“Dinosaurs eat meat. You are meat, run away!” This is just one of the many humorous chunks of dialogue you are treated to during the loading sections of this re-birth of a long-forgotten franchise. Turok for Xbox 360 and PS3 feels more like a re-imagining of the series as opposed to a straight up sequel. Granted you are still of native American descent, you spend the majority of the game battling prehistoric enemies and your most powerful allies are a knife and bow but the game takes a more modern approach by adding military themes and plenty of sci-fi references. What has changed though is that this next-generation iteration of the Turok name has brought back the enjoyment of the early N64 games and all but vanquished the sour taste left from the sorry excuse known as Turok Evolution.
The storyline for Prapaganda Games’ re-imagining may be derivative but it is well told. You assume the role of Joseph Turok as you join a group of soldiers known as Whiskey Company. No one likes you from the start, mainly because you have a reputation of betraying your old mercenary team known as Wolfpack. The ironic part is that your mission with Whiskey is to hunt down your former leader Roland Kane. Throughout the game you are treated to flashbacks of your induction into Wolfpack and the overall quality of the storytelling and voice acting is top tier. As an added twist the planet you crash on in the beginning of the game is infested with prehistoric creatures thus changing your mission from simply seek and destroy to survive and rescue. The only disappointment with the overall narrative is that you never really get any info on where or why the dinosaurs inhabit this planet.
As a first-person shooter Turok is pretty standard fare. Controls are reminiscent of any other game in the genre. The analog sticks control camera and movement, triggers operate weaponry, and you can of course jump and crouch at your leisure. There is a stealth element in the game and for the most part it works well enough. The only drawback to sneaking up on your prey is that the enemy AI can be spotty at times. There were instances where I could creep along the tall grass timing the perfect moment to drive my blade into an unsuspecting foe only to be foiled by cheap AI that can somehow see behind itself. Other times I could literally run up to multiple enemies and take them down one by one without ever alerting the other guards. When it works, it works great, but when it fails it can be frustrating especially considering how long load times are when you die.
Speaking of long load times my biggest gripe with Propaganda’s take on my favorite dinosaur hunter is the pacing. The checkpoint system and long loading between deaths are the main culprits here. There are sections where you will see the “saving checkpoint” screen every three minutes, which as we all know is a great sense of security, but the further you get into the game the less frequent these are. Some instances will have you facing large boss enemies that are 20-30 minutes from the last save point thus forcing you to trek through the same area over and over.
Of course if stealth isn’t the name of your game Turok comes equipped with plenty of firepower to lay waste upon this prehistoric planet. It seems every new section of the game is littered with plenty of firearms at your disposal, which is great for those of us who like variety. The Turok franchise has always been known for its inventive arsenal and this new chapter doesn’t disappoint. Aside from your standard bow and knife you have plenty of weapons to create meat fountains with. Whether you prefer the standard shotgun (with a secondary fire that launches flares that attract dinos to your foes) to the more satisfying sticky bomb gun there is never a lack of firepower. As its name implies the sticky bomb gun is just as fun as it sounds. Launching mobile bombs onto enemies leads to many a satisfying moment and the secondary fire launches a mini landmine field for unsuspecting soldiers.
In addition to all of this firepower you can also duel-wield almost any combination of guns in the game ala Halo. Combine this with your knife and bow combination and you are an unstoppable force for just about any occasion. Of course not all is grand in the land of the lost. While the weapons pack a certain cool factor their firepower is disappointing to say the least. Kane’s soldiers seem to take far too many shots before going belly up. Dinos are also seemingly impervious to bullet spray so I ended up spending most of the game traveling with blade in hand for those quick time one-hit kills. Speaking of one-hit kills the fact that the game takes the time to focus out into third person for each animation is pretty slick at first. Watching Turok viciously drive his knife into a raptor’s throat is sadistically satisfying, but with a small collection of animations you will likely begin seeing repeats far too soon.
The single player campaign is a solid romp that will appease most shooter fans. But like I mentioned earlier there are frustrating moments throughout. Some battles are far too hard for their own good and enemies sometime never seem to miss. Couple that with the lackluster checkpoints and you will no doubt experience plenty of “yell at the screen” moments. Thankfully the solid story, lush locales and plenty of dinos to decimate more than make up for its flaws thus creating a solid, albeit predictable journey.
Of course no FPS on a console these days is complete without a robust online offering and Turok certainly delivers on that aspect. While map selection may seem meager (only seven maps ship with the game) their unique take on the genre make up for it. Each of these maps is littered with inhabitants ranging from prehistoric lizards to gigantic bugs all of which have no faction. Avoiding these obstacles and using them to your advantage takes the simple premise of online competition and adds a new layer of strategy to the mix. There are also a collection of co-op missions that you can enjoy with up to three other players, but to be honest these feel shallow in comparison to offering a full co-op campaign.
From a presentation standpoint Turok shines in most areas with only a few annoyances to speak of. The jungle environments are lush and at times visually stunning. Standing at the edge of a cliff peering off into the distance and watching the dinos migrate around is breathtaking the first and last time you do it. The indoor locales though are bland and repetitive which makes getting lost a common occurrence. The dinos all look and animate beautifully and as realistically as Hollywood has taught us they do. The enemies however, are bland and lack variety. The sound is solid all around with comparable voice acting and an epic orchestral score that will draw comparisons to some of the best in Hollywood. Sound effects are also superb with great ambience and enough kick to rock even the best surround sound system.
Turok is the kind of game that comes at both the best and worst times. Considering we are on the post-holiday drought a game this solid is rare, but when 2007 was considered the year of the FPS Turok does little to advance the genre. Regardless there is plenty of fun to be had here, especially in the online modes. If you were a fan of the original series than Turok is a must buy. For anyone with an interest in the genre Turok is a prime example of how to make a safe and solid experience.