When a game presents you with a combination of dinosaurs and futuristic guns, the normal reaction is to scream in excitement while running around the room like a child. Orion: Dino Beatdown had the opposite effect on me. A great premise stunted by poor design and limited scope, this budget title fails on so many levels. What should have been a five man co-op Paleozoic romp turned out to be a broken, barely playable mess.
I hoped that Orion: Dino Beatdown was going to be a recreation of Dino-Riders with its futuristic setting, jetpacks, vehicles, and well...dinosaurs. The purpose of the whole game is for you and up to four other space marines defend a base against waves of angry dinosaurs. Of course, the only way to solve this problem is to use a variety of weapons and teamwork to bring upon the early extinction of said dinos. This sounds simple enough, but the game gives you no indication of how to actually play. You are thrown into a map where you cannot see where your teammates are, and you are not even told that you need to kill dinosaurs to earn cash and experience to upgrade your character. I tried to start a game solo, but quickly scrambled to find a populated server because the game is terribly unbalanced and succeeding alone was next to impossible. Even the smallest dinosaurs can tear you to shreds in a manner of seconds and you cannot tell when you are being attacked. I learned most of this by chatting in game with another player who had struggled through the same design issues I was having.
These guys will sneak up on you because the developers decided to remove their vocal cords
I grossly overestimated what Spiral Game Studios had put into their “open world, class based cooperative survival sci-fi first person shooter”. It is class based, allowing you to play as a recon, assault, or support style character, each with their own abilities. It is definitely cooperative, with 1-5 players being able to play on the same map at once. Survival is key with the whole game consisting of what we call a ‘horde’ mode today, thanks to Gears of War 2. The first person shooting suffers from the same balance issues mentioned above, with guns feeling much too underpowered or overpowered. I do have to clear things up when it comes to the whole ‘open world’. The maps are large, I’ll give it that but it is by no means an open world as you are limited to the five maps included with the game. Once you finish (or grow bored) of that area, it ends and you start up a new session.
Your character class has little difference on gameplay and teamwork
Dino Beatdown is plagued with bugs that make the game almost unplayable and it trips over its own feet with poor design choices. I would have been satisfied if they copied what Halo, Gears of War, even Killzone has done for survival based gameplay but take death and spawning as an example. When you die in a survival game, you are usually out for that round. You should be free to view your teammates until the next round starts in a couple minutes. When you die in Dino Beatdown, which will happen a lot, you’re stuck waiting for up to ten minutes for the current round to end until you can come back in the game. This all hinges on how well your allies are doing, and if they are lucky enough to repair the generators without the dinosaurs getting in the way. Keep in mind that there is no way to view the other players when you are dead, so have fun staring into oblivion while the round if being finished.
The shooting feels ok, but everything surrounding the gameplay is pretty broken as well. Cover does nothing, and don’t even think about hiding in a building since the dinos can clip through walls and tear you apart while you are fumbling to buy a new weapon. The maps are large and uninspiring, as you can select between ‘desert area’,‘jungle green area’ or a the three other generic environments. Apparently this runs on the Unreal 3 engine, but both the character models and the dinosaurs themselves look like a T-Rex was the lead art director. I know that graphics aren’t everything but it is tough to get into a game when it feels like this should have come out ten years ago. The last thing that I will harp on is the sound, or the lack of it. A survival game of this nature requires sound to build some tension and atmosphere, but there is literally no sound. You would expect the raptors to screech and the T-Rex to roar, but the dinosaurs just run around the level silent. Even the guns do not have a pop to them, and I think the vehicles were the only thing in the game that had a believable sound.
The game is as logical as this picture
The one possible saving grace of Orion: Dino Beatdown is the inclusion of co-op play. Finding a game was pretty challenging and I had to join servers that were across the ocean, as no one was really playing in the Americas. Apparently Dino Beatdown is big in Europe, who knew? I was subject to shocking frame rate issues and lag, and sometimes I could not join a game but simply listen to the melodramatic soundtrack and watch the action through a spectator camera. Horde mode has been done before, and is one of the best things to come to this generation of games. It is not that hard to do, but Dino Beatdown even manages to screw this up. The game does nothing to encourage you to work as a team, as the classes are not designed to complement each other and you mostly need other people to act as distractions so you can get some kills in and then run away and hide. The dinosaurs will focus on anyone who shoots at them, making the basic strategy for survival is to take turns shooting. Sounds fun, right? Helping each other means nothing, as only the person who gets the kill is rewarded with the cash which means that one person usually ended up with all the cool toys and everyone else was stuck with a pistol. Because the game is entirely comprised of a survival mode, it is really unfortunate that there is no incentive for working together as a co-op team.
I wanted to like Orion: Dino Beatdown but I probably went into it with the wrong expectations. I shouldn’t ask so much of a budget title, but when you tease me with the subject matter of dinosaurs and laser guns what am I supposed to do? Even the co-op play cannot save what this game attempts to be, and I would not wish it upon anyone to have to suffer through this with a friend. Bugs aside, there is little gameplay to be had and the whole experience is appalling. Do not waste your time or money with Orion: Dino Beatdown because you will be disappointed with the lack of creative use for such wonderful creatures.