Jurassic World Aftermath Review: Satisfying Stealth Falls Short

Jurassic World Aftermath gets you up close and personal with some terrifying dinosaurs, but just how good is this Quest-exclusive stealth game? Here’s our full Jurassic World Aftermath review.

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Revealed earlier this year at Facebook Connect, Jurassic World Aftermath is a Quest-exclusive stealth game that ties in with the most recent Jurassic Park films, Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The game is set on Isle Nublar two years after the events of Fallen Kingdom and so, spoiler warning for the film, the destruction of the island and research facilities means that dinosaurs have overrun the island.

Jurrasic World Aftermath Review – The Facts

What is it?: A single-player stealth game.
Platforms: Oculus Quest (exclusive)
Release Date: December 18th, 2020 (Part 2 coming 2021 as paid DLC)
Price: $24.99

After a quick introduction that sees your plane crash land on the island, you’ll soon need to find a way to escape or make contact with the mainland. While you explore the facility, you’ll be guided by Jurassic World engineer Mia, who speaks to you over radio and provides some semblance of a story.

At various points, Mia will play you audio logs that go over her time at the park before it was overrun, including interactions with some prominent characters from the Jurassic Park franchise. Yes, both Jeff Goldblum and B. D. Wong reprise their roles from the films, but only in very brief audio form in the aforementioned recordings.

Don’t get too excited — not even Jeff Goldblum’s sweet dulcet tones can elevate an otherwise unremarkable story. But let’s be honest — you’re not here for the story, you’re here for the dinosaurs. When considered in context, it doesn’t really matter that the story is decidedly average — it’s mostly unobtrusive and you’ll forget about it completely during the tense stealth sequences.

Gameplay

Speaking of stealth sequences, this game truly takes the genre and strips it down to its most basic form. For most of the game, you’re simply avoiding dinosaurs or distracting them to reach another area. There’s no way to harm the dinosaurs, only scare or distract them, so the game basically boils down to sneaking across rooms from one point to another.

It’s a thrilling premise and a perfect fit for the Jurassic Park franchise. However, if it sounds a little repetitive, well… it is. There are some puzzle activities as well — think Half-Life: Alyx’s puzzle minigames, but much simpler — but much of the game uses the same basic structure over and over again, only getting slightly harder or more complicated.

Each mechanic is introduced at a steady pace so that you can get familiar with them before they’re mixed together. But even when the puzzles are combined with dinosaur evasion, it never feels like a proper evolution of the gameplay — it’s just more of the same stuff, but now happening at the same time or with less leeway for error.

There are a couple of dinosaurs you’ll encounter throughout the game, but really only two types that you go up against as ‘enemies’. However, there’s no denying that the velociraptor is the star of the show here. Everything about them is fantastic — they look terrifying, their animations are excellent and their screeches will give you goosebumps.

To sneak past them undetected, you can hide behind environmental objects and use other specifically-designed hiding spots such as desk cavities or storage lockers. The velociraptors won’t be able to see you while you’re in these spots, even if you’re technically within their line of sight. The game makes excellent use of visual cues in this regard — when hiding under a desk, for example, the game world will turn a slight shade of blue to mark you as hidden. Similarly, when caught by a velociraptor, everything will turn a heavy shade of red to alert you that you’re in danger.

If you’re caught by a velociraptor with no escape, it will run at you full speed and leap into your face, freezing the frame milliseconds before it reaches you, its mouth wide open. It’s an appropriately scary game over screen that sent chills down my body each time.

The game does give you a few more tools to ‘manage’ the dinosaurs in stealth sequences. You unlock a device that can turn on environmental objects as distractions, drawing the dinosaurs towards them and giving you an easier path through a room. By the time you reach the end of the campaign (or part one of the campaign — more on that later), you’ll be mixing stealth, puzzles and distractions in what can be some truly terrifyingly tense moments.

There’s a good balance between the gameplay being challenging, scary and thrilling at the same time. However, the main problem is that by the time you start to feel like you’ve mastered all the mechanics, the game is over. A lot of the velociraptor sequences feel very repetitive as well, using the same gameplay loop in a new, but similar setting. There’s one completely different section in the middle, featuring a new environment and a different type of dinosaur enemy (which I won’t spoil), but I found it a little tedious, much less challenging and not enough to make the rest of the game feel less repetitive.

