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   PlanetDreamcast | Games | Reviews | Carrier
Call it "Swabbies vs. Sickies." By any name this game is worth a look - Review By Jetzep

Carrier Logo Back in the '70s, The Village People sang a song called "In The Navy." They never mentioned that if you joined you'd have to suffer through helicopter crashes, attacks by virus-infected shipmates, tirades by demented doctors, and confusing orders from "the brass." All this and more is in store for you in Carrier, the first Dreamcast title from Jaleco.

Here's the opening plot in a nutshell. Sometime in a dark and twisted future, North will be fighting South (which nations are involved isn't germane to the game, though the North side will probably include lots of countries comprised of fair haired, light skinned Caucasians, since most of the game's cast looks like this). The North attacks the South with its super aircraft carrier, the Heimdal, and destroys the Southern Cross terrorist base. But on its way back to port, the Heimdal falls mysteriously silent.

You play through the game as one of two field agents: Sergeant Jack Ingles, a brave super agent, and Jessifer (Jessifer??) Manning, a volunteer from the agency's Information Department. On approaching the Heimdal, automatic defense systems track the duo's helicopter, and shoot it down. Heroic action by the pilot brings you down on the flight deck, but Jessifer (again Jessifer??) is thrown clear before the chopper crash lands. You start out as Jack (probably because you hate your name so much as a female character), but switch to Jessifer later in the story.

Once on board the Heimdal, you discover pretty quickly that things aren't quite how you thought. Most of the crew has been transformed into horrible creatures by a malevolent virus. Those infected first become like walking zombies. Later, they mutate into creatures that can split their heads apart into nasty stinging, biting maws. Any crew that remain unaffected by the virus are: a) terrified, b) somewhat incapacitated by the fighting that's been going on, c) rendered insane by the terrifying events that have been taking place, or d) all of the above.

Well, true believer, that's the beginning. Where you go from there is up to you!

  • The Good

    The plotline is established with standard FMV.
    For starters, Carrier combines some very cool graphic and gameplay elements into one slick package.

    *Atmosphere:* Using an aircraft carrier for the story's setting is pure genius. Most who have watched "JAG" or "Under Siege" know what the inside of a ship looks like, but few have actually served aboard one. This gives the game's designers lots of artistic license to create environments that fit into the story line even as they maintain their authenticity. The game's back story also goes into great detail on how the carrier is the newest in the fleet, which makes the visuals of blood stained walls, trashed corridors and flickering lights all the more unnerving.

    Gadgetry: The designers of Carrier went out of their way to make up for the shortcomings of your character, like seeing in darkness, spotting invisible bad guys, and viewing past pesky walls and bulkheads. How did they do this? The BEM-T3 scope! It's one of the coolest gadgets you could ever pick up and it should be standard issue for anyone else's Resident Evil style game. (By the way, anyone who has been around cheap sci-fi movies knows that BEM stands for Bug-Eyed Monster. It's really cute to see a game trot a pun like this and leave it so far out in the open).

    As I said, the BEM-T3 scope is pretty nifty. It functions as a night vision scope, has diagnostic properties that help determine which of the carrier's crew have been corrupted, and even makes some of the carrier's walls semi-transparent. Oh, much less publicized, it has a Swiss army knife-like attachment, tiny magnifying glass, a Buzz Lightyear compass and is powered by a small hamster in a cage (which can also be used as emergency rations). Before you guys start looking in your inventory for the hamster, I'm just joking!

    The BEM-T3 scope adds depth, suspense, and playability to the game. Resident Evil doesn't even come close to it in the "cool gadget department."

    Carrier's atmosphere is great.
    Shoot, And Shoot Again: Jaleco wants to make this game appeal to the mass market gamer so they streamlined weapons use. You can select any weapon at any time. Aiming and firing are made simple because the auto-aiming cursor can be moved up or down with ease (as opposed to just High, Medium, and Low).

    Also, there are enough buttons to do anything you need to do. You can check maps, switch weapons, aim and shoot, and use the scope, all with a coordinated bunch of button pushes. Within a few minutes of picking up the game, you can handle things pretty well. In many cases, especially at the beginning of the game, I used the Directional Button instead of the Analog Stick, simply because I wanted to be sure of where I was going. The Stick is for when you want to beat feet away from an enemy or toward a distant goal. The Directional button is good for when you're in close quarters or when you're searching a room.

    No Brainers: The puzzles and challenges in Carrier don't take a PhD to solve (which is refreshing). An average game player will probably take 20 - 30 hours to crack it; rocket scientists will require considerably less. Helpfully, anything that needs to be picked up is carefully marked with a symbol or a flashing light.

  • The Bad
    Weapons are an issue in Carrier. Your standard issue sidearm isn't a sidearm at all. It's a welder. This is actually kind of fun because it incapacitates the monsters with an electroshock that's fun to watch. The other weapon that comes standard is a 9mm automatic, but you can run out of bullets quickly if you don't ration them carefully. Other than that, you can find a submachine gun and a T-7 bomb loitering around in various places, but that's it. Waaaah!!

    Most cutscenes utilize the in-game engine, with varying degrees of success.

    Other positive items, like ID cards, energy drinks, reloads, and the BEM-T3 scope really don't make up for the fact that there's not enough variety in the things you use to blow stuff up.

    Carrier's other negatives are small stuff; quite piddly, really.

    First, the game takes a bit too long to get into the really scary stuff. As in movies, there should be an immediate, "Wow, that scared me so bad I thought my eyeballs were going to blow up and my head implode." Well, Carrier is definitely creepy at the beginning, but taking so long to build to the first fear crescendo will definitely be a downer for some fans of the genre.

    While essential to moving the plot forward, the cut scenes are a bit too drawn out. The game's designers are asking too much of their in-game models to emote about how ghastly things are, since they have only a limited range of facial expressions. It's mostly the character's voices that carry these scenes, and that's just not enough. Luckily, there are terminals placed liberally around the ship that allow you to save your progress and, in most cases, avoid having to experience the cut scenes more than once.

    Also, most of the animation appears to be anything but motion captured. While it makes the game easier to program, it also imbues each character with a robotic appearance that doesn't jibe with the scariness of the plot.

    Lastly, there are issues with localization. How do you know that a game was made first for a non-US market? The voice says, "Hey, who's there?" but the lips are saying something much, much longer, that's how. This is bothersome, but at other times the lips of the characters are just opening and closing to simulate speech patterns. Lame.

  • The Final Word
    While Carrier may not have the name recognition of a Resident Evil, it does have everything else that a fan of survival horror videogames could want, such as a scary plot, creepy monsters, and decent controls. Try Carrier out for yourself, and you'll have a Dreamcast-style barometer to use when measuring Resident Evil: Code Veronica next month.

    Developer: Jaleco
    Publisher: Jaleco
    Genre: Action

    Highs: Engaging story line, reasonable graphics and spooky environments, easy to use controls.

    Lows: Limited weapons variety; slow build-up; laborious cut scenes.

    Other: 1 Player, VMU Compatible (each save requires 5 blocks), VGA Box Compatible, Jump Pack Compatible.

    Final Score:

    (out of a possible 10)

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