Old Franchise Gets Next-Gen Makeover
Depending on your history with the Turok franchise, you’ll likely have one of two responses to the return of gaming’s dino-hunting hero; those who enjoyed the first couple of titles brand of raptor-slaying fun on the N64 should be happy to see the Native American ass-kicker making his next-gen debut. But if your time with Turok was limited to his last appearance on the GameCube, PS2 or Xbox, then you’re probably going to run from this new entry as though it were a human flesh-craving carnivore.
N64’s Turok titles offered a fun, slightly tweaked FPS experience, but the series last-gen entry failed to register with critics or players in an age when Halo–and its many copy cat competitors–was overtaking the console shooter kingdom. Nearly six years and umpteenth alien/zombie/military shooters after Turok: Evolution, publisher Touchstone and developer Propaganda Games thought it a good time to take the leash off the dinos, and sic them on a new generation of gamers. The result is an often fun, but sometimes frustrating, FPS experience that mostly manages to separate itself from the me-too pack with the series’ staple: scaly-skinned, sharp-fanged, prehistoric beasties.
Without the wild card of Jurassic giants, Turok would feel a lot like other first-person-shooters you’ve played recently. Its lush jungles will remind you of Far Cry and Crysis, and its endless army of clone-like super soldiers will remind you of…well…take your pick; this past holiday season alone gave us more generic baddies–Area 51, F.E.A.R. Files, TimeShift–than you can aim a plasma beam at. Thankfully, Turok breaks the familiar feel with its ground-shaking T-Rex’s and its human-hungering raptors. Whether you’re watching the beasts from afar–they are pretty to look at–, high-tailing it away from their vicious attacks, or driving your hunting knife through their skull, their presence is welcome in this over-crowded genre. In fact, we’d love to see a sequel that forgoes the human threat entirely and just drops us in Jurassic Park.
Killing the dinos is a blast; pull the right trigger when you’re in range, and one of a handful of slick animations will unfold, most beginning with your knife to their head or throat, and all ending with a nice spurt of dinosaur blood. Despite the limited animations, this mechanic–probably because it’s so quick and satisfying–never grows old. And not all raptor encounters end with a dino corpse sitting at your feet; you’ll often have to fend off their attacks by jamming on the trigger buttons. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, you’ll never have a problem attacking or defending because Propaganda was kind enough to keep the context-sensitive stuff to the two triggers–sometimes you’ll have to press both simultaneously. The mechanic would’ve grown frustrating fast if players had to react to a random on-screen cue every time a dino decided he wanted to take a bite out of you.
While your over-sized Rambo blade is the best defense against the prehistoric populace, you’ll be breaking out the heavier hardware for your human adversaries. Don’t misunderstand; it’s just as satisfying to stealthily come behind an unfriendly and pry their skull open with the serrated blade, but it’s usually easier to take them out from afar. Turok’s arsenal has the familiar favorites–shotguns, sniper rifles, flame- throwers, grenades–, but all weapons possess a secondary mode, offering players an alternate means of creatively taking down foes. The gatling gun, for example, can be set to fire on its own as a stationary turret, and the flamethrower has the corridor-clearing ability to hurl plasma grenades. The weapon selection is further supported by Turok’s old stand-by: the bow and arrow; the high-tech–this ain’t just a string tied to both ends of a stick–weapon fires regular and explosive arrows and, with the right torque applied, can skewer baddies, pinning them to trees and walls. You’re not going use the bow as much as the other weapons, but it’s still nice to always have it at your disposal; both the bow and knife are always equipped in addition to two firearms.
Regardless of how you take out the scaly-skinned and human trash, you’ll need to plan your attacks carefully. Turok is by no means a stealth game, but the A.I. is smart enough that running-and-gunning will leave you staring at the red screen (which means you’re deader than dino bait). Taking cover, diving from grenades and flanking are all in the human A.I.’s repertoire, and, unless you plug ’em in the noggin’, they can absorb several shots. Those with a sick sense of humor can keep baddies at bay by firing a dino-attracting flare at them; sitting back and watching a raptor feast on your foes is fun, but it would’ve been nice if this was an integral part of your defense. As is, you’ll rarely find the opportunity to pull off this cool mechanic.
Traversing Turok’s terrain is a fairly familiar experience as lush jungles and decorative interiors have been done to death in other games. And visually, the environments can’t quite compete with recent horsepower whores like Call of Duty 4 and Assassin’s Creed. Still, the environments generally gets the job done, and some beautiful set pieces–the volcanic landscape is notable–offer a fair share of stop and smell the charred corpses moments. Character designs, especially the dinos, look great. One particular moment sees a T-Rex gobbling up enemies as if they were appetizers at a dinosaur buffet; witnessing this and few other T-Rex-centric moments will have you recalling the first time you saw these impressive giants rumble onto the silver screen in Jurassic Park. The sound work is a pretty solid mix of strong voice-overs, appropriate weapon blasts, and Earth-shaking dinosaur effects, and the score is paced nicely with the survival theme of the game.
The one major flaw in Turok’s next-gen debut is its lack of checkpoints. The game saves automatically but far too infrequently, resulting in players running on the trial-and-error treadmill to the point of frustration. Sadly, this can’t be easily overlooked, especially for casual gamers just looking for a little dino-blasting fun. We were sent back to multiple checkpoints over and over again, sometimes halting our progression for nearly three hours; this might acceptable for the hardest of hardcore gamers, but the frustration will likely turn off anyone who wasn’t brought up on hair-pulling titles like the original Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Ninja Gaiden.
If you’re up for the challenge, Turok is definitely worth a play-through. The addition of dinos to this often generic genre of gaming is refreshing. And whether you’re blasting them to bits, planting arrows in their eyes, or slitting their scaly throats, you’ll never tire of you’re next man-versus-beast brawl. The prehistoric element also factors into Turok’s multiplayer; the modes are your typical slate of Death Match, Team Death Match, and Capture the Flag, but throwing neutral dinosaurs into the mix adds a nice wild card to the usual multi-player mix. Three co-op maps also offer a short but sweet experience. If you’re tired of killing zombies, soldiers, and aliens– or zombified alien soldiers–then you’ll appreciate dealing Turok’s brand of Jurassic justice. Just be prepared for a level of difficulty that’ll have you restarting at the same checkpoints more times than you can shake a fossilized stick at .
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Good but not ground-breaking. 4.5 Control
Simple, satisfying and intuitive. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Good VO and weapon sounds. Score is appropriately immersive. 3.5 Play Value
Good single-player campaign and a few online options. Inability to save anywhere occasionally makes experience more frustrating than fun. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.