Jurassic Park Aftermath Review – Comfort

In terms of controls and comfort, the game is smooth locomotion only — there’s no option for teleport movement, but there are several adjustable comfort options, including vignettes, for those that are sensitive to motion sickness.

Visuals and Sounds

Watching the reveal trailer for Aftermath back in September, I was a bit unconvinced by the cell-shaded visuals. Obviously there’s significant benefit to using such a style on Quest over something more photo realistic — it’s probably more likely to run within the Quest’s hardware limitations and it’s much easier to develop than a full photo realistic Jurassic World game.

Thankfully, despite my concerns, the visuals of Jurassic World Aftermath look absolutely spectacular in VR. Despite not being photo realistic, there’s something about the comic book-inspired look that almost helps immersion — instead of being hung up on how everything looks compared to reality, you’re immediately immersed in a terrifying comic book world littered with dinosaurs.

The environments and levels are hit and miss in terms of aesthetics — some of them are fantastic and unique, while others look incredibly similar to each other and are quite forgettable.

The soundtrack is also noticeably lush, featuring an orchestral arrangement reminiscent of the iconic soundtrack to the original Jurassic Park films. It’s a refreshing change to the electronic-leaning music so often found in VR, and really helps the game feel like part of the movie franchise.

Length and Episodic Campaign

We’ve talked about some of the issues surrounding Aftermath’s release elsewhere already, but I’ll touch on it in context of the game. Jurassic Park Aftermath will be released in two parts — the first is available now, is around 3 hours in length and is what I’m reviewing right now. However, the game somewhat abruptly ends on a cliffhanger, revealing that “the story will continue in 2021”. The messaging before and during the release wasn’t very clear about this point, but the conclusion to the Aftermath story will come next year as paid DLC.

As Jamie said in his editorial, there’s nothing wrong with an episodic release. That being said, the game was not marketed as such in the same way that titles like Vader Immortal were. Even worse, in this case the episodic split feels like it harms Aftermath more than it helps it.

We can’t know what went on behind the scenes during development, but it does feel like this game was originally meant to release as one whole portion, not two. That’s speculation on our part, but even if that wasn’t the original plan, the game feels oddly paced and weirdly structured thanks to the episodic cut-off.

You’ll really only be fighting two types of dinosaurs in this 3 hour portion of the story.  Aftermath would have benefited by releasing as one whole, complete story, with several levels that each focus on a new challenge or new type of dinosaur. Instead, the gameplay focuses predominantly on evading velociraptors over and over again, with a very brief interlude featuring a different dinosaur in the middle.

Regardless of whether an episodic release was always the plan, this first installment feels rushed, repetitive and oddly-paced, featuring a unresolved narrative that abruptly ends on a cliffhanger.

Jurassic World Aftermath Review: Final Verdict

There’s a lot to love in Jurassic World Aftermath. It’s visually stunning and properly thrilling to be sneaking around velociraptors and other dinosaurs. While the story is nothing to write home about, it serves its purpose as a vague excuse to carry out activities around the facility, and the stealth mechanics are basic but still entertaining. The main problem that stops Aftermath from being a real show stopper and one of the best stealth games on the Quest is its repetition. The game plays out with little variation, using many of the same mechanics and situations over and over again. The difficulty does increase, but it errs the line of just becoming more frustrating as opposed to more challenging.

While 3 hours is pretty short for a (half-finished) campaign, it almost feels like the game could have benefited from packing more action and variety into the same amount of time. The game isn’t too long, it’s just too much of the same thing. Had the game released with a finished (and slightly tighter) story, spread across 3 or 4 hours and with more than just two type of dinosaur enemies, I think I would have come away much more satisfied.

For fans of the stealth genre or the Jurassic Park franchise, it’s still definitely worth picking up — don’t get me wrong, the key gameplay loop of avoiding the velociraptors is very fun. However, it feels a bit half-baked. Ultimately, in its half-finished state, Aftermath has some satisfying stealth moments but as a full game it feels pretty vapid and repeats it’s main tricks just a few too many times.

For more on how we arrive at our scores, check out our review guidelines.

 

Jurassic World Aftermath is available now for Oculus Quest and Quest 2 for $24.99. 

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