- Dinosaurs are engaging, storyline and gameplay are solid
- Lack of environment variety, linear objectives, some AI is lacking
Turok is a solid enough shooter that won't wow you the way triple-A titles like Call of Duty 4 or BioShock will. But if you're looking for some solid action, Turok more than fits the bill.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
The Turok series has definitely seen more than its fair share of ups and downs. While the first two instalments were pure dino-bashing entertainment, the later games left the series toiling in the gutter; culminating in the diabolically awful Turok: Evolution. With none of the cool features that made the N64 original so addictive, it was hunted down and devoured by critics with the ferocity of a pack of velociraptors. So savage and all-consuming was their attack, that many gamers assumed the franchise had become extinct forever.
Fast-forward five years, and Propaganda Games has bravely attempted to resurrect the dino-hunter with a next-gen reboot. Although it fails to single-handedly repair the series' reputation, it does offer a welcome return to Turok's reptilian roots.
For those unfamiliar with the popular shooter, Turok can be described in three words: FPS with dinosaurs. If you've ever wondered how you'd fare against a Tyrannosaurus-Rex armed with a shotty, Turok provides the answer. (Incidentally, its titular character is not a video game creation, but rather, has been headlining comic books since the 1950s.)
The story begins with our hero and a team of mercenaries travelling to a distant planet to capture rogue war criminal Roland Kane who, unbeknownst to Turok and Co., has been performing genetic experiments with prehistoric animals. (Is it just us, or do the baddies in video games always seem to be called Kane? First there was the megalomaniac leader from Command & Conquer, then the psychopathic killer from Kane & Lynch, and now there's this guy. A tip to parents who live in video game worlds: don't call your baby Kane!)
While the plot is slightly derivative, the action is actually quite decent; easily holding its own against recent heavy-hitters like Halo 3 and BioShock. There are plenty of thrills to be had as you wander around lush jungles and dank caves looking for things to put bullets into. We also loved the beginning of the game which pokes fun at the obligatory 'training level' -- the moment you follow your officer to the training room and pick up a gun, a missile hits the side of the ship, throwing you straight into the action.
Peanuts for brains?
We were also impressed by the AI that was controlling the dinosaurs, which was actually good enough to offer up some strategic possibilities. For instance, you can use them as weapons by shooting nearby enemies and bringing them to the dino's attention. Indeed, the key to success in many missions involves pitting your enemies against each other in a variety of fun ways. If you're smart, the creatures in the game will spend as much time fighting amongst themselves as they do with you. (There are few things more satisfying than firing a flare into a group of grunts; causing a swarm of raptors to attack them, and then standing back, casually picking off man and beast while all hell is breaking loose.)
There is also a great variety to the dinosaur designs and their animations are impressive, although the herbivores don't seem to do very much other than wander around. We would have liked to have seen some grazing animations and the like. In any event, your frequent battles with your scaly foes never fail to be anything less than exciting. The odd part is that the same can't be said for your human foes. Maybe we are just tired of fighting humanoid soldiers, but the battles against the humans proved to be far less memorable than the fights against the dinos.
As has become obligatory in most recent action titles, stealth makes up a significant part of Turok's gameplay, with the trusty hunting knife offering Tenchu-style one-kill attacks, complete with gruesome animations. Naturally, there is also be plenty of running-and-gunning for the Doom purists out there; a fact made welcome by a plethora of fearsome firearms. In terms of weapons, many fan-favourites make a return, including Turok's trademark bow which can also be used for stealth attacks.
The game's overall visual presentation was ever-so-slightly lacking. While the game's graphics are awesome, there just isn't enough variety to the various areas that you'll traverse. Likewise, while the voice acting is topnotch and the character models look ace in closeup, the animations are occasionally on the ropey side (especially when a character is talking to you in game). The paths from one objective to the next are also really linear, leading you to feel like a rat who's running a pre-constructed maze.
But it's not all bad with Turok. The game controls wonderfully and the frame rate never falters. There's no sign of fog shrouding distances in the background and the load times are mercifully short, save for when you're actually loading up the game. Most importantly of all, it allows you to fight dinosaurs! Come on, admit it - the kid inside you is just dying to take a flamethrower to a sauropod's scaly face. As video game premises go, it's easily up there with shooting Nazis.
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