As 2021 draws to a close and many of us are winding down for a hard-earned Christmas break, it’s the perfect time to jump into Jurassic World Evolution 2, the excellent sequel to Frontier Developments’ 2018 dinosaur theme park building video game.
Festive time off, especially those lingering days of ‘inbetweenmas’ that bridge Christmas and New Year, tends to become unstructured and uninspiring. Even when there’s plenty of great stuff on telly, you might find yourself looking for tasks that need doing and craving a bit of purpose or urgency. But before you log into your work emails, we’d strongly advise a dose of Jurassic World Evolution 2 instead.
To start with, the game will encourage you try out its main campaign, which certainly is a fab place to start. Picking up after the events of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the 2018 movie that ended with dinosaurs spreading out across the US mainland, this story mode offers a tantalising glimpse of what it could be like to work in that world.
There are some great ideas in this campaign, many of which are brand new additions that weren’t in the original Jurassic World Evolution. At certain points, you will need to track down escaped dinosaurs by driving around in a jeep and following clues. At other times, you’ll need to convert inhumane poacher camps into safe places where dinosaurs can live in peace.
Completing each of these tasks will surely send endorphins coursing through your bloodstream, giving you bursts of achievement that aren’t always easy to find on the sofa in your Christmas jumper.
Hardcore fans might argue that this campaign is too short, or too hamstrung by the fact it’s not allowed to cover any ground that next year’s Jurassic World Dominion film has earmarked, but it definitely does the job of explaining the basics of how Jurassic World Evolution 2 works. You’ll be capturing dinosaurs, building their living quarters and helping them survive in no time.
When you’ve finished the campaign, which should only take you a handful of hours, the game will recommend that you try its Chaos Theory mode. This is where Jurassic World Evolution 2 really starts to shine, and it’s in the Chaos Theory content that you might find yourself truly sucked into the experience, merrily spending multiple hours at a time with the game.
The premise of the Chaos Theory mode is simple: in turn, you will revisit all the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World films to date and try to make the theme parks at each site more successful (and less chaotic) than they ever were in the movies. With a playful narration from Jeff Goldblum to guide you, as well as a lengthy list of tasks to complete, this mode allows you to delve deep into everything this game has to offer in a variety of different locations.
Fans of the first Jurassic World Evolution 2 game will recognise the compelling gameplay loop at play here, where there’s always something to attract your attention. As well as building the actual theme parks, you’ll be able to send research teams to dig sites, request scientists to extract genomes from fossils, rear your own creatures, respond to medical issues among your dinosaurs and conduct research that could improve your island’s facilities.
Each different film’s Chaos Theory entry presents its own challenges, but ultimately your final goal will always be to earn a five-star rating for your island. Although some of the steps along the way are easy, that final milestone is always tricky to achieve, which results in the biggest endorphin rush of all when you finally get there.
We could nitpick certain elements of the Chaos Theory mode – it is somewhat annoying that your research doesn’t carry over between each film, meaning that you’ll have to dedicate time to making the same improvements on different islands.
Plus, sometimes it feels like money is all that matters to your park rating, and it doesn’t feel right to be knocking down cool stuff in order to make way for more cash-grabbing amenities. But hey, isn’t that one of the main overarching themes of the film franchise itself? Another element that might grind your gears is the fact you have to rest your scientists or they will rise up and sabotage your park. But again, that does hark back to the events of the films!
Once you’ve completed Chaos Theory (or gotten as far as you’re willing to go with each island), it’s also worth checking in on the Sandbox mode (where you can use all the resources you’ve gathered to build the ultimate park of your dreams) and the Challenge mode (where time limits and tough tasks make park-building even harder than usual). Both modes are fun, with certain sorts of players likely to be drawn to each one.
Across the board, the graphics on the dinosaurs and environments look great, the controls are consistent and easy to grasp, and the audio provides a perfect backdrop to your experience – as well as Goldblum, you’ll also hear Bryce Dallas Howard reprising her role from the films, and the iconic musical score also makes plenty of appearances.
All of that Jurassic World Evolution 2 content should keep you busily entertained through the Christmas period and well into the future. DLC has already started to appear, as well. The Early Cretaceous Pack has already added a few cool extra dinosaurs into the mix. And there’s a tantalising gap in the Chaos Theory menu where you can just imagine a Jurassic World Dominion expansion being added. Bring it on, we say.
Jurassic World Evolution 2 is out now PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC. We reviewed on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.
This year’s Radio Times Christmas double issue is on sale now, featuring two weeks of TV, film and radio listings, reviews, features and interviews with the stars. And if you’re looking for something to watch, see our TV Guide.