Thursday, December 27, 2012

VGR Carrier

Let's see if I can manage to squeeze in some more review before 2013...

Today's subject is another survival horror. A Resident Evil clone that doesn't try to much outside its formula, but is nice nonetheless.

VGR: Carrier
From Jaleco & Xicat Interactive
Played on Dreamcast
Also available on /

Type Survival Horror
Year 1999

As soon as the title screen hits the picture, you can hear it, a very familiar welcoming to this sort of experience...


Says quite an ominous creepy voice.
This is it.
Yet another Resident Evil inspired clone.

Jaleco's little title doesn't attempt to much nor try to reinvent the concept.
Announced shortly after the highly expected Resident Evil: Code Veronica, it benefits from the fact Capcom had to delay their title for long enough that some other similar survival horrors could ride the Dreamcast launch beforehand.
So along Sega's own Blue Stinger came Carrier.

So...what's it about?

For such a simple formulaic experience the game comes with quite a complicated background to boot.

Not long after the year 2008 (!) the world suffered various economical problems (!!).
Big global companies started to run the world, and it's wasn't much before the wealthier countries organized a big coalition to keep all the money and natural resources to themselves.
Thus a war erupted between the advanced Northern Hemisphere and the Third World countries of the Southern Hemisphere.(I'm not making this up, a voice over narrates this at the start of the game!)

Finally, to supervise the construction of several military bases along the border, the Northerns built up an advanced military aircraft carrier called Heimdal.
An heavily armed auto-sufficient aerial base that nothing could stop.

Or could they?

Something happened eventually. (or there wouldn't be any game...)
They lost communications with the Heimdal after it picked up something.
The SPARC Team was sent in to investigate the problem.
You are Jack Ingles. US Special Forces.
Jack was seeing this mission as a chance to find his brother Robert back onboard the Heimdal.

The use of such a complicated science fiction background was a nice change of pace back in the day (of its release).
You see, most survival horror games used to be about creepy mansions, underground labs or supernatural little villages at that point.

The whole story here revolves around an (alien?) plant parasite named ARK that started infecting the ship after a terrorist attack.
ARK is slowly taking over the aircraft, spreading spores and mushrooms across the creepy corridors of the Heimdal.
Which offers the game a very nice The Thing-like direction, story-wise.
Long before Cold Fear attempted the same on a boat.
The game isn't just about defeating monsters and zombie-like creatures, but also keeping an eye on the situation and not getting surprises by the environment or the infected.

You will find plenty of infinite stashes of dynamite on board to blow up a path through the toxic plants for example. Either when needing a path through the plants or to get rid of dangerous fumes let out by mushrooms.

Or also keep an eye looking for people you can save.
For this the game introduce a very original idea.

Thus comes the BEM-T3 Scope in play.
Pretty early on, Jack will receive some special infrared scope that can detect biohazards.

Since the game is entirely rendered in 3D, unlike the earlier Resident Evil games, despite using cinematic angles and the same annoying clunky gameplay you can look around in full 3-dimensional view with the scopes.
And they will alert you from the presence of radioactive mutations - the infected.
You can save people (tell them to hid on the flight deck waiting for the rescue) and prevent surprise attacks on you or others by infected crew members.

The creatures come in various shapes and sizes.
From the usual mindless zombies to bigger plant-like creatures sprouting weeds and vines around.
Some monsters might even be invisible, but nothing to be afraid really. You'll hear them long enough before to think it's time to pop on the BEM-T3 scope, spot them and get rid of them before they get to close to you.
Later on the game will also feature some more radical monsters that seem more insectoid than human.

There's also a bunch of boss creatures at the end of "chapters". (the game takes place in an open world-environment, but as the story progress so will more areas become available)
Nothing impossible but hideous or giant plant-thingies that will require lots of ammo and health items.

To fight all these our hero will find several type of weapons with scarce ammunitions around, from a machine gun to a grenade launcher and several bombs that play a more important role in the gameplay than you'd think.
Also our hero has a unique weapon that you'd never expect from this genre - a taser!
The taser is "infinite" and will be very useful to dispatch slower single enemies while preserving your ammo for later more difficult battles. (specially the bosses)

As a DC launch title, the game needed some little gimmicks to make it worthwhile.
So nothing is depicted on screen as you play.
The ammo? You need to rotate between your weapons with the trigger button to see the current ammunitions on each gun/bomb.
The healthbar? Look at the vmu to see it on screen.

