Turok began his video game career more than a decade ago on the Nintendo 64, where he garnered some fairly positive reviews and also assisted in defining the First Person Shooter genre on consoles. Sequel after sequel was released, and eventually Turok fell apart, with the rather mediocre Turok: Evolution assumed to be the final nail in the franchises coffin.
Thankfully though, someone up there had listened to the fans of the dinosaur hunter and a next-generation iteration was released on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and now, the PC. But how does the burly, mohawked hunter fare in the age of super high resolutions and cinematic gameplay? Certainly better than the previous iteration, but it's still not quite there yet.
Upon firing up Turok, you'll be bombarded with well...not much unfortunately. The story basically tells of Joseph Turok, who is assigned to an assault team named 'Whiskey company', and is ordered to hunt down a soldier named Kane (coincidentally his former mentor), and quite a large army of beefed up space marines. One thing leads to another, and in clichÃ©d fashion your ship crash lands onto the planet Kane resides in, and you and a few other survivors head off on a survival mission, as the planet is littered with dinosaurs, the main stars of the show. Though the story makes perfect sense and begins on a decent albeit simplistic note, it tends to simply wander off during the course of the game and things become a little random. Though story is often a good driving point for a game, FPS games are all about the action, and here is where Turok has some fine moments.
The console iterations of Turok, though sporting some decent controls, tended toward 'slippery' aiming, for lack of a better word. There was no auto-aim so trying to nail a head shot on a target was sometimes frustrating. Thankfully as per usual with an FPS on PC, all aiming is controlled by mouse, but some of the PC version control choices are certainly odd. In order to throw grenades, the shift key must be held down, and while holding it you press the right mouse button. Similarly, to use alternate firing modes you have to hold shift down and press the left mouse button. Though this is perfectly feasible when wielding dual weapons (holding shift and pressing left or right click will utilise the left or right weapon alternate fire respectively), grenade throws could easily have been mapped to the G key. Though some functions can be mapped to your own whims, we could not find an alternative to the secondary fire modes and grenade throws. It's not entirely a bad thing, but with the amount of button pressing required a large scale fire fight it can become quite a hassle.
Apart from the control issues, Turok is very much a functional, and most times, a fairly enjoyable shooter. With the addition of dinosaurs, fire fights spanning the levels can turn into rather bloody encounters, with not only enemy soldiers to be worried about, but also raptors and other carnivorous creatures that lurk in the dense jungle. But it never feels unfair, as the dynamic AI for the dinosaurs not only attacks you, but enemy soldiers as well, so they can actually be used to your advantage. You can sometimes lure enemy soldiers into a raptors nest, resulting in enemy space marines focusing on not getting their heads bitten off, giving you ample time to escape (or possibly blow them all up with a grenade).
Speaking of explosives, Turok's weapons can pack quite a punch, in particular the bow and knife, which you acquire early on in the game. The bow is basically a one hit kill on almost any soldier and can be very satisfying, and because of the weapons' level of silence, it can be used for several stealth kills from afar. Later on you'll also receive explosive arrows which don't exactly pin people to walls but more or less blows them to bits. It's probably the most entertaining weapon in the game as it can be used in almost any situation.
But it's not the bow, but the knife that you'll be using the most throughout the course of Turok's single player campaign, and rightfully so, as the thing literally kills almost every creature and soldier with one stab. When close enough to an enemy, clicking the primary fire button will result in a short, but vicious animation of Turok ripping into the creature and leaving it for dead in an instant. As previously mentioned, this works on almost any creature, and it's actually the most efficient way to dispatch hordes of raptors. Due to them attacking you at such close proximities, with some decent timing one could massacre a few dozen raptors effortlessly. It won't always work, as at points you'll be pounced on by a raptor triggering a minor context sensitive mini-game, where you have to consecutively mash a button or so to wrestle your way out of the raptors claws, but generally throughout the entire game, the knife is the absolute counter for most encounters, which, although enjoyable, somewhat diminishes the need for the other weaponry and makes the game a little easy.
And this is Turok's biggest setback. Though the bow and knife are great fun to play with, every other weapon feels incredibly generic. It's the standard arsenal of weapons in an FPS, ranging from Sub Machine Guns to Sniper Rifles to Rocket Launchers, and though they function properly, one can't help but feel they're very inefficient and useless when you have such lethal weapons as the bow and knife at your disposal. This doesn't help when you factor in the somewhat uninspired design of your main enemy, the Wolf Pack. There's no unique flair to them and the game can quickly delve into the territory of 'been there, done that'. The only real appeal to the game is the dinosaurs and various creatures you face, which are superbly done and add plenty of intensity to the game, though there is simply not enough of this and too much focus on the space marines. Level design is also painfully linear, and you feel like you're following a fixed trail more than anything.
Turok runs on the Unreal Engine 3, but how it utilises the engine is a mixed result. Character models aren't anything to scream about as they are fairly low in detail. The same can't be said about the dinosaurs though, which look absolutely fantastic and move about realistically. Textures can be great in one area, then extraordinarily dull the next. There are some truly stunning parts in the game, one in particular involving a thunderstorm and an appearance of a T-Rex, but it's disappointing to see such inconsistency in an otherwise potentially great looking game. The good news though is that the game was ported quite well onto the PC, with it running silky smooth at 1920x1200 resolution with all the bells and whistles up to the top, on a relatively high end system sporting a Quad Core, 4 Gigs of RAM and an 8800GTX. It was also tested on lower end systems and still ran fairly well, so expect the game to run at a good frame rate on almost any modern computer.
There was one issue that popped up though. The game's engine is using streaming technology. Though this is useful for consoles due to the lack of memory and hard drive, it is an utterly useless feature on PC and only makes the game jitter about due to the constant loading in of levels. It cannot be de-activated on a basic level, but can only be done with advanced tweaking of the games configuration file. It's an unnecessary setting that was left on in the game, and a bit lazy on the developers' part to have left it on.
Turok has a surprisingly decent soundtrack behind it, which aids in immersing you in the depths of its brutal world. Voice acting is also fairly good, but let down by the absolutely terrible dialogue and execution of it all. Sound effects are great though, with dinosaurs sending a chill down your spine with their shrieks and roars, and gunshots echoing throughout the dense jungles. It's all backed by a solid surround sound conversion.
Turok is a solid shooter, and one with some intriguing and well executed ideas. However, the issue lying underneath the glamour is the mere fact that it simply does not do enough to differentiate itself from the already vast library of PC shooters already on the market. The single player is nothing that you will go back to once you're done, and though there is multiplayer, the lack of customisation and its rather basic game modes aren't enough to justify extended play. Turok is by no means, a bad game. It's a step in the right direction and a decent reinvigoration of the franchise. The basics are done right, but the execution of it all somewhat flawed.