I am a big fan of survival horror games as well the SEGA Dreamcast so I was excited to finally get my hands on a copy of the game in good condition at CEX and getting in a long play – which I recorded and uploaded to YouTube which you can watch further down in this review.
Carrier was released in 2000 (2001 for me in the UK) by relatively unknown-ish developers Jaleco and published in the EU by Xicat to average reviews. It is heavily influenced by other survival horror games from the time such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill but when you play it you realise it’s mostly Resident Evil. Fixed camera angles, slow enemies, fetch quests and doors.
I played this on my original PAL Dreamcast, into an OSSC and into my 2k monitor. No emulation. You can see a guide to stream the Dreamcast here.
There are plenty of reasons to play this game now, especially with retro streaming so big on Twitch and the opportunity to show your viewers something different. My reason was purely nostalgia and never having played it at the time.
When this game was released it was up against the likes of Silent Hill 2, Resident Evil CODE Veronica (also a dreamcast exclusive at the time) as well as other somewhat rare/obscure games such as Blue Stinger, D2, The Thing and so on. Plenty of competition and plenty of reasons to do something different. Right?
Let’s find out
What was the story like in Carrier?
This is spoiler free and I won’t go into any details but the story beats in Carrier are bang average with elements taken from Resident Evil and Parasite Eve, just not the best bits. There’s no deep plot from start to finish other than Jack Ingles, Jessifer and the team have gone to investigate, found themselves stuck and need to escape. No twist, no revelation you couldn’t piece together yourself.
You get regular cutscenes and radio communication (ripped from the MGS codec) but there’s no substance outside of “You need to go to this room”. These scenes seemed to happen constantly in Carrier as if to reminder the player that this was a very interactive game, but it isn’t.
The scenes were rarely plot based, they were almost always used as a plot tool to move you forward to the next item or switch you needed. To this point, it felt like the scenes just made the game feel longer. If you skipped a scene, however, you could find yourself lost.
The voice acting in Carrier is fine, serviceable, but hollow. The emotion of what was going around the characters was lost in the Japanese recording booth, similar to early Resident Evil. But, that was years ago at this point so there’s little excuse.
Several times Jack would ask himself “What’s going on here” when it was pretty obvious at that point. He really does say it a lot. It’s a wooden performance by everyone that fails to bring the player closer to the experience.
Everyone involved in the story was mystified about the situation but never scared or surprised by the HORROR. This goes double for the survivors you would frequently see – the voices were stiff which really took away from what the writers were trying to tell you.
There were a fair few files scattered around the Heimdal but none contained any puzzle solutions or anything that actually explained what was going around very well.
The main enemy “ARK” is flimsy and wish-washy at best which prods at some philosophy but never commits to it. Jaleco even had the cheek to incorporate Parasite Eve opera singing into some of the final scenes. The game does a terrible job of creating tension around ARK or even a build up. You have a fairly good grasp of what’s going on from the first hour or so and then as you wait to find a twist there’s no payoff. You’d already figured it out.
It’s hard to be positive about the story. It’s not terrible it just lacked imagination or anything new to the genre which was very busy by 2000/2001. Metal Gear Solid came out 2 years before this and Shenmue on the same platform was 1999. When you think of storylines from other survival horror games from the same period the depth does put Carrier to shame, Silent Hill 2 being one of them.
What’s are the visuals and atmosphere like in Carrier?
Carrier’s graphics are pretty strong. Fully 3D (which was still uncommon) environments in 480p 60hz made the areas pop out. Cameras were fixed but could follow, the same as Code Veronica the Japanese version of Blue Stinger and Dino Crisis (which also came out on Dreamcast). I can only imagine how good this would have looked at the time of its release. Even now I was taken aback.
The atmosphere these visuals generated are pretty decent, especially with the use of lighting which the Dreamcast was much better at then the PS2 at the time. The soundtrack is booming, very Japanese, with a mix of scare noises and techno bangers. Sometimes things did get over the top with the enemies, particularly the infected which came out of the bags and only had their top half intact.
There is some cheating as you keep exploring the Heimdal you notice that a lot of corridors and rooms are empty and repeated over and over again. You only go outside twice. Occasionally you’d get into a mushroom filled corridor, which was welcome, but then you’d get to another and it all looked the same as the last time.
The monsters have only one pallet and they are all male. The guns looked realistic but the explosions from the T-7 and T-9 bombs were ALWAYS the same explosions. Even the noise of them was the same.