Which makes the experience that much more cinematic.

This means you can avoid firing up the start button/pause menu all the time à la Resident Evil.

As a launch title, don't expect much graphically. It's...okay. Nothing spectacular. The corridors of the Heimdal look nice enough, but the enemies and characters are kinda low on polygons. Some effects like the fire and water could have been nicer too.
The game is kinda slow paced though.
And while the music is creepy enough in some places, it just...does its job. It's forgetable.

The game takes some time to go through it even rushed it, but in retrospective I find the Heimdal pretty small despite what you'd expect on first look.

Some times you might get stuck after forgetting what was your current objective, so you'll need to backtrack quite a lot around the place.
Never skip those Metal Gear Solid-inspired sequence with the characters talking through the headsets. They always indicate clearly what to do next.

The story is fun enough to keep you interested, trying to understand what's going there, with clipnotes around and whatnot.

The voice acting!
Let's mention that.
While the dialogues are ok and all and the acting is...decent, the two main Ingles characters have some of the slowest simplest acting I've head in the genre. It makes only the hero sound a bit goofy sometimes for some reason. (the rest of the crew is a-ok)

Once beaten you'll unlock another scenario, in the role of Jessifer Manning - another SPARC member.
Her story will take you in whole different direction, starting where you finish with Jack.
It's a more difficult campaign since she'll encounter harder monsters quicker. The weapons around will depend on whatever you leave behind as Jack, so if you count on playing it LEAVE SOME AMMO AROUND for her!!
And she even gets her own story and own final boss.

Finishing both stories will give casual costumes for the characters next playthroughs.

Finally, the game ends open enough for a sequel (which never got made! - more on this link) but nothing like Blue Stinger did with that cliffhanger (that still annoys me to this day!).

Overall, it's a pretty fun game.
With a decent plot, decent gameplay and even some scares thanks to the low ammo and health you'll get around more than its slow moving zombies and monsters themselves.

The game is known to have some framerate issues and bugs in the rushed NTSC release, but I didn't encounter those myself (I'm a PAL-player!).

It's a fun Resident Evil clone.
Jaleco learned from their predecessors, and even fixed a couple issues many people have with the RE series. Like the fact you can aim at particular places on the enemies' bodies to better deal with them (headshots and all). And the way you can select your weapons without going through elaborated screens.
But it's not like they were trying anything new really...

Despite not getting a sequel whatsoever, I still kinda consider Dead Space a sort of reimagining of the same general idea, complete with a ship overrun by a very similar type of mutation.

When it's all said and done, Carrier is a simple but fun title.
Give it a look if like me you also like the genre!

I give it:
 2 / 3 Quacks!


  1. Nice review on Carrier! The game does have some nice touches- as you mentioned it's fully in 3d, you're able to use a scanner to tell who's infected, you can aim at particular body parts with weapons and some enemies are invisible. One other thing I like that you didn't mention was when you step into a pool of blood you leave bloody footprints behind as you're walking around. A subtle, but enjoyable gameplay element.

    With that said however, the overall game was lacking for me. Being a survival horror fan I really wanted to like this game, but it has glaring issues- it's incredibly slow paced, there was never a true sense of urgency and the entity (ARK) never felt like a truly threatening villain. The story failed to establish genuine emotional connections to any of the characters, so when people died I couldn't care less. I finished Jack's scenario and his ending was severely underwhelming. I could not even complete Jessifer's because the game was too boring to hold my interest. It almost feels like an incomplete game, it lacks the polish of other titles that came before it. :/

    What's interesting though is the beta for Carrier had even more great aspects to the gameplay which they didn't carry over into the final product. Could that have made the game any better? We'll never know.

    For me, I give this game 1/3 Quacks!


  2. Wanted to update this- I did in fact finish Jessifer's quest, unfortunately it didn't do anything to change my opinion on the overall game. Jessifer's scenario was ultimately an unnecessary feature. While it does add some replay value, the enjoyment experienced was minimal (if any at all) since the problems that plagued Jack's scenario are present here.

    One thing I did not commend the game on previously, was its soundtrack. The musical pieces fit the game's atmosphere perfectly, with many of the songs providing a feeling of ominous dread which is incredibly appropriate for a survival horror title. It's a pity the game itself isn't as impressive as its music.