Genre: First-person shooter
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC (reviewed on Xbox 360)
My memories of the character of Turok spring from my N64 days and playing Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. I get misty just thinking about countless hours of single-player first-person shooting my way through the jungles of the Lost Land. Whether it was hearing the screams of my enemy as the Quad Rocket Launcher hit home, watching an armor-plated triceratops fall under the weight (and explosive power) of too many Tek Arrows, or diving into a subterranean cavern in search of a piece of the Chronoscepter, Turok elicits nothing but fuzzy-happy memories for me.
I loved the original so much that when the sequels were received with near-universal boos, I decided to stay away, not wanting to ruin my memory of a great gaming experience. So, suffice it to say, I was a bit giddy when I heard the talk of a next-gen version of everyone's favorite Native American dinosaur hunter.
The fact of the matter is that the new generation of Turok has a lot of the aspects I remember loving about the classic version, but it brings in a few problems that should never exist in a next-gen title.
The first big change is the title character. Instead of playing as Tal-Set, a.k.a. the time-traveling "Turok", you now take on the role of Joseph Turok, a member of a team of soldiers assembled to bring the rogue Roland Kane (aren't the bad guys always named "Kane"?) back to earth. While orbiting a dinosaur-infested planet where Kane is conducting genetic experiments, your ship is shot down. Over the course of the game you must find the rest of your team (some of whom, naturally, hate you), recover debris from your downed ship, wipe out Kane's mercenary army, and eventually stop Kane from manufacturing a bio-toxin that will kill millions of people. In other words, you have to do the stuff that you normally do in an FPS, but with, you know, dinosaurs.
Might as well jump, JUMP!
The new-gen Turok has got a lot going for it. The environments and atmosphere in the game are very well realized and create a generalized sense of impending doom and constant fear for the players. The dinosaurs are well-rendered and fear-inducing, especially since they play a generally neutral role. That's not to say that they aren't aggressive or deadly, it just means that they will attack you, your teammates, or your enemies with the same vigor. It can be quite rewarding to sit back and watch a herd of raptors gut a nest of snipers, or to force a herd of grazing parasaurolophi to stampede an entire platoon of Kane's men.
The single-player mode moves along at a really good pace, with tons of twists and surprises in the story, and amazing voice-over work. And the multi-player games are as well done as Halo or Team Fortress 2, with plenty of game modes, and graphics and lighting that are almost better than the single-player modes. And I have to say, whether single or multi-player, there are few things as satisfying as breaking out the knife (Turok's melee weapon) and watching one of the dozens of finishing moves.
NOT THE MOMMA!
But as much as I wanted to LOVE Turok, I have to say that ultimately, it was a disappointing experience. First of all, there are numerous issues with lighting and camera-work. As a whole, I don't know if I've ever played a game as dark. And when I say "dark", I'm not referring to the tone or atmosphere of the game, I mean that you can't see a fucking thing a lot of the time. In fact, in scenes that are lit somewhat well, you start to notice jagged lines around the edges of background elements. The camera is its own issue, as the view often switches from first to third person whenever some actions are performed, such as climbing or melee attacks, so that when you jump back into first-person mode, there is a moment of disorientation. I guess it might not be so bad, if you weren't constantly surrounded by tons of little compys.
And there are certain times when the camera combines with the lighting to make it next to impossible to know what the hell is going on. For example, if you're fighting through a cavern (dark) and you slit the throat of a charging raptor (third-person camera switch), you may find yourself literally spinning in circles when you get back to normal. Repeat this a couple of dozen times, and you'll start to see where my frustration comes from.
One of the other problems I have with Turok is the way weaponry has been handled. First of all, I just want to go on record as saying that it is inexcusable that the N64 Turok has more weapons (12) than the "next-gen" version (11). Also, the use of melee vs. ranged weapons is poorly handled. The most effective thing for killing a dinosaur is the knife, as it is a one-hit kill. So you find yourself walking around most of the time brandishing your knife instead of your pulse rifle, shotgun or even your flamethrower. And if you find yourself with a gun in hand, you can't beat an enemy off with the butt, you have to actually switch to the knife, and then track your foe down.
Couple the weaponry issues with the problems of stealth on the game. There are several moments when you are told that stealth is an important part of Turok's hunting ethos, but when it comes time to be stealthy, the AI are able to see you even if you're hidden. It basically amounts to a useless stealth system.
All in all, Turok is not a terrible game. There are a lot of fun aspects to the experience, but ultimately it is disappointing. I know that a large part of my dislike of the game has to do with a combination of my high level of anticipation for it, and the fact that the past six months have given us some of the greatest FPS experiences gaming has ever known. But overall, Turok would have been better off frozen in amber.