When Turok was first released way back for the Nintendo64, it was at the height of its game, offering groundbreaking graphics and game play, with an almost ingenious plot. So how does the latest from Acclaim compare?
Set in 1886 Texas, as the last remaining members of the Saquin nation make a last ditch attempt to escape into the safety of Mexico. Unaware of what lay in wait for them, the last remaining Saquins played right into the hands of the bloodthirsty Captain Tobias Bruckner, who is under orders to capture the last Saquins without bloodshed. As the great chief Grey Bear falls at the mercy of a sniper bullet, the orders are to massacre everyone. As bodies lie and fall, it all comes down to Bruckner and Tal’Set, faced in a one on one battle. As the war rages to an end, the ground splits and swallows them both into a mysterious cavern covered in ancient symbols and artifacts. Tal’Set is wounded and dieing from a bullet to the liver, yet he rises for one more battle. As the blood sprays from his gushing wounds, it sets off a trigger in the cavern activating an ancient power. A stray bullet sends Tal’Set through the portal into the Lost Land. So the adventure begins.
Initially there is nothing that would set this new revamped Turok from its counterparts, in all honesty it looks a little worse. It seems like little effort was put into level design, to even the structure of the levels. Understandably the first levels of any game are mostly where the player learns most of the moves and controls that will help them throughout the game. So they don’t really need to be the most complex of designs. As the initial levels progress you start to learn more abilities, equip new weapons and even face your first foes.
As soon as the first chapter begins, it ends just as quick. Having learned all the guerrilla jungle tactics you can, you’re suddenly thrust into the skies to have your first flying lesson. I found this the hardest level to master, as the slightest bump or knock into the surrounding caverns or obstacles instantly kills you. At first this is highly annoying and frustrating, but as the level progresses you find that it helps you control the dinosaur better, which you will need in later levels. Your flying Quetzalcoatlus only has two weapons; missiles and basic guns, so the attacking aspect of flying is not too hard to master. Your aerial enemies however vary from turret guns on the ground to parachuting lizards. Like the first jungle level, your first lesson in pterosaur riding is not too complex as long as you avoid the rocks, that is. Unlike other games Turok does not incorporate a boss system so to speak. You still have bosses, just not one chapter. More often than not your end of level goal will center on destroying an enemy embankment or a building. This may sound easy, and at first it is, until you have to avoid gunfire from every angle while dodging the other flying beasts that inhabit the skies. Turok seems to follow its own path rather then trying to follow other more trodden paths. It seems Acclaim has tried to make this outing different from its predecessors and even other games in its genre. This is a novel and noteworthy idea. Too many games are built upon the same model, Turok could have just been set in a jungle, having Tal’Set fighting morbid lizards for a few levels with the odd dinosaur for a boss thrown in here and there. The differences which make the game also set it aside from all others, and that is what makes it such a hit.
Journeying deeper into the dense jungle that seems to even outgrow yourself, you get a feel of how the level design varies so much from the opening levels. These levels differ from mountaintops to hidden cities and back again. Other than encountering enemy dinosaurs and hybrids you also see the odd background dinosaurs dead and alive that seem to linger around each level. This helps to give the impression that the levels are alive and you never really know what’s around the corner from a baby Triceritops to a huge dead Brachiosaur.
One thing that I did have a slight problem with was how many enemies you initially face. As mentioned above, the beginning levels are solely used for getting acquainted with the game, your foes are really too far from each other, which often finds you wandering through the levels admiring the shrubbery.
Fortunately as you progress forwards in the game it really starts to shine and looks more like Counter-strike with a Jurassic park mod! Swiftly taking you from your jungle surroundings, your journey takes you into fortresses and cities and even teaming up with some rebel forces.
I had my doubts about the all-new AI that every game seems to tout about nowadays and from what I saw in the initial three or four chapters it did not really standout from your average first person shooter. It’s not until you reach the more inhabited areas that the AI really shows what it’s made of. Slowly at first and then all hell breaks loose. Initially, when you first face 3-4 enemies at the same time, they seem to have varied attack plans. One will stand out in the open drawing your fire whilst the others propel grenades at you, while ducking behind rocks and trees and diving on the ground. This is mildly impressive to witness but even more so to play against. When you breach the city walls the fun really starts to begin, and Turok really seems to morph into a fragging match of Counter-strike with your friends. You are often joined by rebel forces who rally round and try to out flank and outwit the enemy, as you start to face them alone they seem to grow more clued as to your tactics. If they think you are armed heavily and are putting down a lot of fire they will retreat, taking turns to return fire until they are out of sight. If you walk into a room in which they are deployed, they run for cover and even flip over tables and desks to return fire from behind. The AI is a marvel to play against which always makes you think about how to approach each level and different enemies.
Choosing which weapon to use is a task in itself. Tal’Set has a wide range of twelve weapons from your basic bow to an animatronic spider. Even though there are actually twelve core weapons, some can morph into different guns or lasers, giving a more wide and varied selection to choose from. That in the height of battle can mean loosing your life or kicking some mutated ass.
The game employs an auto save function that means after each chapter your game is automatically saved. This may sound like a good and basic idea and generally it is. However Turok seems to have some very large levels, which can leave you very frustrated if you get so far only to redo it all from the beginning again.
Turok seems to rely more on sound effects than background music throughout the majority of levels. In the beginning this gave an empty feel to the levels, but as you progress throughout the vast amount of levels, you vaguely seem to notice. As you are so engrossed in the game, the background sound does not seem to matter.
At first it may seem that Acclaim are just trying to cash in on the previous success of the Turok titles, then the game suddenly grabs you by your scales and yanks you back to the Jurassic era. Adding a variety of twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat. Turok seems to have re-invented itself as a great FPS. With an impressive array of artillery and an even more impressive AI, Turok seems to have progressed as one of this year's must have games. Where else can you be outwitted and outplayed by a horde of gun touting dinosaurs, only in Turok!