The game makes a point of zooming in on Jack and Jessifer’s faces, as they move fluidly and blink. Jaleco wanted you to know they did this because they didn’t in Resident Evil. However, Resident Evil games took you to difference places and were more immersive even if they weren’t as detailed.
When compared to Blue Stinger they are better, certainly better than Dino Crisis but not on the same level as CVX. That being said, Carrier’s budget would not have been a fraction of CVX so Carrier is a triumph in this regard.
What was the gameplay like in Carrier?
Overall, the gameplay was average and perhaps two years too late but there were things that Jaleco attempted that was admirable. Firstly, Carrier uses tank controls and anyone familiar with Resident Evil/Silent Hill will pick it up quickly. It’s a slightly refined version of the 1996 class Resident Evil with some tweaks but not much. Some may see this as a positive and others not so much.
It is a little slow and unresponsive at times, pressing the run button has a minor delay as is aiming – often you will be hit by a monster which is front of a room you’ve entered because aiming your gun takes so long, the same goes for reloading. Don’t get me started on the time it takes to plant a T-7 bomb and then hauling ass away from it.
However, once I got the hang of it and knew the tricks to get by, it was quite fun blasting enemies, mostly in the head at an appropriate distance. Jaleco threw in a neat aiming system where you could target specific parts of the enemy such as a leg or a head. However, you soon found out that they died in about the same amount of shots wherever they are hit. A gimmick, but a fun and welcome one.
Frustratingly, some enemies would respawn and others wouldn’t. This would keep you on your toes a bit which is a good thing, but it was also a cheap trick to make the game longer and more action packed. There’s no explanation why they would respawn and no reason why some would and others wouldn’t.
In the first half of the game blasting enemies was fun but towards the end it was a bit of a chore. They could have done with one more variant and larger rooms with much more of them at once.
One of the most annoying enemies but thankfully they were not common, was the invisible zombie. Clearly it was to make the goggles more useful because otherwise you might not use it at all.
The enemies are equally slow and if there’s space it is easy to run past them, there are some larger enemies towards the middle called pl(ants) that take so long to wake up they are not even a threat. The bosses, which are not numerous, are completely forgettable but unfortunately it is during these encounters you realise how slow the controls and responsiveness of Jack and Jessifer really are. I struggled a fair bit with all of them, the one in the water the most.
There’s no story to these bosses, either, they are just there. Considering the plot is already thin as it is, these bosses really hammer home the point that the writers must not have thought there would be a sequel and there was no need for any world building.
I think the game could have done with 1-2 more bosses and some files and scenes to flesh them out.
Navigating around the Heimdal could be a chore, every corridor looks the same and the map wasn’t usefully updated in the same way it does in Silent Hill and Resident Evil 1, 2 and 3. All three released before Carrier. The map doesn’t label itself automatically, some doors would be marked as blue and red but sometimes they wouldn’t – if you were lost it wasn’t obvious where you need to go. On top of this was the ladder system in the deck – you would go up and down and explore different parts of the same deck but the map didn’t separate it – both versions were overlaid on top of each other.
I would say that puzzles are almost absent and it is one long fetch quest to get a key to another room, a staple of early survival horror but at least others had some brain teasers thrown in. Carrier did not.
During my longplay, I would find myself wandering aimlessly looking at the map in every new room. The goggles you get didn’t help with anything at all and it wasn’t until late on that I discovered you can use them in empty shelves to find items.
In conclusion, Carrier is a survival horror game heavily influenced by Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but it fails to stand out among its competition with its average story and lack of imagination. The voice acting is serviceable but fails to bring the player closer to the experience, and the main enemy, “ARK,” is flimsy and fails to create tension. Overall, Carrier is a game that can be enjoyed for its nostalgia, but it fails to bring anything new to the survival horror genre, not with a lack of trying.
Here is my longplay footage of which this review was based on.
Should you stream Carrier?
Carrier is a niche game that was a Dreamcast exclusive. Not many people will have seen it or even heard of it so it could be ideal for existing survival horror/retro streamers to entertain their viewers with something new. It is not a terrible game and can be completed in 5-8 hours.
Should I speed run Carrier?
Carrier only has two times on Speedrun.com which means new players could get world record without much effort. The game itself is also speedrunning friendly with plenty of opportunities for new routes and methods of dispatching enemies and bosses. All cutscenes can also be skipped!