Hitler has created an army of Nazi dinosaurs… because of course he has.
PC Release: April 8, 2011
By Ian Coppock
Is there any supernatural or sci-fi entity that the Nazis haven‘t co-opted for World War II? Hitler bolstering the Third Reich with everything from an army of zombies to a base on the moon to robot spiders has become its own sub-genre in today’s media. Video games haven’t been far behind in appropriating Nazi doomsday plots, taking to that same campy ridiculousness with as much gusto as their film and television counterparts. Take Dino D-Day, for instance, a game that, well… just look at the title.
Ever think about what would happen if Hitler brought back the dinosaurs and put them into his army? Dino D-Day does. That notion drives everything from the game’s visuals to its writing to its gameplay; it is described by developers 800 North and Digital Ranch as their take on “the overdone World War II FPS… that has become a running joke in the industry and the gaming press.” Funny, World War II being overdone is what we discussed in yesterday’s review of Day of Defeat: Source.
Dino D-Day is an entirely multiplayer title that takes team-based World War II shooting and turns it on its head with the introduction of Nazi dinosaurs. Players can join the Axis or Allied forces as a human or dinosaur soldier, but the Axis has way more dinos and is therefore way more fun to play. Honestly, who comes to a game called Dino D-Day intent on playing as a human character anyway? This might be the only context on earth where choosing the Axis over the Allies is the right thing to do.
After picking between the team that has dinosaurs and the team that doesn’t, players can choose one of several characters that each have their own firearms and abilities. All but one of the Allied troops is human, and they range from conventional frontline rifleman to more specialized support troops. By contrast, the Axis has a few human troops and a ton of dinosaurs. The game usually enters third-person when played as a dinosaur, so that players can see their gun-toting dino in all its prehistoric glory.
Now for the question that everyone’s asking: how do players become the T. rex? Certain maps will randomly allow Axis players to spawn as a tyrannosaurus, and it’s an absolute god upon the battlefield. In case being a giant eating machine isn’t enough, the Nazi T. rex comes standard with jaw-mounted gatling guns and a thirst for Allied blood. Stomping around the map eating everything in sight is a lot of fun, but anyone who kills the rex gets credit for three kills instead of one, so stomp with some caution.
Getting to play as a gun-toting tyrannosaurus is a lot of fun, but Dino D-Day has a hard time making other dinosaurs as exciting. Sure, the sight of a dinosaur with a machine gun strapped to its back provokes comic relief, but for all their scales and spikes, most dinosaurs are logistically similar to their human counterparts. This somewhat reduces the novelty of playing as a Cretaceous cannoneer. Most dinosaur weapons are a bit heavier, sure, but only 2-3 dinosaur classes have more novel gameplay. One dino shreds things with his claws, another is a tiny suicide bomber.
As can be expected, humans play similarly to their World War II counterparts in Day of Defeat: Source. Shoot the enemy until they die, repeat. Dino D-Day does change things up a little bit by making characters more durable and adding medkits, but that’s really all that’s done to shake up playing as a human character. As was previously stated, don’t come to Dino D-Day for the humans. Come for the dinos, stay for the dinos—and angle for a chance to play as the T. rex.
Whether players pick human or dino, Dino D-Day‘s controls leave a lot to be desired. The game’s default movement, shooting and utility controls are clunky, but luckily the game allows rebinding. Moving as a dinosaur feels unwieldy, as even the smallest of them have awkward turning radii. Though it makes sense from a premise standpoint that the Axis has all of the dinosaurs, that also makes the gameplay feel somewhat lopsided. All of the specialized, weird dino classes are on one team, and the conventional shoot-em-up classes are on the other. Three guesses which side is more fun to be on.
Dino D-Day also only comes with four game modes, which isn’t a whole lot even by 2011 standards. Players can duke it out in a standard deathmatch mode or in King of the Hill, where checkpoints have to be captured. There’s also Objective mode, which is conspicuously similar to King of the Hill except players fight for control of certain objects or buildings instead of areas. Objective mode allows Axis players to take control of a Panzer-hefting styracosaurus, but for some reason this can only occur in one map. This curious inconsistency, among others, makes Dino D-Day feel unfinished. The most recent mode, Last Stand, sees players face off against waves of enemies for as long as possible.
At least Dino D-Day avoids the samey setting trap that’s snared countless World War II games. Most of the maps are set in North Africa and Italy instead of the same dreary Belgian countryside seen over and over in other World War II titles, and that’s definitely a plus. Even so, Dino D-Day shipped with a mere five maps and only six more have been added to the game since (for an average of one map a year). That’s not a lot of content, even for a multiplayer game that came out in 2011. The Source visuals have helped prolong Dino D-Day‘s aging, but few maps means that there’s little aging to go around.
Still, just in case those Source textures are too much or the AA is too high, Dino D-Day comes with a Valve-sized options menu to ameliorate any potential problems. From multicore rendering to shader and effect details, few aspects of the game’s performance are beyond the reach of players. Modern machines should be able to run Dino D-Day with no performance issues whatsoever, since it’s a Source game that came out six years ago, but sometimes players never know what problems might hit their PC. Better to have an in-depth options menu even for a game this old.
Dino D-Day‘s options are more limited when it comes to finding an actual game. Much like the age of the dinosaurs, this game’s community was roaring a while back but underwent a crippling extinction event. Today’s roster of servers is looking a little thin, and most of the few games that do happen are on a private server, leaving lone wolves and randos without playmates. Dino D-Day‘s community perks back up whenever an update is released, but those have been fewer and further between in recent years.
At this point, Dino D-Day has a few options to get itself off the museum shelf and back into the action. Going free-to-play might work, but then the studio would alienate inveterate players who paid for the title and DLC. The gameplay could also be retooled to make the dinosaurs feel more like, well… dinosaurs. Maybe add a dino that can smash into people like a tank or something, because right now, the dinosaurs are functionally similar to humans. This gameplay issue makes Dino D-Day feel more like a funny skin pack than, say, Primal Carnage or Natural Selection II.
As of writing, Dino D-Day is a no-go. The chance to play as a tyrannosaurus is more easily experienced in other games, and is not worth soldiering through hours of conventional shooting with mediocre key bindings to get to. If more dinosaurs were rebalanced to feel like terrifying creatures instead of a player skin, the game’s value proposition as a novel, funny World War II offshoot would increase tremendously. For now, though, Dino D-Day is a dying game that makes a humorous albeit shallow attempt at campy Nazi sci-fi. Only time will tell if future updates can give Dino D-Day the depth its concept deserves.
You can buy Dino D-Day here.
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