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Gaming: Dino D-Day


The dinosaur above sits innocently on the title screen, offering no hints of how irritating his kind will prove to be.

Available For: PC, on Steam (download from here)

Summary: Sergeant Jack Hardgrave attempts to thwart the Nazi regime’s plans to use dinosaurs to win World War 2.

Thoughts: Dino D-Day is a mod using the Source engine (ie. Valve’s engine, used for everything from Half-Life 2 through to Left 4 Dead 2).  The free mod is being released ahead of the full game, which will be available on Steam next year.  While trying out the mod I made a few comments on Twitter, and I think they’ll make a good basis for my thoughts.

“Trying out the Dino D-Day Source mod, detailing that time in World War 2 when the Nazis unleashed their secret weapon: dinosaurs.”

That about sums it up.  You’re a soldier in the African desert during World War 2, trying to stop the Nazis from unleashing dinosaurs upon the world.  Just imagine how different the world might be today if Hitler had decided to use his dinosaur powers for good.

Opening text

"I don't think I've ever had Adolf Hitler teach me game controls before."

Yup, Hitler himself sends you a message to start the game, as well as a couple more throughout. He even teaches you how to play:

Hitler Tutorial

I guess Hitler's game tutorials were never as popular as his other works.

"Even in the desert, the time from starting the game to encountering a smashable wooden crate is very low."

Wooden crates are one of those game clichés, present in most FPS titles.  Dino D-Day doesn’t disappoint, serving them up as the first thing you interact with, scattered around the area in the aftermath of a train crash.

“Just about to shoot a Nazi, walked over a grenade and switched to it, almost killing myself. I’ve never liked automatic weapon switching.”

As the quote says, I’ve never liked it when games automatically switch you to a new weapon as soon as you walk over it.  New isn’t automatically better, and with grenades or other explosive weapons it can be particularly irritating.  There are only four weapons in the game though and you start with two of them, so it doesn’t happen often.

“The Nazis might have been onto something. First encounter with a triceratops did not go well.”

It really didn’t.  Shooting a triceratops (the first dinosaur you meet) in the face while it charges you is not a good strategy, and it hits hard.

"Came across a Nazi just standing there, unkillable. Seemed odd until it turned out that he was a scripted victim of the dino attack."

I was actually wrong about that, he’s not unkillable.  He doesn’t react to bullets at all though, he just staggers around covering his eyes, so after he ignored the first couple of hits I assumed he couldn’t be killed.  The triceratops quickly came and killed him, so I assumed it was a scripted thing, which it also seems to be (although a bit of a clumsy one):


The position isn't fixed, but the triceratops will eventually come down and smash him.

“The Nazis are still more interested in shooting me than the rampaging triceratops. Priorities, people! This is why you lost the war (maybe).”

It’s not uncommon to have the AI all focus on the player, of course (I think even Resistance 2 did it), and it’s easier than having them assess target priorities and things like that.  It does makes the fight a little complicated because once the Nazis see you they all focus on you, so you’re trying to dodge a triceratops and avoid Nazi fire.

Dead Trike

"Uh oh, Hitler's angry with me now and is unleashing the special dinosaurs. It was mostly his men who killed the triceratops though."

Once you’re past the triceratops and through the next loading screen Hitler comes back to tell you how furious he is, but I was mostly hiding like a coward while the Nazis pumped the triceratops full of bullets, so if anything Hitler should have been mad at them.

“These special dinosaurs seem to be little raptor things. They die easy but hurt when they get close. I wonder if Hitler accepts apologies?”

This part of the game was actually quite tricky, because they charge at you in groups of two or more and do big leaps from a distance. I managed to get knocked back onto a rock by one, which left me standing on top of them and was frankly the only way I progressed:

Star of dinos.

They didn't really know what to make of that.

But after a while I started to suspect they were going to keep respawning until I advanced, because more and more kept coming:

Pile of dinos.

So the Nazis make this huge breakthrough and are able to make dinosaurs, only to have them become cannon fodder.

Past that you reach the climax of the mod, which naturally could only end with one dinosaur:

"You're gonna need a bigger gun."

"Something you don't want to hear as a tyrannosaur approaches: "Bullets only make the T-Rex charge". Flee powers, activate!"

The t-rex encounter is a boss fight of sorts, as there’s only one way to defeat it (which is explained to you in-game).  Like the triceratops fight from earlier it’s a bit chaotic, because in addition to the tyrannosaur there are Nazis shooting you around the edges and the little raptor guys rushing you, leaving you with a lot of balls to juggle.  Do it successfully though and Hitler sends you a final message promoting the full game (and the official site), but he’s not happy.

Sad Hitler

"I defeated T-Rex and made Hitler cry, neither of which were things I anticipated doing today. Really, I didn't see it coming."

What else is there to say then?  Dino D-Day is a fun little distraction for the short time it takes to complete. Unless I’m missing something important though the dinosaur encounters are far too hard, particularly the raptor swarm, and the other two dinosaur battles are too busy.  As the personal communications from Hitler show, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Somebody clearly had the idea of putting Nazis and dinosaurs together and just ran with it, which is fine.

It’s a decent little mod, but based on that I’m not sure it would hold up so well as a full retail product.  The download page does mention that it’s an early version that will take community feedback into account, so it could well deal with its issues in the months ahead.  If you have The Orange Box on PC (and who doesn’t?) then it’s worth the download time to take a look.

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  1. January 2, 2011 at 20:04

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