Jurassic World: Evolution is the latest game that serves as a tie-in to the recently released blockbuster, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Similar to the 2003 park-sim Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, Evolution puts players at the helm of running a more modern Jurassic World theme park. The game is developed by Frontier Developments, whose previous works include Elite Dangerous and Planet Coaster. Now, with the release of Evolution, players are tasked with bringing back to life extinct creatures and offer a safe entertainment haven for the public to enjoy.
Given that Evolution is a theme park-sim, there is technically no plot or story arc in the game. Instead, players face the challenging responsibility of running the day-to-day operations of a fully functional Jurassic World. The game is somewhat a revamped version of Operation Genesis. However, Evolution brings more to the table with genetic experimentation that allows players to manipulate a specific dinosaur’s traits and behavior.
The game begins as the player takes the role of the park manager, similar to the job of Claire Dearing, Bryce Dallas Howard’s character in the movie. In the opening cutscene, the player is flown in the first of five islands, Isla Mantaceros together with hilarious commentary from Jeff Goldblum's movie counterpart, Dr. Ian Malcolm, who doesn’t take too long to lecture you about the moral consequences of bringing extinct creatures back to life. Besides Goldblum, several movie characters are also present in the game such as Owen, Claire, Dr. Henry Wu, and Cabot Finch. However, only Goldblum and Dallas Howard are actually voicing their characters in the game.
The entirety of Evolution will take place on islands known as the five deaths. Each island is slightly different than the other and will offer their own challenges such as weather patterns, varied collection of dinosaurs and many more. For example, Isla Muerta is often ravaged by violent storms, which will easily damage buildings and release dinos, Isla Tacaños, on the other hand, will have limited funding, which forces the player to focus on the island's profitability and so on. A sixth island, Isla Nublar, where both Jurassic Park and Jurassic World was built, can also be unlocked as an unlimited sandbox island given that players meet the specific requirements.
As park manager, you are tasked to run the daily operations of the park and ensure that you satisfy the needs of the three main divisions: Science, Security, and Entertainment. Each of these divisions will give player contracts to accomplish, boosting their relationship with that department and generate income for your park. However, players must note that these divisions are not exactly in good terms with one another as they sabotage each other and fight to get your attention.
Furthermore, players will handle research that seeks to improve the overall prestige and efficiency of the park. Research spans from medicines to cure dinosaur diseases, to a better-electrified fence (it’s a mystery why the basic fence is not electrified), or ensure the availability of a gift shop and other park amenities for your guests to indulge in. Similar to the premise of Operation Genesis, players are also given an excavation team to dig up fossils for DNA extraction. The more fossils of a specific dinosaur you extract, the better its lifespan will be in the long run.
Releasing the first ever dinosaur in your park is a memorable moment in Evolution. The satisfaction and sense of wonder once the dinosaur steps out of the Hammond Creation Lab is a cinematic experience. Of course, breeding and taking care of dinosaurs is not as simple as it seems. A Ranger Station is required to dispatch vehicles to maintain and fix enclosures, resupply feeders, take close-up photos of the dinosaurs, and medicate sick creatures. The best part of this job is the ability to do the tasks automatically by issuing commands, or by driving the vehicle yourself. The same is true for the ACU Center, which houses a helicopter that you can use to tranquilize rampaging dinosaurs on a safe distance.
True to their word, Frontier Developments made sure that Evolution adheres to the core concept of the Jurassic books and movies, which is to expect that everything will always go wrong. Malcolm's in-game commentary ensures that players remember this all the time and it doesn't take too long for the game to catapult players in chaos.
A few hours in, the security division wishes to conduct a drill wherein the player would leave an enclosure gate open to release a dinosaur into the park. Your response with the emergency is crucial and serves as a cruel tutorial on how to handle things when dinosaurs escape. Upon accepting this contract, I put it aside for a while as I wanted to ensure that the park has an adequate amount of safety bunkers when I release the dinos in the wild. However, the game sensed my caution and automatically destroyed one of my fences that resulted in the instant escape of my Edmontosaurus. Luckily, the game did not decide to release my Ceratosaurus, or things could have been worse.
As I was notified with the breakout, I immediately went into panic mode as I was not prepared nor even tried flying the ACU's helicopter yet. I began shouting “Code 19! We have an asset out of containment” in true Bryce Dallas Howard fashion at my TV screen. Of course, given that the escapee is only a gentle Edmontosaurus, I was able to handle things smoothly but still with urgency. I then realize that the experience is just the beginning of things going wrong, and I loved it.
Over time, the game becomes a little bit repetitive. Once the player gets the hang of how things should be managed, a lack of variety becomes apparent. Although jumping from one island to the other offers a different challenge to overcome, the core gameplay is still the same with most of it spent waiting for cash to come in.
For our review, we were given the PS4 version of the game. Even as I played Evolution on my regular PS4, the visuals were stunning especially the details that went into the dinosaurs themselves. Although I would have loved to see more detail on the visitors, they were still very much alive as they roam around in groups, pointing at dinosaurs, and at one point, I even saw them taking a selfie, but maybe I imagined things. My playthrough of Evolution is also the first time that I played a simulator game on a console as opposed to the traditional PC. Although the control scheme is smooth and well optimized for the PS4, I still felt that the game is more natural to play using a mouse instead of a controller. Nevertheless, the game was still fun to play, so it all boils down to personal preference when it comes to controls.
All in all, Jurassic World: Evolution is a successful unofficial successor to Operation Genesis. The game was able to retain the features that I loved in the 2003 title, but at the same time, it introduced a lot of new features never seen in Operation Genesis making Evolution a game of its own. The uncertainty of keeping peace and security at the park kept me entertained and on my toes during my first few hours with the game. However, the repetitive mechanics, even when placed on a more challenging environment, pulled me away from enjoying the game in the long run, which can be a perfect opportunity for modders to do their magic. Well, at least for the PC version.
In the end, Jurassic World: Evolution is a fun and enjoyable experience. The task of managing a park, breeding dinosaurs, keeping guests entertained, and preventing the different departments from tearing each other apart provides a true park simulator experience. Of course, Malcolm’s commentaries were enough to compensate for the game's shortcomings, especially when things become too easy as you get better at managing the park. As for whether the game is worth buying, I say that Jurassic World: Evolution is a must buy for both fans of the franchise and simulator games in general.