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Dino Stalker
Score: 81%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:
Ever since the advent of Doom II, I'd always dreamed of someday playing a first-person shooter with the ability to move around with a controller, yet aim and shoot with an actual light gun instead of a mouse. For years, I wondered why nothing like this was ever released in an arcade, or perhaps even on the Sega Saturn (why not a Virtua Cop title where you control the action?). Surely, someone else was out there wondering the same thing, somewhere else in the world.

Fast-forward to 2002. Capcom has finally made this dream accessible to stateside PS2 gamers in the form of Dino Stalker (otherwise known as Gun Survivor 3: Dino Crisis in Japan), and this reviewer is in love. Combining elements from past arcade 'rail shooters' with more recent FPS titles, Capcom intended to breathe new life into both genres by adding complete freedom of movement and targeting. Think of it as Turok Evolution meets The Lost World -- but how does it measure up?

Dino Stalker may not be the PS2's finest visual centerpiece to date, but it's definitely one of the prettier console shooters out there. 14 classes of beautifully modeled dinosaurs hunt the player, each with their own distinct attack patterns and death animations. Combined with slickly detailed environments including misty rain forests and craggy valleys, Dino Stalker's surroundings do well to bring players into an engrossing Jurassic Park-style atmosphere.

Ambient jungle noises and terrifying dino screeches make up most of the game's sound library; the gunshots are decent, and the soundtrack does nothing to detract from the action. Most notably, however, are the gut-wrenching Capcom voiceovers we've all come to expect since Resident Evil's debut. If you prefer cheesy, inane dialogue with no real emotion in your games, this one's your new baby. Not only do they sound bad -- the numerous CGI cutscenes are also horribly compressed, to the point of making video sequences on the Game Boy Advance look fantastic. But hey, the plot really isn't important here anyway. Just kill some dinosaurs.

Of course, they didn't do such a good job with the story in any respect. Get this: you're Lieutenant Mike Wired (what the hell kind of name is that?), a 1943 dogfighter who, mere seconds away from his death during wartime, suddenly teleports into the midst of a marauding pack of Pteranadons as a strange gun magically appears in his hand. The tale only gets sillier as the game progresses, but who cares? No one ever played a shooter for potential character development, so let's get down to the good stuff.

Dino Stalker succeeds completely in raising the bar for future light gun shooters with sheer entertainment value alone. By giving players full mobility (in most areas) and a huge arsenal of special weapons, no one level ever plays the same. In Level 2, for example, you can roam just about anywhere across massive grasslands and tropical terrains, with Raptor ambushes lying around every corner. You'll have to collect an insane amount of time bonus gems to beat the time limit, but the option to explore is always there; if you feel like sticking to a single path and blasting for the exit, that's cool too. Since you control exactly where you want to go, you also effectively decide how long the game lasts in each area.

Much of Lt. Wired's surroundings are completely destructible, usually revealing additional time gems or handy secondary weapons. Patch of trees blocking a particularly sweet snipe shot? No problem -- put a few shells in their trunks and the view's crystal clear. Reached a dead end in the mountains? Nah. Two or three well-placed shots should knock some boulders loose so you can continue the bloodbath. Even in Level 3, where the computer controls your movement in a small boat, players can still swivel around and gun down the world around them throughout the entire section. There's never a dull moment when you never run out of things to demolish, right?

Boss battles, while a bit repetitive and predictable, are intense enough to keep most players sweating until the end. Some will be disappointed to fight the same bosses three times in one game, but then again, the only other PS2 light gun title with comparable replay longevity would be the forthcoming Ninja Assault, so it's a fair tradeoff.

On the Easy and Normal difficulties, survival is your greatest concern. If you're a quick shot and load up on health kits and revival packs along the way, though, the game shouldn't take more than 90 minutes to complete. It's the Hard difficulty's time constraints that truly challenge even the best sharpshooters out there -- hell, I've won two statewide Time Crisis II arcade tournaments over the past few years, and I could barely last a minute in the first level on Hard (on my initial run, of course). Just practice your combo skills and know where to look for those time gems, and you just might earn a few extra modes after the credits roll.

Game Mechanics:
Several gamers have expressed their contempt for Dino Stalker solely for its tricky control schemes, without giving the game the recognition it deserves. For those who can't decide, three options are available: (1) playing only with the DualShock controller, which proves far too sensitive and awkward in a game where perfect aim matters, (2) using the GunCon and DualShock together, which many people seem to prefer, and (3) my favorite, sticking to the GunCon 2 and moving around with the gun's own d-pad. True, this may result in sore arms after each level, but who said you can't take a break every now and then? Strafing is handled with the A and B buttons on the sides of the gun, while holding them both moves into Sniper mode. The C button at the gun's base switches weapons, and you can probably guess what purpose the trigger serves.

Comfort issues aside, there really aren't many conceivable ways to pull off perfect controls in a game of this type, and I think Capcom did their best to offer a pulse-pounding alternative to every other 'rail shooter' on the market. Any fan of the genre would be remiss to pass this one up, even if for a quick rental. I know it'll be in my collection for some time, and the very thought of a sequel gets me all giggly -- so if you enjoy Dino Stalker, keep a sharp lookout for Resident Evil: Gun Survivor 4 in 2003!

-Ben Monkey, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ben Lewis

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