Jurassic World Evolution 2 Review: An Imperfect Translation
Some games are really just meant to be played on a PC. Park builders like Jurassic World Evolution 2 are one of them. A game of this nature has so much going on so quickly that trying to tie all of its commands to the relative simplicity of a controller rarely feels natural. This is a game that cries out for a mouse and keyboard and one that I would recommend anyone interested in it with the option to play on a PC grab there. Even outside of that, though, this is a flawed game that has some excellent ideas but also a fair number of issues.
A Fallen Campaign
The campaign mode here is worthy of a skip unless you’re totally unfamiliar with the genre. Taking place in the aftermath of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, this finds a world where dinosaurs are now roaming freely. The heroes of that film, Claire and Owen, are along for the ride and tasked with helping you create a variety of effectively pop-up parks, places where you will design enclosures for the dinosaurs where they are to look after them.
It’s a cool idea, but in practice, the mode quickly grows exasperating. Everything is handled extremely slowly, with only a few things to do at any one time. While this is meant to introduce players to the game, by the second level holding your hand to this degree grows old. Perhaps this could work if you were only seeing that level of hand-holding on new things the game was continuing to introduce, but it continues for things that are already well established.
While various characters are fully voiced throughout this mode, I almost wish they weren’t. Chris Pratt apparently wasn’t down to star in these games, and the voice actor stepping into his character doesn’t hit the mark. I’m not sure if he’s trying to do a Chris Pratt impression or put his own spin on the character, but that’s okay; I’m not sure he’s sure either. Bryce Dallas Howard did sign up, but it feels like she did so because she was told she could get paid to talk into her phone while having her morning coffee. It’s an incredibly bland performance. Howard is a fine actress at times, but voice acting is a very different skill, and there’s a reason voice actors are generally a better option for such roles than just getting a celebrity. Jeff Goldblum shows up as a narrator too, supposedly in character from the series, but while he does bring more energy to the game, he seems to be channeling Jeff Goldblum more than he is Ian Malcolm.
Thankfully there are other modes in Jurassic World Evolution 2, and they tend to offer a stronger experience than the campaign. My favorite, by far, is Chaos Theory. Providing a scenario from each of the five films in the series, you’re tasked with stepping into everything that went wrong in those films and creating a different ending. The scenarios are cool, and it feels good to recognize the mistakes the characters in the films made and do better. The voice acting here is a bit stronger as well, although the characters from the films still tend to be among the weakest links. These modes also still feel a bit too intent on holding your hand at times as well, right down to telling you where you need to set up your buildings. I get that you’re trying to recreate the films, but part of the fun of a game like this is supposed to be putting your own spin on things, creating something.
You also have a challenge mode which puts you up against the clock, but I found that more exasperating than anything, especially when the controller controls here are laid out in an awkward menu, which takes forever to do things. This is bad enough when you have all the time in the world, especially when chaos starts to break out. It’s even worse when I have a ticking clock. Sandbox mode is fun and probably the closest to what I want from a game of this nature, but locking a lot of content there behind unlocks in other modes feels unnecessarily punishing to players who want to play the game their way.
No matter what mode you’re playing in, Jurassic World Evolution 2 looks great. From lush forests to highly detailed dinosaurs, I enjoyed just watching these creatures move. There’s a lot of new content to look at too. Water dinosaurs, flying dinosaurs, you have a lot of variety that wasn’t in the original game, and it does help to keep things fresh. I also appreciate that the developers have a lot of automation options available as well. This certainly cuts down a bit on what you have to manage with these awkward controls at times. It would help, though, if the automation worked a bit better. Often the squads I set to repeat tasks get stuck on something and simply give up, leaving me to go back to doing things manually.
There’s also a series of choices here which just actively make the game less fun. Dinosaurs break out regularly, going on rampages which the game seems to give you little option to actually prevent. Your options are more in how to react to it. While I get that dinosaurs tearing around a park is what the series is known for, when my job is supposedly to be better at this than the characters there were, I’d have appreciated a few more options to get out in front of things. It might have let me spend less time with the awkward direct action as well. Every time a dinosaur is roaming free, whether because they haven’t been captured yet or because they broke out, you have to get in a jeep or a helicopter and go track them down, tranquilize them, and get them back in captivity. This is a task where automation should have been possible. None of it is fun. The jeep and helicopter are both stiff. Tranquilizing the dinosaurs provides no challenge, and it quickly turns into busywork. I don’t know who decided this park builder needed to incorporate more action, but they were wrong. It might work if the action were actually fun, but when it feels this basic, it instead feels like someone was checking off a corporate mandate more than something that makes sense for the game.
There’s genuine fun to be had with Jurassic World Evolution 2. Chaos mode and the sandbox give you a lot of options to really build the park of your dreams. When even the game’s best modes are fairly flawed, though, it becomes hard to recommend all, but the biggest Jurassic Park fans dig into this one. Players who can play on PC will almost certainly find a game that controls better, but while that’s an issue, it isn’t the only problem here. Sadly, a different control scheme isn’t going to solve Jurassic World Evolution 2’s most significant issues.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: Xbox Series X (Reviewed), Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, PC; Publisher: Frontier Developments; Developer: Frontier Developments; Players: 1; Released: November 9th, 2021; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Jurassic World Evolution 2 provided by the publisher.