The latest attempt to make a worthwhile Jurassic Park video game features Jeff Goldblum and a lot of hiding in cupboards.
It’s Jurassic Park we blame for the fact that dinosaurs so rarely appear in video games. There’s been dozens of tie-ins over the years but none of them have been particularly successful either commercially or critically, with the current Jurassic World Evolution – which is basically a business simulator – being about as good as it’s ever got. So despite the huge success of the films the games have never been big enough that anyone else has thought it that necessary to copy them.
That doesn’t stop the official games from coming out though, especially when there’s a new movie on the way, and so now we have a new VR game, which like Star Wars: Vader Immortal is split up into separate episodes on the Oculus Quest. Although while clearly no expense was spared on Vader Immortal it seems every expense was studiously avoided when it comes to Jurassic World Aftermath.
One of the problems with Jurassic Park as a licence is that while the films are all perfectly family friendly the experiences they portray would be completely terrifying in real life. That combined with the fact that you don’t really want to be shooting any of the dinosaurs, since they’re just animals not monsters, makes the idea of an action game much more difficult that it first seems. But while we sympathise with Aftermath’s problems that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable.
Although it’s not made at all clear when you start, Aftermath is set between the events of the first two Jurassic World films, with you embarking on a mission to, yet again, try and steal secret information from the facilities on Isla Nublar. So, no prizes for originality when it comes to the plot. However, your plans immediately go awry when your plane is attacked by pterodactyls and your pilot ends up getting eaten by a T-Rex. Or at least we think he was eaten; the game goes out of its way not to show what happens and there’s no blood on the T-Rex’s teeth afterwards.
Usually when we’re reviewing VR games the one bit of praise they can rely on is that at least the sense of immersion is impressive. The first impressions of Aftermath though are less than awe-inspiring. As you can see, it uses a cel-shaded visual design reminiscent of Telltale’s The Walking Dead games. That’s fair enough – photorealistic visuals are expensive – but sometimes the graphics get even more stylised, with 2D clouds floating past the window like a Super Mario game.
The more stylised visuals are used so inconsistently we suspect plans were changed some way through development but whatever’s going on, from a visual standpoint, Aftermath is one of the least impressive VR games we’ve seen in a long time. That doesn’t mean it’s entirely ineffective though and the fact that it is VR, and you have no weapons to defend yourself, means encounters with dinosaurs can still be very tense.
The famous kitchen scene from the first film is the obvious inspiration for much of the game, as you explore the island complex and try to hide whenever you see or hear a velociraptor nearby. This really would’ve been too scary for many if it looked realistic and we don’t mind admitting we got a bit flustered the first few times we were caught in the open. All the rest of the times, after you realise that a velociraptor coming round the corner is the game’s one and only trick, it starts to seem rather less terrifying.
When you’re not hiding from velociraptors or dodging dilophosauruses you’re doing exactly what someone tells you to do via the radio, which the game seems to think counts as solving puzzles. Not only is it all extremely simplistic stuff anyway but frustratingly none of the objects or buttons needed to proceed become interactive until the moment you need to use them, which does nothing for the already fragile sense of reality.
Perhaps you won’t mind the cel-shaded graphics – we didn’t like them but at least they’re some sort of stylistic choice – but the game’s also technically inept when it comes to the velociraptor’s artificial intelligence, which frequently sees them getting teleported to your vicinity purely for story reasons, and not because you made a noise.
This is extra frustrating because they then end up getting confused enough to not leave a room for minutes on end, as you literally have to sit and wait because there’s no other way to interact with the game world except activate the odd loudspeaker as a distraction.
We can almost feel the game daring us to make a comparison with Alien Isolation and on a very basic level the two games are similar. But where Alien Isolation (currently free on the Epic Games Store) represents perhaps the most authentic recreation of a movie ever seen in a video game Aftermath is exactly the opposite.
If Jeff Goldblum hadn’t somehow been roped into doing an afternoon’s voiceover work it would feel much more like an off-brand knock-off than the real thing (but then you could say much the same thing about the new movies). Everything seems very half-hearted and lazy, from the Simon Says hacking mini-game to the transparent attempts to pretend the game isn’t completely linear.
Aftermath isn’t so bad it feels insulting but it is a complete waste of everybody’s time, including Universal Studios who keep licensing out the films in the hope someone will make an interesting game based on them. There’s the germ of what could be one in Jurassic World Aftermath but this needs to evolve an awful lot more for the second part to be in any way worth considering.
Jurassic World Aftermath review summary
In Short: An especially disappointing film licence, simply for the fact of how much potential it wastes with its low budget visuals and bland gameplay.
Pros: Being stalked by a velociraptor is fun the first couple of times. Jeff Goldblum is in it.
Cons: Simplistic, highly repetitive stealth gameplay made worse by inconsistent AI. Linear progression, mindless puzzles, and unimaginative plot. Cheap-looking graphics.
Formats: Oculus Quest
Publisher: Oculus Studios
Developer: Coatsink Software
Release Date: 17th December 2020
Age Rating: 12
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