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PC Review: Carnivores Ice Age

by Rainier on May 3, 2001 @ 9:27 p.m. PDT

Carnivores : Ice Age is the third installation of the Carnivores Trilogy. Developed by Ukrainian Action Forms Ltd. and published By WizardWorks / Infogrames., hunting dinosaurs is what this "hunting simulation" game is all about.
 

We all know that the Ice Age was responsible for the extinction of most dinosaurs. With the aid of modern weapons and tactics, you can now speed up the extinction process by hunting down the largest animals that have ever inhabited our planet. As was the case with its two predecessors, the graphics and audio in Carnivores: Ice Age are top-notch, but unfortunately ...

... that cannot be said about the entire game. WizardWorks is Infogrames' budget label, and at the price of $19.99 for this title, it shows. The game, unlike its prequels, is stripped of everything BUT the game itself: no animated intro, no introduction of any kind, and hardly any music. The game is situated in the future and an exploration ship discovers a "Lost World" of sorts, much like Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park. As it turns out, the planet is actually a lot older than Earth but has the same climate and -- surprise! -- the same pre-historic dino's. Because the planet is so old, it cannot be used for anything except as a place to hunt dinosaurs. DinoHunt Corp. was founded shortly thereafter, and the real-life dinosaur hunting expeditions began. This is where you come in.

The game installs as easy as they come since the video/audio settings are changed from inside the options menu. Being a budget title, it installs at approximately 190 megs. The odd thing is that the next time you insert the CD to play the game (which will probably NOT be the case), it immediatly jumps to the installation menu again instead of just recognizing it as a previously-installed game and going to the game menu. The game menu has four submenus: Hunting, Trophy, Options and Quit ... The Options menu lets you alter your desired audio/video drivers, your screen resolution and some additional effects. The Trophy option lets you roam around in the trophy room, where your kills are displayed, and Hunt gets you into the action ... well, almost.

If you select the Hunt option, the next menu lets you choose weapons, the dino's that you want to hunt, and which hunting grounds you prefer. The premise of the game is exactly the same as the two previous versions -- different locations, weapons and dinosaurs, and not all of the options are available from the beginning of the game. You must accumulate points from your hunts, and the better your ranking (novice, advanced, expert), the more access to maps and weapons you will get. You begin as a novice with no points or kills to your credit, and you only have a choice of two hunting areas : "McRath Island," with icy cliffs, rolling hills covered with sparse vegatation and deep snowdrifts, is a relatively safe area for the new hunters; and "Ravaren's Island," with frigid swamps and and pine trees, whih serve as good cover for hunter and prey alike.

Every map is heavily populated with with Herbivores (Megaloceros [giant deer], mammoth, wooly rhinoceros, brontoteriy and LOADS of hogs), Carnivores (cave bear, smilodon [saber-toothed tiger], wolf, diatryma), and some bird-like creature named Archaeopteryx. At the novice level you can can choose to hunt the Brontoteriy, wild boar, wolf, wooly rhinoceros or the Diatryma. The designated weapons are a mere pistol and the futuristic-looking crossbow, X-BOW, both with limited amounts of ammunition. Each weapon has its own characteristics and advantages; a gun will kill quickly but make a lot of noise whereas the crossbow is quiet and won't scare off other dinosaurs in the immediate area. Once you earn 100 points, you get bumped up in rank, and more maps will become available to you, like the "Ring Of Infernus," an island secluded by a ring of extinct volcanoes, and "Dry Nodus Lake," which is a snowy island with treacherous canyons and rivers, in which an unwary hunter can easily become trapped. Your range of weapon also expands, as does the selection of dinosaurs.

Of course, the object of the game is to kill as many dinosaurs as possible, but rushing in like a mad man and blasting away won't get you anywhere. The limited amounts of ammo are your biggest problem, although you have a Hunt/Options choice for double ammo AND a one-time extra supply from a supply ship (selecting any item from the Hunt/Options menu reduces your score). In spite of these two aids, you will have to conserve your bullets. This is where the game differs from a regular action hunting game: there is no endless shooting. Once you are out of bullets, the only way out is to exit and restart the game.

