Well, better than a barrel of dinosaurs...
The colony ship Ozymandias vanished 300 years ago somewhere near the planet Jupiter. Space, notoriously silent, was not giving any hints as to its whereabouts. Then in the year 2548, the ship suddenly reappears, this time heading for Earth. Your ship full of S.O.A.R. commandos has been dispatched to investigate when the mysterious ghost ship opens fire, killing nearly everyone on board.
There are few survivors, but you, Patrick Tyler, are one of them. Thanks to your trusty spacesuit, you have made it to the hull of the Ozymandias. What incredible mysteries will you find inside? Well, you need look no further than the title of his game because, unsurprisingly, the ship is full of dinosaurs.
Excuse me? You just have to wonder what went on at the meeting where they decided that…
Shinji Mikami: OK, guys, this is Dino Crisis Three so we need a new location. We've already done "secret island laboratory" and "island with a secret laboratory."
Michi Morita: How about a restaurant? An evil dinosaur restaurant?
Mikami: Too small.
Morita: What if they were all miniaturized? They could fight under the tables and stuff.
Akira Hirabayashi: Oooh oooh!! How about underwater? The dinosaurs could evolve gills and fight Kevin Costner.
Mikami: You want to get sued?
Morita: How about a spaceship? That could be big. Everybody loves spaceships.
Mikami: A spaceship! I love it! That's super-cool!
Hirabayashi: But how did dinosaurs get on the spaceship?
Mikami: Shut up.
To give Dino Crisis 3 some credit, it does actually try to explain why there is a spaceship full of dinosaurs. But the concept clearly came first, since the explanation has more holes than a "No Hunting" sign in Alabama.
Along with the new location comes some new game mechanics. Forget most of your survival horror ideas (like conserving ammo), because Dino Crisis 3 is much more of an action title. Ammo is unlimited, guns are big and can get bigger, all the way up to the WASP super weapons which are some sort of 300 year-old lost technology people left all over the spaceship Ozymandias.
Hirabayashi: How did people lose the technology?
Mikami: You're fired.
Clearly influenced by Devil May Cry, the control is fast and crisp, jumps are huge and you can hover and steer a bit thanks to your trusty jet pack. Earn "Tactical Credits" by collecting red orbs or by filling up your "elimination meter." Then you can buy items and upgrades by spending Tactical Credits in the "support terminals," which are stores you'll find scattered around the derelict dinosaur-infested spaceship. Enemies just teleport in as you kill them. This is a much more action-oriented game with really no attempt at realism or logic. Fine by me; Devil May Cry was great.
The graphics are a very strange combination of some good stuff and some ridiculous mistakes. The framerate is great and all the action is smooth and fast. The pre-rendered videos are the kind of top-notch computer animation we expect from a big company like Capcom, and the characters themselves also look good, but the winners are the dinosaurs. These are no run-of-the-mill reptiles, these are space dinosaurs, and they're gross and they ooze or have cool fins and shoot lightning. They just look great (when you can actually see them, more on that later).
Other times, however, the graphics are a big letdown. It's easy to get lost in the Ozymandias since there aren't that many ways you can make a corridor look different. And apparently 300 years of rampaging dinosaurs don't leave a filmy residue (or even a single dinosaur dropping) because there is an omnipresent fake reflection effect throughout the World's Shiniest Spaceshipâ„¢. Sometimes the reflective effect looks cool, but other times it just looks like you're getting the ghost of another cable channel.
Finally, an egregious graphical error: Dear Capcom, it is not okay anymore for shadows to just be a gray disk floating underneath you (or a dinosaur). Even some of the later games on the PS1 had dynamic lighting and shadows, and comparing the shadows in Dino Crisis 3 to even an older Xbox horror game like Silent Hill 2 just make it look like a joke.
The game sounds decent, at least. The dinosaurs roar with enough decibels to wake my neighbors, voice-acting is campy, and the standard battle soundtrack comes on whenever you're fighting. My only complaint is that the background noises of the running spaceship are a little loud and can get irritating over time.
Unfortunately it's a leftover element from Dino Crisis 3's survival-horror roots that simply ruins the game: a horrible camera. The camera stays fixed in place, tracking you, and randomly changes angles. This works fine in the Resident Evil series where you move slowly and the zombies are even slower, but does not work at all in the fast action game that is Dino Crisis 3.
Thanks to this new worst-possible-angle technology, you will find yourself unable to tell where you're going and therefore you will be unable to see objects and exits and even lurking dinosaurs the size of a house. What? You mean it was on my left the whole time? Aw, man. And since the orientation changes with the slightest twitch of the controller after the camera switches, you can easily get turned around in a single room.
Worst of all is that you spend most of your time shooting dinosaurs you can't even see because they are offscreen. You just hit the fire button a lot and let the auto-aim do the rest. It probably looks cool, but since you can't see anything, it's actually really, really lame. There is a first-person camera, but you can only use that for carefully aiming and firing your powered up single shots; you cannot move while in this mode.
Ridiculous backstory aside, Dino Crisis 3 almost does some cool stuff. The crisp control, big moves, player upgrades and massive weaponry might have made for a cool action game. However, the awful camera crashes onto these dinosaurs with the force and effect of a planet-busting asteroid, effectively driving them extinct. I hope Dino Crisis 4 takes place in a shopping mall.