Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter HD harkens back to a time when games were simple and focused. Back in the day, the gameplay spoke for itself so there was little need for a narrative, and your overall goal was clear and simple: rescue the princess, shoot the demons, or in this case, hunt the dinosaurs. You play as a nameless hunter, dropped into a vast, open location, and you're told to shoot giant lizards until they drop down dead. For better or for worse, that's really all that there is to this PlayStation Network release.
It may be a simple premise, but the title can provide a lot of dumb fun if you're willing to accept it for what it is. The gameplay retains its accessibility throughout, as you stalk and shoot your increasingly deadly prehistoric prey – all you need is steady aim and a little bit of luck. There are some smaller mechanics that play a part, like having to remain downwind so that your scent doesn't give your position away, but even then you can easily sprint after your quarry, stopping now and then to put a bullet in it.
The majority of your time with the release will be spent simply wandering the open environments, which range from tropical settings to more inhospitable areas. While the locations appear huge – especially seeing as you're always on foot – there isn't anything to interact with other than the creatures that inhabit them, making each new hunting ground seem just as unexciting as the last, despite some picturesque visuals in places.
Traipsing across huge stretches of land is mundane, and, at its worst, utterly boring. Thankfully, when you do stumble across a dinosaur taking a sip from a small pond or resting under the shade provided by vegetation, it suddenly feels like all of that walking was worthwhile. If you want a quick and quiet kill, you'll need to stay quiet by crouching, and make sure to stay out of the reptile's line of sight. When you're in position, it's time to look down the sights of your chosen weapon and pull the trigger.
The shooting itself is familiar fare: L1 puts your view down the barrel, while the right stick controls your aim – the sensitivity of which feels just right – and you can also hold your breath to steady your shot. There aren't many weapons on offer; you start off with a simple rifle, and as you bag bigger and more dangerous game, you'll be able to afford firearms that each sport their own individual uses. The crossbow, for example, is silent, allowing you to open fire without alerting any surrounding critters, while the sniper rifle is loud but packs an extremely powerful punch.
In many ways, experimentation is key to your progression. In order to get quick, clean kills, you'll eventually need to understand things like weak points which vary from animal to animal. Learning a specific species' behaviour is also important, so you'll know when they're likely to run or if they're the type that'll stay and try to maul you. Whatever creature you're currently stalking, though, stealth always plays a vital role if you're looking to attain the maximum amount of points.
Taking out a beast in one shot isn't just satisfying – it also means that your kill is worth more money. From the beginning of your violent tour, you'll have access to a device that shows a map and features a couple of bars that fill if you're being watched or if you're making too much noise. It looks like a child's toy, but it'll prove to be an invaluable piece of kit throughout the game, as it's also used to assess your kills based on their size and how many holes you've put in them. More dangerous dinosaurs offer more trophies and more cash, which can then be traded in for new apps for your device – some of which make proceedings significantly easier, like a radar that shows any nearby life.
The in-game store offers incentive to keep playing, but at times collecting enough trophies or saving up large amounts money for certain equipment can feel like a grind because of the sheer amount that you'll need, and unfortunately, this is also the case when it comes to unlocking new environments. Tracking down and slaughtering the same types of dinosaurs quickly becomes a tedious affair, particularly when you're eager to move on to a fresh change of scenery. Accentuating the problem further, you have little choice but to leave your current hunt when you run out of your limited ammunition stock, meaning that most of the time you'll probably only bring down a couple of creatures before you're forced to quit and go through the necessary menus in order to play again.
However, what really holds the release back is its ugly presentation. When you're out in the field, the game can look quite nice visually, with some decent lighting and some promising environmental design, but everything in between gameplay – especially the menus – looks cheap and tacky. And on the audio front, things are just as bad; there's no music to speak of, and dinosaur roars are monotonous to the point where you'll be reaching for the mute button.
Carnivores: Dinosaur Hunter HD has some glaring flaws that refrain it from reaching prize catch status, but its accessible mechanics and decent sense of progression ensure that there's still room for it on the trophy wall – especially if you're a fan of overgrown lizards.