Jaleco's first Dreamcast title. Carrier, will plunge them headlong into the world of survival horror as currently defined by Capcom's ubiquitous Resident Evil series. The possibility that Carrier may be the first game to fill the shoes of this ever-popular genre on the Dreamcast will have many supporters of the system raising their bars of expectation.
It's the year 2023 and factions of global superpowers are split in an ironic conflict over earth's environmental concerns. To combat the rising tide of international terrorism, the first world economies formed the NHATO (Northern Hemisphere Area Treaty Organization). Meanwhile in the Pacific islands, a group of military researchers discover prehistoric eggs (codenamed ARCs) miraculously preserved in suspended animation.
In order to protect this breakthrough discovery, the NHATO carrier Heildam is ordered to transport these plant-like embryos to a maximum-security facility. While en route to its destination, a terrorist bomb causes the Heildam's sprinkler system to activate and all hell breaks loose. Your goal is to infiltrate the Heildam and investigate its mysterious distress signal.
To establish the appropriate ambience for Carrier, Jaleco has put to task a few techniques seen in more recent 3D adventure games. While most of the game's cinematic angles are composed of prerendered backgrounds, there are also a number of areas which will be rendered in real time. From what we've seen, both prerendered and real-time environments look nearly identical-and equally as seamless. Carrier also relies heavily on the contrast between bright and dark areas, light and shadows, as a device of horror. To this end, real-time light sourcing (Silent Hill anyone?) is used extensively. Jaleco may not be pioneers, but the overall effect is undeniably chilling.
Other details include NPC (non-player character) reactions to your character's behavior. If you place a bead on a frightened ensign with your trusty assault rifle, he'll cower and squeal. If you cross the threshold and shoot him, he'll run for dear life. Sure, the Al is strictly cause and effect, but at least it gives the sadistic a slight tremor of joy. Similarly, jaleco has tweaked combat in Carrier with aiming crosshairs which signal a lock-on, to help pick off monsters from a distance. Later on in the game, a scanner will help you determine friend from foe.
Also like Resident Evil 2, Carrier will require you to switch between characters in order to complete the game.
The game is structured around six large levels represented as the different decks of the Heildam carrier. As the enemies and obstacles become more difficult with each level, so will the bosses situated at the end of each stage. It's important to keep all of Carrier's potentiality in perspective. It's at an early stage of development and the game still needs a good amount of polish before it's released. It should scare people, not frustrate them. The stage is set; the gates have flung open; let's hope Jaleco takes survival horror to a new level.
Jaleco's done it. Carrier has beat out Code Veronica to the market, but having played both games extensively, I can only say it's not quite as polished as Veronica. Even so, Carrier is a solid 3D adventure in much the same noir vein. Story and character play a central role in Carrier; laleco does a great job with the story in the first third of the game, but somewhere after that, Carrier seems to collapse under the weight of its own contrivances. What it basically comes down to is, how much can one game borrow from another? Anyone who's ever played Resident Evil will quickly spot the casual placement of journals, keycards, precious life potions, a healthy preoccupation with firearms, munitions, and other survival horror necessities. There's even a pseudo-zap-ping system when you play as Jessifer, the female counterpart to the protagonist. It's all there, but it's missing that special something--call it "soul" if you will--that makes you really cherish the experience. Still, Carrier sports some of the most detailed graphics and environments on the Dreamcast yet. Kudos to Jaleco for some genuine ambience. There's occasional slowdown, even when absolutely nothing is happening on screen. With only two survival horror games on the DC so far. Carrier is a great entry-level adventure for fans of the genre.
What kind of name is Jessifer, anyway? This is definitely more B-movie than Resident Evil will ever be. Some eye-candy graphically, but it's all very plastic. It doesn't have that dingy, chaotic look that a survival horror game needs to provoke fear. The game has a tendency to shift camera angles way too often in rooms, leading to a few problems if you're backing away from enemies. A decent prelude to Code Veronica, but otherwise it's average.
It's like Resident Evil, only without any of the good bits, and it's set on a ship. Playing this makes me feel that we were a bit harsh on Blue Stinger, because that's eminently more playable than this. As David St. Hubbins once said, "there's a fine line between clever and stupid" and Carrier is on the wrong side of that line. The character design is bad (the zombies are laughable), the acting is pathetic and the story is weak. Wait for Code Veronica.
Carrier certainly sounds exciting on paper: DC graphics, survival horror on an aircraft carrier, etc. But when you put in some game time, you may find yourself quite bored at times. This game isn't bad at all, but it's not terribly exciting either. It borrows a little too much from certain other survival horrors, making me feel like I've played this game before. Get Carrier to tide you over until Code: Veronica arrives. Just don't get your hopes up too high.