Carnivores : Ice Age - Conclusion And System Setup

You are free to hunt and kill ANY type of dinosaur, but only the ones you selected in the menu will give you full credits, and the rest will yield half of their regular point values. So what will you do with your last round of bullets? Kill that wild boar in front of you, or track down a wooly rhino? Decisions, decisions! You also have the option to use tranquilizers instead of ammo, which will increase your score by 25% upon the completion of a successfull hunt. What's the catch? Since you did not kill your prey, it won't get picked up by the transport spacecraft and taken to your trophy room. You also get to choose the time of day for your hunt: day, night (with night-vision goggles), or dawn (the pretty skies make up for all of it).


 

 

 

One of the game's useful options is the ability to mimic animal calls. The C-key lets you cycle through the animal sounds you can imitate, and the ALT-key activates them. If that specific animal is in the immediate area, it will return your call so you'll know where it is at without seeing it. This brings us to the discussion of the game's incredible audio. While roaming around in search of your victims, you'll hear Mammoths roar or wolves howl, and you can almost smell your own fear because the animals sound like they are right next to you. As you move to your left or right, the sounds get correspondingly louder or softer. The audio feature on this game is simply outstanding! The ambient sounds are also brilliant, especially in the swamp, where rushing water, random snakes, bird or dinosaur noises have you looking around to see if you are about to be attacked. However, one major oversight by the developers is that you can step and run through any sort of bushes or trees without making any noise at all. This was especialy surprising for a game that relies so heavily on the fact that your prey can hear you coming.

This brings us to the amazing AI part of the dinosaurs. Not only can they HEAR you coming, but they can also smell you. So if the animals are downwind, there isn't even a snowball's chance in hell that you could sneak up on the animals and chalk up any kills. The scent cover artifact can help a bit, but some of the dino's are simply too smart. On more than one occasion, I've crouched behind a tree to ambush a wooly rhino, when all of a sudden, it spiked me in the back with its horn. I heard it coming, and visons of a heavily-decorated trophy room danced in my head, and the next thing I knew, I was a hot dog on a stick.

However, all of this excellent work fades away in the actual gameplay. You would figure the developers would have fixed something about the fact you can run around endlessly like a headless chicken looking for that oh-so-elusive dinosaur. The radar helps a lot, but chances are that you've died of boredom before successfully spotting any dinosaurs. Perhaps that is what hunting is all about, but the game could really use some specific goals, like missions or some more combat/hunting action to kill some time while you're killing dinosaurs. Especially in a day and age where 3D shooters and high-action games rule the market, it would have been VERY advisable to have incorporated some more alternative aspects in the game. Like I said in the beginning, it is a hunting simulation game, and that's it in a nutshell. The Action Forms Ltd. have developed a new engine/technology for their upcoming co-op project Duke Nukem: Endangered Species, with 3D Realms. Let's hope they give us some action to go with their marvelous graphics and audio. Nonetheless, they delivered a good title which is definitely worth its pricetag, but I would only recommend it to people with either a lot of time and patience or the hardcore hunting game fans.

The game was tested on :

PIII 700
Geforce II & Geforce DDR/DVI
512 Mb Ram
Logitech Mouse
Guillemot Maxi Sound Fortisimmo

Cheat Codes

There is only one cheat code for Carnivores : Ice Age.

When you start the game, type "DEBUGUP" (without the quotes) and then two things will happen:

Animals will not attack you unless you attack them first.

You will be able to run very quickly by holding down the CTRL key.

Hints

Carnivores is a true hunting simulation, in spite of its science fiction setting. In order to find and kill the animals, you will have to follow some basic rules:

Move into the wind so that the dinosaurs will not smell you.

Look for signs of animals in the area such as tracks or the animals themselves.

You can use calls to lure the animals in, but be careful… the carnivorous ones can hear you too.

If they think you're an herbivore, they'll try to eat you.

Be patient and don't move around too much! If you see tracks or other signs of animals, and use the tips we just described, then they WILL eventually come to you if you give them a chance.

It is not possible to reload your weapon in Carnivores.

Press the ESC key to leave the hunting ground after you have used all your shots.

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