They just won't stay extinct.
Having adamantly poo-pooed the previous Dino Crisis foray into the ring as yet another Resident Evil clone (and a bad one), I had little if any expectations for its sequel. I feared it would be yet another cowpat upon the fertile field of gamedom. Alas, my malice for the spore of Satan's nostril that is Dino Crisis was to be mildly ebbed by something almost…new. While conceptually flawed, Dino Crisis 2 seems to bequeath (albeit sparsely) something the previous one never could…fun.
The story involves several crypto-military groups with uncharasmatic acronyms being sent to another time to investigate an experimental "accident" at a government-run energy lab. Their job: To rescue any victims from the area of effect.
You play as two would-be heroes, Regina and Dylan. Regina, returning from the original Dino Crisis, is "an expert in stealth missions" with pink hair who wears a Danskin leotard with guns strapped to her thighs (uh…I really don't think she's sneaking up on much of anything). Dylan is a big corn-fed Kansas farm boy apparently stricken with microcephalia, since his head is the size of a walnut.
The non-interactive pre-rendered backgrounds and the graphics in general are much more interesting than those in the first game. Much of the game takes place in a jungle, which, of course, has more opportunity to provide eye candy than redundant, sterile corridors. And let's face it, it's a more realistic place for dinosaurs to be hanging out.
There are more varieties of thunder lizards than the paltry few dim bulbs parceled out to us in the first game. And some of these guys actually take a stab at being smart. Raptors not only gang up on you but they also attack from all sides. Allosaurs will duck and dodge to protect their vulnerable flanks. Pteradons attack in packs like a flock of vicious vultures. My personal favorites are the evil little bastards who attack in numbers, spit poison, and do the crazy Jet Li no-shadow-kick off the side of your head if you give them half the chance.
The combat is actually fun in a run-and-gun kind of way. You can actually run while shooting two machine guns - with each gun locked onto a different enemy. This is an improvement by light years over the original game.
Weapons and ammo are shamefully easy to get a hold of, and you'll need them. Even the most devout pacifist among you will find yourself bagging unwary lizards left and right. The predator-to-prey ratio is off by miles; you're doing them a favor.
In normal mode you don't have to worry much about your health, and you're not in any real danger of dying (or staying dead). Health packs are as easy to come by as bottles of Advil. Resuscitation packs have returned from the original to bring you back to life, fully healed, and typically out of danger…just like in real life.
However, while the whole Resident Evil clone genre relies on locked doors, DC2 has found other ways to keep you locked out and running back and forth between areas. Regina can open doors that Dylan cannot and vice versa (she can short-circuit locks, he can cut through vines) and, of course, you can't toggle back and forth between these two characters at your leisure. That might actually have been convenient. No, you just continue with this linear affair until the computer permits you to switch to the other character. Pretty cheesy, huh?
DC2 is a great deal more action-oriented than its predecessor. In fact, throughout the game you will need to hunt dinosaurs for "extinction points" which can be exchanged for goods at save stations (say…who's counting these points anyway?). While fun, it's also very arcade-like and detracts a bit from the whole "survival-horror" theme. But then again dinosaurs never were exactly scary…not for several hundred million years, anyway.
DC2 has also pumped fresh blood into an anemic series by adding more play varieties than any RE clone to date. You'll be battling dinos on land, under water, and via arcade style first-person shooting…not to mention playing hide and go seek with a greedy little Compsognathus that can't be harmed.
The original was key crazy. Often you would have to run all over the place, not just looking for keys but components of keys. Dino Crisis 2 has dispensed with much of this nonsense. You're still looking for keys, just not nearly as many and they're easier to find.
The back and forth gameplay gets tired after a while. You'll likely be bored after you've triumphed over your 10,000th raptor while trying to save up for some nifty little item you saw in the shop. It's very easy to get distracted from the storyline and get sucked into the process of amassing an arsenal. I don't know about you, but if I were caught in an industrial accident and waiting to be rescued, I wouldn't want my rescue party out shopping.
Dino Crisis 2 is a nice surprise and a general improvement over an original which left a great deal to improve upon. The additions to combat, varieties of gameplay, and throngs of enemies who are serious about doing you harm make this infinitely more playable than most of the self-styled "survival horror" games.