Asymmetrical multiplayer is something of a trend at the moment, but you'd be hard-pushed to find a Team Deathmatch less symmetrical than Primal Carnage - an upcoming indie title from Lukewarm Media. On one side you've got the Mercenaries, a fairly standard band of hardcases, equipped with assault rifles, shotguns, and other FPS staples. And on the other, you've got dinosaurs. Dinosaurs that are capable of working together it would seem - or at least, as close to working together as online gamers ever get; I have a pleasing mental image of a Velociraptor shouting at a T-Rex because he stole his kill.
On the basis of what I've learned from Jurassic Park (which is clearly as instructive as any documentary), a hypothetical scrap between dinosaurs and humans would inevitably result in a crushing loss for the latter. The joy of Primal Carnage is that it doesn't remotely care about this. It's a game about combining two things that we gamers love - dinosaurs and guns - and doing so with gleeful abandon. It's a slightly silly idea, but one that's immediately appealing. I mean, come on: it's a team deathmatch outing where you can be Tyrannosaurus Rex. Who doesn't want to play that?
The Rex and the Raptor appear to be the mainstays at this stage of the game's development, which hardly comes as a surprise. The T-Rex is the tank class, as you'd expect, while the Raptor is the a bit more versatile as he's able to run and leap about swiftly, and small enough to enter buildings. While it's hard to imagine people dragging themselves away from these two classes, the remaining three seem to offer up a fair bit of novelty value: The Pteranodon offers the unique opportunity to fly about the battlefield, scooping up human players and then dropping them like eggs on a kitchen floor, while the Compsognathus class sees you steering about a small pack of chicken-size dinos. Or at least, it does in theory: the Compys didn't appear in the build on show at gamescom, which is a shame as they were easily the best thing about The Lost World.
Finally there's the Dilophosaurus, the poisonous one who killed the chubby guy in Jurassic Park; he gets to gob venom at people and do damage over time. He's also got an extra power which is currently listed as "CLASSIFIED" on the game's official site, and that gets me excited because I'm stupidly susceptible to mysteries.
If I'm honest, I'm fairly susceptible to anything dinosaur-related in the first place. I'm one of the few people who really enjoyed the Mega Drive version of Jurassic Park, for example, simply because it was the first game to let me control a Velociraptor. I'm assuming that most players will be drawn to this for similar reasons, and as such it's probably a good thing that players swap sides at the end of each round. That's not to say that the human classes have nothing to offer. The mercenaries classes are all played from a traditional FPS view, in contrast with the dinosaurs' third-person perspective, so they're likely to be a bit easier to pick up. As I said earlier, the options here are fairly standard shooter fare, offering the chance to play sniper, heavy gunner, shotgun-scout or flamer.
There's also a fifth class that gets akimbo pistols and a net for snaring dinos, which in turn allows you to carve up your target with a stabby instakill. Again, it seems faintly ridiculous that one man could tangle up a T-Rex with a small web and then shank him like the victim of a Croydon mugger - but hey! This will probably be a lot of fun. So who cares?
I know I don't. Primal Carnage looks to be frantic, varied and stuffed with the potential for hilarity - ingredients that tend to catch my attention, even without the attraction of playable dinosaurs. Lukewarm Media is currently accepting applications for the forthcoming beta, so if you like the sound of all this, sign up pronto(saurus).
Primal Carnage is in development for the PC and will soon be going into beta testing.