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July 2019

Jurassic World Evolution

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Frontier Developments
Release Date: June 12, 2018


PC Review - 'Jurassic World Evolution'

by Cody Medellin on June 25, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Build your own Jurassic World, bio-engineer new dinosaur breeds, and construct attractions, containment and research facilities. Every choice leads to a different path and spectacular challenges arise when ‘life finds a way.’

Buy Jurassic Park Evolution

From a game perspective, Jurassic Park video games make sense as simulations. There's nothing wrong with the more action-based fare of earlier titles, but it's appealing to build a park and succeed where the creators of the movies mostly failed. That sentiment seems to have caught on with developers, as there have been no fewer than three Jurassic Park and Jurassic World-branded games that have players in charge of the park. Two of the titles were strictly portable affairs, while Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis remains the sole PC and console game; it has a big following due to the ease of modding the game on the PC. Jurassic World Evolution marks the fourth attempt at a park simulator for the franchise and the second game on the PC and consoles. Coming from Frontier Developments, there are some big expectations from the title, and the end result is both satisfying and disappointing.

You start off with an introduction by Dr. Ian Malcolm, who welcomes you to the park while simultaneously warning you about your imminent failure to play God. A few tutorial missions later, and you're given free rein to create the park that Richard Hammond had envisioned. To that end, you'll set up facilities for guests, making new dinosaurs and their respective habitats, and maintain security so things don't go amok.

Accomplishing this is done via the usual park management means. You can build facilities just about anywhere, but you'll need to make pathways to link people and power lines so the buildings can function. To get new dinosaurs, you need to deploy teams to dig at sites around the world. Those sites bring in fossils so you can extract DNA, and each dig produces samples of varying quality. You can't create a dinosaur until your research of that breed is at least at 50% complete, but improving the yield produces hardier dinosaurs that are more resistant to disease. You'll spend plenty of time upgrading facilities and researching cures for potential dino illnesses.

To successfully achieve the dream of a fully functioning park, you'll complete missions and tasks for three main disciplines. The first is science, which is in charge of researching the DNA necessary to resurrect dinosaur breeds and keep them healthy. They're also in charge of modifying the dinosaurs to make them sturdier and more resilient. Entertainment is next, and their job is to keep the park profitable and the guests entertained. That can mean putting up attractive displays for guests to watch and shops for them to buy goods. Then there's security, which is mainly focused on keeping the facilities running and making sure dinosaurs don't kill everyone if they get loose.

Completing these contracts and missions gets you extra cash for the park and generates renown in the mission's discipline. There is a constant struggle to get all of those disciplines balanced, since a mission benefits one discipline while upsetting another. Without that balance in, you'll get situations where someone tries to sabotage the park either by having the dinosaurs die earlier or shutting off the electrical fences so the dinosaurs can destroy everything. You'll wonder if that was the original plan, since some of the requests seem counterintuitive, like releasing a live dino among the guests to see if safety protocols are working.

For the most part, this is exactly what you'd expect. You take a park with limited funds and try to make it into something more profitable despite the occasional viral or dinosaur outbreak or inclement weather. Do well here, and you're shuttled off to another island, where you have to repeat the process but with different scenarios, like starting with a park in complete disarray. Complete all of those challenges, and you'll be rewarded with Site B, where you have all the building space you want and an infinite amount of cash.

For players who aren't heavily invested in the park management genre, everything in Jurassic World Evolution sounds fine. Those who enjoy this genre and have played several of these games will find a few significant issues. The first is the inability to check on the status of your guests. You can see all of the stats for your dinosaurs, and fans will love seeing more than 40 species running around, but the humans are only there to give you a steady source of income. They also don't seem to care about disasters, so they'll run at the sight of an Indominus Rex chasing after them, but they'll return and happily look at its habitat again as if nothing happened.

The other major issue comes from the lack of a sandbox mode. To be fair, getting a four-star rating on any island unlocks a sandbox mode there, but you're only given any species and upgrades that you've already unlocked. To get the complete experience, you have to go through the campaign, which is fine for those who like a more structured experience. For those who want something a little looser, that option simply isn't here.

Graphically, the title is quite nice. Aside from a few instances of pop-up when pulling back the camera as far as possible, the game engine does a great job of depicting large swaths of foliage and rainstorms. The dinosaurs are the main stars, and they look awesome, especially when you see them trample grass underfoot or their skin turn slick due to the storms. It becomes a very good contrast to the human visitors, who are there but without recognizable traits. The audio is also very well done. The music is sparse, but the familiar tones of the movie's theme song are enough to get you excited. The roars of the dinosaurs are perfect for a good sound system. The voices are also well acted, even if there are only a few appearances from actors like Bryce Dallas-Howard, Jeff Goldblum and BD Wong.

Your enjoyment of Jurassic World Evolution is going to depend on what you're looking for from a park management sim. If you want a full campaign without worrying about minutiae, then you'll find this to be a well-done take on the genre that looks stunning and sounds very nice. If you want freeform play from the beginning, you'll come away disappointed at what this package offers. Evolution is still a good use of the license, but you can't shake the feeling that it could have been better.

Score: 7.0/10

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