Dinosaurs are awesome. It’s a fact that has been acknowledged for generations, and the giant lizards can’t seem to escape our imaginations. Turok, a video game loosely based on a comic book from the 1950s, found success when it was released on the N64. By mixing plenty of basic ingredients for awesome - that is, if we are going under the generally accepted equation, awesome = guns x dinosaurs + cars + boobs + gore = awesome, discovered by Albert Buttkickenstein in 1965 - and its sequels were no different. That was until the awful Turok Evolution, which in the eyes of many fans, singlehandedly destroyed the series. Now, though, a new studio is trying to revive Turok on the current generation platforms. This new game is a re-imagining, if you will, of the original game. Turok is a straight-up action extravaganza all the way through, and while it has plenty of flaws, the end result is an exciting, engaging, and charming first-person shooter.
“In fact, the game could have tied in with the new Rambo movie, had they just called it Rambo on Dinosaur Planet instead of Turok.”The main thing that keeps Turok afloat is its personality. The game starts on a military spaceship, heading towards a jungle planet where Kane, a rogue soldier wanted for war crimes, is hiding. Turok used to be a member of Kane’s squad, known as Wolf Pack, so the rest of his crew are extremely wary of his presence. Jibes about his name, Native-American heritage, and past military actions are tossed around, and the crew ends up appearing very human, albeit humans with an obnoxious frat-boy sort of attitude. Still, the character development is great, and the entire game pulls inspiration from - and sometimes directly references - famous action movies like Aliens and Rambo: First Blood. In fact, the game could have tied in with the new Rambo movie, had they just called it Rambo on Dinosaur Planet instead of Turok.
While skulking around in the jungle, Joseph Turok can use his knife, bow, and lots of guns to bring down his ferocious reptilian menace. The knife is probably the coolest part of the whole game, as it can land an instant kill on any dinosaur or person who gets in the way. These kills play out as extended animations, and there are so many of them that they never get old. Watching Turok straddle a mutant Velociraptor thing and stab it in the skull repeatedly is gory, ridiculous, and completely brilliant. The level of violence in Turok transcends offensive; it’s simply cheesy. The fact that our main man can dual-wield shotguns, stab dinosaurs in the face, and wield a chaingun as if it weighed a few ounces makes the ensuing bloodbath an almost tongue-in-cheek delight. It’s a real shame, then, that human enemies - the latest recruits of Kane’s criminal Wolf Pack - don’t bleed. There’s nothing wrong with a bloodless game, but considering that dinosaurs will literally explode into chunks of floppy meat after being hit with a grenade, a little human ichor wouldn’t be amiss. As it stands, your human foes simply go down without bleeding at all, which is a little odd when juxtaposed to the over-the-top violence featured elsewhere.
“In the end, Turok ends up being comparable to old-school shooters like Contra. Big guns and a brutal challenge, beating Turok on Inhuman will be a badge of honor for many gamers.”Other than these nice presentational touches, Turok is a fairly standard horror shooter game. The action constantly flies at your face, meaning that the gameplay revolves around quick shooting. Sometimes, an opportunity to quietly dispatch your enemies arises, but for the most part Turok is heavy-handed and fast-paced. It’s also extremely nerve-wracking; the game probably features more genuine shocker moments than Doom 3. Having a Velociraptor jump out of nowhere and begin gnawing on your face is a pretty scary prospect, so anyone who enjoys a good jump will love Turok. The game is ridiculously challenging, too. On the normal difficulty setting, Turok can take three or four hits from a dinosaur before dying, meaning that bosses will kill him in about two. The higher difficulties add more enemies and make Turok even weaker in the face of danger. In the end, Turok ends up being comparable to old-school shooters like Contra. Big guns and a brutal challenge, beating Turok on Inhuman will be a badge of honor for many gamers.
As well as the entertaining campaign, Turok comes with a great multiplayer suite. Featuring the standard Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag gametypes, Turok’s multiplayer matches are always fast and furious. This is because the twitchy gameplay from the campaign has been translated perfectly into the multiplayer setting. You can still dual wield most of the weapons and run around like a maniac wielding the combat knife, so the multiplayer doesn’t feel watered-down at all. The maps are fairly interesting, as well, although some of them are fairly boring and industrial - we want jungles! The best part of the multiplayer, though, is the fact that it still throws dinosaurs and other monsters at the players. These neutral creatures patrol certain parts of the map, picking off players unfortunate enough to not notice them. The speed of multiplayer matches, combined with the constant threat of sauroid intervention, makes them just as intense as the campaign. Turok has some great Achievements to unlock in the multiplayer arena, too, which will keep the multiplayer interesting and addictive for a while to come.
Turok runs on the Unreal Engine 3, and for the most part, it looks great. The most impressive facet of the design is the grass, which sways with the slightest touch from the simulated wind, or worse - dinosaurs. While the grass itself is fairly low-resolution, the overall look is fantastic, really adding a touch of authenticity to the vegetation in the game. The characters all look great, too, especially Turok himself. The only aspect of the game that disappoints visually is the environment. It looks good most of the time, but there are occasional areas like caves and valleys that use ugly rock models and textures over and over again. Thankfully, the majority of the game takes place in the jungles and forests, but sometimes the lush green color palette is squashed by the boring greys and browns of caves and industrial complexes. The sound design, however, is flawless. The voice acting is spot-on, considering the gung-ho action movie atmosphere put forth by the game. In a stroke of genius, Ron Perlman was hired to play Turok’s belligerent sidekick, Slade. Turok has a great orchestral soundtrack, too, with pounding tribal drums that really set the mood. The booming roars of the dinosaurs sound appropriately menacing, and little touches in the ambient sound - like the rushing wind or the rustle of grass - keep the atmosphere thick and scary, just the way it should be.
Turok may not be original, or genre-bending, but it is a great deal of fun. It’s the classic summer movie syndrome: sure, it won’t win the Oscar, but it’s still a movie worth seeing. Turok is a game worth playing, and for once, it’s a shooter worth spending the money on. The long and challenging campaign coupled with the fast and addictive multiplayer makes Turok an attractive package, but really, it all comes down to this.
It has dinosaurs.
It has guns.
Eight out of ten
- Great atmosphere
- Solid gameplay
- Excellent sound design
- Occasionally boring visuals
- Silly story
- Punishing difficulty