additional improvements, and being able to strut a little while aiming isn’t enough of a tweak.

The puzzles aren’t quite as good as RE either. While that series features a range of interesting challenges mixed in with the “get key, find door” gameplay, Dino Crisis instead chooses to make you find a key in two separate places, then solve a word jumble. Multiple times throughout the game, too, and the more you do it, the more tedious it becomes.

Indeed, repetition of puzzles is a common thing. Weird and impractical crane puzzles appear at least twice. Endless code puzzles. Half the game sees you changing batteries. It wouldn’t be much of an issue for variations on the same puzzle, but like the door-key word jumble shenanigans, they’re tedious the first time you encounter them and get more annoying every time you encounter them.

The facility of Dino Crisis is less mysterious and interesting to explore than the Spencer Mansion or the Raccoon City Police Department, as most of it is grey metallic corridors. Ironically, the environments of Dino Crisis feel more dead than the locations you visit in Resident Evil. There’s just not the same drive to discover the mysteries of the facility here, as more often than not it’ll be another lab with a raptor ripping your face off in seconds at the end of your journey.

And it’s a real shame, as this concept had legs. Exploring the excellent Resident Evil formula with a completely different bunch of monsters could have been fascinating and exciting, but as it is, it’s largely an also-ran. It fails to shake off comparisons to its parent series, and fails to scratch out an identity of its own that isn’t tedious, repetitive or frustrating.


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