Ten years ago Acclaim Entertainment and Iguana Entertainment surprised just about every gamer when they released Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, which was a first person shooter based on the Acclaim comics. The title was successful critically and commercially and was followed up by some successful sequels. The series went quiet for a few years until Acclaim tried to rejuvenate the franchise with the critical and commercial failure Turok Evolution. Here we are in 2007 and both Acclaim and Iguana Entertainment have gone bankrupt. With a new developer and publisher, the latest Turok game is set for release on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 next year, we recently had an opportunity to go hands on with the game and came away very very impressed.
The storyline for Turok has been kept well under wraps. Players will assume the role of Joseph Turok, a former Black Ops commando who has become part of an elite Special Forces squad, which is on a mission to take down his mentor, Roland Kane, who is a war criminal. Kane has escaped to a bizarre planet with his own crew and when Joseph Turok lands on the planet he faces some dangerous creatures; including of course, Dinosaurs. If you've played the previous Turok games and are having a little bit of trouble following the story it's worth noting the storyline is completely seperate from the previous games in the series.
Rather than just fearing the dinosaurs, Kane has his own defence forces that you'll need to be on the look out for. These include human enemies as well as those massive dinosaurs. We had an opportunity to go hands on with Level 3.3 of the game, which looks like only a small section of the third level. In this demo you're trying to infiltrate the enemy's base. Before we even touched the controller there were a few little touches which we felt add to the experience of the game. While crouching in the grass you can actually pass through the grass and rather than stand there statically the grass will move as you pass through it.
Given the one objective, it is up to the player to determine how they tackle the mission. Joseph Turok has his bow and knife, so you could tackle the mission by sneaking up behind an enemy and killing them with the knife (you'll even get a quick third person cut scene showing your brutal kill), you could shoot at the dinosaur's eggs and then set the Velociraptor to work or you could go in all guns blazing and aim for head shots. It's ultimately up to the player how they tackle the mission, which is a refreshing change.
As we infiltrated the base we came across ammo which is dropped by the now dead soldiers, rather than have to press a button the game will automatically pick up the ammo for you, which is convenient. In fact, the whole weapon system is rather cleverly done. Joseph Turok can hold four weapons at once, as well as his knife, which always stays with him. Tapping down on the directional pad will draw the knife and tapping the left or right directional pad (either once of twice) quickly selects a weapon. If you come across a new weapon in the game you can simply tap a button to pick it up.
Even though the segment of the level we played through was over in about twenty minutes there was plenty to get excited about. What impressed us most with the game was the AI, if you shoot at an enemy then hide behind a crate they will come after you, they won't just stand there waiting for you to emerge from cover. In terms of health, you'll gain back health if you can manage to stay out of the firing line, if you're close to death the screen will start to turn red (ala Gears of War). Rather than just have to shoot for soldiers it also seems like players will need to keep an eye out for other hazards. At one point during the level a barrel was thrown down a set of stairs and we had to shoot at it to stop it from exploding in Turok's face.
Graphically Turok is already looking like an incredibly polished game. The dinosaurs in particular look absolutely incredible, for example if you zoom in on a dinosaur you can see the areas where the dinosaurs have been wounded by your shots. The environments are huge and vast, the days of seeing a dinosaur mouth emerge from fog are over.
It's very unusual to leave a preview session for a game that's still five months away with such a positive feeling, but that's exactly what happened with Turok. For a game that is still months away Turok looks very impressive and as long as the action remains intense the game is shaping up to be a title to keep an eye on. Is Turok back? All indications are well and truely pointing to yes.