screen7-0

Remembering Jurassic Park: Trespasser, the trainwreck that made shooting dinosaurs feel like a chore

You haven’t lived until you’ve stared down a velociraptor, tracking his every move down the sights of a pistol, your wrists flailing about as your arm moves with the precision of an inflatable man selling automobiles. Until you’ve watched that vicious beast absentmindedly clamp down on your arm while your inner monologue, sounding suspiciously like Minnie Driver, mutters “ow” as if you just got a paper cut while blasting away at your target. Sixty-five million years of extinction only to fall over like a sack of potatoes after a couple of bullets hit it … somewhere.

Jurassic Park: Trespasser. The 1998 FPS came hot on the heels of one of the biggest entertainment successes of the decade, with high-profile acting from Hollywood star Driver (coming right off of Good Will Hunting and Grosse Point Blank) and Sir Richard Attenborough. It should have been a smash success; everyone involved certainly thought it would be. Instead, it was reviled as an overly ambitious disaster: a mess of poorly executed AI, mushy controls, and a physics engine with moon-like gravity.

And yet here I find myself, on assignment from an editor with no regard for my well-being.

I drop my revolver by bumping into a tree trunk. 

I’ve waded through dense jungle fog that seemed to disappear if you came within 50 feet of it to discover the ruins of John Hammond’s legendary “Site B,” part of his twisted experiments to bring dinosaurs to life. I climbed stairs with the prowess of a drunken acrobat, tripping over my always-outstretched arm, oftentimes losing grip of my precious firearm by walking too close to one of the many, many piles of precariously stacked crates.

But I’ve been there. I’ve looked into those cold, dead eyes and shuffled around to find my footing, hammering down on a trigger while praying that the raptor doesn’t innocently nudge the pistol out of my hand yet again.

As I made my way through waist-high obstacles so quick to disarm me, I listened to Hammond’s narration and musings on his now-failed island, and the scientific constructs of the ecological and utopian world he tragically staked his life on building. I respond with the voice of a famed late-90s actress with an appropriately late-90s response: “Yadda yadda yadda.”

“Site B became one of the most powerful genetics facilities in the world,” Hammond intones as I’m chased down a narrow forest tunnel by two raptors, thirsting for blood and hunting for sport. “Whaaaatever,” Minnie responds, bored. The raptor growls.

No auto-aim aids me in my pursuit, no dials or metrics give me any indication of my progress. Instead, a simple heart tattoo on my breast lets me know how I’m feeling. Upon picking up a firearm, I need to carefully line up its sights to make use of the precious ammunition I find. My guns can’t be reloaded, and I can only carry a single item aside from whatever is in my hand.

If this all seems obscure, elsewhere the game is downright intransigent. Barrels are labeled “oil” with flammable warnings in time-honored videogame logic—yet they’ll never catch fire. Shacks made of plywood marked “fragile” seem impenetrable. A quiet sadness permeates this silent island, bereft of any species from the last millennia, save the occasional parrot squawk overhead.

I dodge a triceratops as its thunderous footsteps shake the ground, giving him a wide berth as it skirmishes with two raptors.

I explore the island, from beach to forest to town and beyond; I slay any beast that stands before me. I find myself armed with a machine gun and a hunting rifle, and I become adept at aiming down sights. Awkward movements aside, I learn to adapt to my surroundings and conquer these massive beasts.

I pick up an uzi. It “feels full.” I pop a raptor in the face; he turns up his nose and runs away.

Hours later, unarmed, I jump into a den of raptors. Nowhere to go but down, into the belly of the beast. The two-foot-tall rocks are impenetrable, so I claw my way out, bunny hopping as I go. “Hup, hup, hup, hup,” I say, grasping at anything possible to dig myself out of this mess.

I come across a padlock suspended in midair. 

Upon spying a conveniently dropped and fully loaded pair of machine guns, my serpentine arm darts out, clumsily grasping a rifle before unloading it into the beast with those dead, unblinking bright yellow eyes.

It drops. Those eyes stay staring ahead. I wait to see if the beast moves again. It doesn’t.

Raptors continue to fall off the edge of the canyon into my line of sight, drawn by my scent … or just drawn to run towards me, regardless of terrain. The fall does nothing to them, their legs bicycling wildly as they circle in for the kill. My gun spits hot death; my arm wobbles to aim, yet remains undeterred by any kickback from emptying an assault rifle with one outstretched hand.

As I explore, the terrain shifts and undulates under my feet, the texture of the dirt popping into view within nearly 5 feet of me. Fences change direction as I approach them. I come across a padlock suspended in midair.

For all my moaning about how my bone structure has become that of a wet noodle, there is something liberating about the freedom given to me on this island, for better or worse. I am able to make my own mistakes, which makes my successes all the more thrilling. I carefully line up the aiming sights of an AK-47 to take down a pack of beasts. I toy with holding a pistol sideways like I’ve seen in movies. No map guides my way, no mission objectives tacked to a board dictate my movements; everything I do is in service of my one goal: get off this rock.

In the town of Burroughs, seemingly uninhabited buildings are … well, they’re uninhabited. But they do, for some reason, have a shitload of guns in them.

I make my way to the InGeneral store. I load myself to the teeth; for what comes, I know not. I cheat my two-item limit by chucking the entire town’s firearms into a pile in front of the church. A nearby whiteboard lets me know that the string quartet recital is cancelled. All Minnie can wonder is, “Where is the goddamn phone? I want out of here. I want diet soda and copy machines and juice boxes and … cartoons.”

I cannot help but sympathize, even as I marvel at these creatures. I exist to destroy them. I drop my revolver by bumping into a tree trunk. I endure. I am the Trespasser.