Originally released for the PC in the last 1990's, Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter cashed in on the burgeoning hunting genre that was exploding at the time. Opting to meander safely around the controversy of animal activists, Dinosaur Hunter places you on a strange alien land that just so happens to be inhabited by various prehistoric reptiles. It's probably best to ignore the loose sci-fi storyline and just focus on the gameplay.
Dinosaur Hunter has a rather slow progression system. At the start of the game you'll have a number of credits, and these can be spent on tackling a low-risk target, with low-tier equipment. You'll probably start out on the default woodland map, hunting a herbivore with a pistol. The game can be particularly frustrating in the first few hours as you get a handle on the controls (the lack of a second analogue stick is still a problem) and try to suss out exactly what the game wants from you. Dinosaur Hunter's certainly not the best communicator, and we had to take several trips into the digital manual before we got a grasp on what the game wanted from us.
Essentially, your objective is to seek out a pre-defined reptile and either kill or subdue it. Hunting the dinosaur (and ultimately taking it out) can be time consuming, and there are a number of factors to consider. Wind direction, scent and sound are all variables that need attention. You may also need to lure the animal into your vicinity by using calls to stir activity. When you encounter an animal, you can choose to either kill tranquilize it. There are a number of options to make the process of hunting a little easier in its earlier stages — you can mask scents and apply camouflage, but this has a negative impression on your final points tally. At the end of a hunt, depending on the number of animals you correctly snuff out, you'll be given points that increase your credits threshold. As mentioned earlier, credits can be used to operate new weaponry, hunt out new dinosaurs and also unlock new maps. It's a clunky progression system, but it works. It forces you to grasp the basics before you start tackling T-Rex's, or other more challenging carnivores.
Hunts can be slow and laborious at first, but they get more exciting as you unlock more powerful weapons. Initially you'll have to try and get as close to the animals as possible, using a pistol to quickly pick them off. Animals react differently depending on their AI patterns and characteristics. Velociraptors, for example, will want to challenge you at the first sign of danger, while herbivores will flee the area, seeking out safety in nearby plains. The game starts to get rewarding as you unlock ranged weapons — there's nothing more satisfying than watching a well placed crossbow shot penetrate an allosaurus' skull.
No matter how long you spend with the game though, it's hard to shake off the biting sense of tedium. The payoff of a particularly long hunt is not always worthwhile, and while the game's certainly littered with satisfying moments, they can be few and far between. Visually there's not much to get excited about, and despite the enormous maps, the number of animals populating them are worrying low.
Fans of slower paced shooters may get some enjoyment out of Dinosaur Hunter. It's clearly a million miles away from the first-person shooters filling the charts at the moment, but that helps to give the game a sense of identity. Initial attempts are certain to frustrate even the most methodical of players, but persevere and you'll be rewarded with some truly heart-pounding encounters.