Feature film tie-in games are usually hit or miss, with most falling into the latter category. The Jurassic Park film franchise is no stranger to these, and has had quite a few game tie-in “misses” in the 25 years since the series began. But that all changes with developer Frontier Development’s Jurassic World Evolution, out now for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Frontier has not only created one of the best Jurassic Park games, it’s created one of the best tie-in games ever.
Jurassic World Evolution is a park sim, much like a Zoo Tycoon, but it gives players all the tools from the iconic film franchise to build theme parks, create dinosaur attractions, and make money. Players are assigned to an archipelago called the Five Deaths, or Cinco Muertes, which contain all of the islands from the books and films, and a few others created for the game.
Starting with the first island, Isla Matanceros, players are tasked with building their own theme park from the ground up. This involves erecting various buildings and structures, sending out expeditions to collect fossils and amber samples, and then extracting the DNA to create dinosaurs. The player is given full control on where and how each structure is built, and which dinos are created and where they are kept. It goes without saying, but make sure you keep the herbivores and the carnivores separate. It’s an expensive and potentially dangerous lesson to learn.
In the course of building the park, various missions, or “contracts” are handed out by one of three divisions, Science, Entertainment, and Security, which can aid in the park’s growth by paying out for contract completion, as well as rewarding new items and research options for jobs well done. As Jurassic World Evolution goes on, and the player tackles more and more islands, these three groups begin to battle each other for your favor and will start to even sabotage the other divisions, sowing the seeds for eventual chaos.
And it’s not just the enemies from within that players have to worry about. Mother nature is always a threat, as a hurricane or a typhoon can pop up at any time, knocking out power, damaging key buildings, and worse, tearing down important fences. Learning to juggle all of this, while still keeping each of the three contract divisions happy, as well as still working to build the parks and find and fill them with new and interesting dinosaurs is the true key to Jurassic World Evolution.
This isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of game. Players must constantly be vigilant, making sure that the feeders are full and the dinosaurs are healthy and content, on top of everything else involved with running a theme park. The AI for the dinosaurs adapts to the choices made by the player, and personalities and dino states of mind become additional things to monitor. A dino in discomfort will grow agitated, and in turn, bad things will happen.
Where Jurassic World Evolution really shines is in how it encapsulates the true spirit of the Jurassic Park franchise’s story. If you think the series is about rampaging dinosaurs, you would be mistaken. Micheal Crichton and Steven Spielberg created these films as a cautionary tale of science run amok. Of man’s hubris to play god, and of tampering with and ultimately defying natural selection and evolution. And then dealing with the horrible consequences.
Jurassic World Evolution recreates that theme splendidly, giving the player the autonomy to layout and create their own theme parks, and then seeking out long-extinct monsters to fill the cages for the profit that comes from creating an attraction like this. This game is the ultimate “what if,” as players can test their park managing mettle against the same type of horrors that happen in the films. Players can even begin to play around with various genomes and essentially re-mix their own dinos. And after four movies, we’ve all seen how badly that can turn out.
Jurassic World Evolution uses real human faces and characters from the film series, and Jeff Goldblum, B.D. Wong, and Bryce Dallas Howard reprise their roles, as they give the player advice in building the parks, the dinosaurs, and what could happen if things were to go sideways. The voice acting is top notch throughout, from every actor, and the sound effects are taken directly from the films, so each dinosaur sounds authentic to the franchise. The music is also riffed directly from John Williams’ original score, making this look, feel and sound like a true Jurassic Park experience. This really helps set the game firmly into the Jurassic Park universe and makes it truly feel like you are participating in John Hammond’s crazy dream of creating the ultimate theme parks.
In addition to the campaign, a sandbox island opens up eventually, which lets players play god to their heart’s content. This sandbox island frees the player from certain restraints, as everything is unlocked and money is no object, allowing gamers to tinker with genomes, get creative with building layouts, and anything else a budding park owner can imagine. Also, a free Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom pack is coming as an update when the film is released later this month, which includes six all new dinosaurs to breed, including the new film’s terrifying new “baddie,” the Indoraptor.
Frontier has done a wonderful job with Jurassic World Evolution. They have created one of the best tie-in games ever, not by trying to reinvent the wheel, but by creating the full Jurassic Park experience and letting the players create and tinker and play god, which has consequences, both good and bad. I’ve never seen a game recreate a film’s theme so on-the-nose as Jurassic World Evolution, and my love for this game grows each and every play session.
I love Jurassic Park, both the book and the original movie, and the subsequent films have all been enjoyable. Jurassic World Evolution makes me feel like I’m a part of that universe, and that feeling of awe that I first felt in 1993, seeing a towering brachiosaur on screen, is recreated each time I breed and hatch a new dinosaur, or hit a new profit goal, or finish a new contract. And yes, even when the fences fail and I’m chaotically trying to tranquilize the dinosaurs as they attack and eat my guests, this is still insanely fun. This is the Jurassic Park game that fans have waited 25 years for, and it was well worth the wait.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 Pro version of the game. A copy was provided by Frontier Developments.
Jurassic World Evolution takes the true theme of the film franchise and recreates it in a splendid park sim that gives players the power to create their own theme parks full of dangerous dinosaurs. What could go wrong?