February 09, 2008
Fighting and conquering terrifying dinosaurs was only a fantasy until “Turok: Dinosaur Hunter” was first released on the Nintendo 64 console back in 1997. The game was a huge hit with gaming enthusiasts worldwide, and helped make the Nintendo 64 one of the must have game consoles of the time. With such success, the game’s publishers Acclaim decided to release a sequel within the same year, titled “Turok: Seeds of Evil”. Numerous Turok titles have been released since but have failed to make an impression amongst the gaming world. With a fresh development team in place, Propaganda Games, and the famous Touchstone Studios publishing the game, can Turok make a big impact with its first outing on next generation consoles or should the franchise have stayed extinct like the dinosaurs you’ll encounter whilst playing? Join us as we trek through an adult-orientated rendition of Jurassic Park to find out.
As in previous instalments of the game you take control of the elite soldier Joseph Turok. The story begins with Turok being introduced to a group of soldiers known as the “Whiskey Company” who have been assembled to track and take down a rebel soldier known as Roland Kane. Kane is the leader of an evil organisation titled the “Wolf Pack”, who (as usual) have evil intentions planned for the rest of the world. The Whiskey Company must stop Kane and bring him under control before any catastrophes can occur. Whiskey Company receive some Intel on where Kane is possibly located, and therefore set off in a futuristic looking aircraft to hunt down their deranged target. As the aircraft hovers near the suspected location, an anti-aircraft missile scores a direct hit, bringing Whiskey Company tumbling into a hazardous situation. This is where gameplay begins, as you try your utmost to ensure Turok escapes from the disintegrating aircraft before it explodes into a thousand pieces of shattered metal. Escaping the aircraft is disguised in the form of a tutorial, as it teaches you the basic game controls such as jumping and crouching as you maneuver around the soon to be death trap. This is certainly one of the most impressive tutorials I have had the pleasure of playing, as well as an excellent gaming scene; a lot more fun than simply standing on the spot and being told “Press A to jump” like in almost every other FPS. I hope that more games in the future integrate a tutorial into gameplay, due to it being the most entertaining and immersive way of getting accustomed to a new game’s control system.
After this intense fight for your life you and your colleagues will land on an uncharted island, all separated due to the crash and therefore isolated. Searching for your team-mates will be your first task in the game, as you explore the mysterious island and begin your hunt for Kane. You quickly learn that Kane and the Wolf Pack troops will not be your only worry as you battle for survival, due to the island being inhabited by horrifying dinosaurs; this might not be a surprise to you though, considering former Turok games all being based around battles with these intimidating beasts. Throughout the game, you encounter dinosaurs of all different shapes and sizes, from the small but deadly Utahraptor, to the medium sized Dilophosaurus, and of course the bone crunching Tyrannosaurus Rex. Each dinosaur will make you change the way you play the game, due to different tactics needed to be put in to affect in order to conquer that particular opponent.
The smaller dinosaurs can be killed by simply using a knife, but as they grown in size, machine guns, shotguns and even rocket launchers will be called upon to stop the beasts in their tracks. Propaganda Games have attempted to make the dinosaurs more interactive than previous versions of the game, and in hope come an integral part of the gameplay. To try and make this dream a reality, a system has been introduced where the long grass and plants around you moves and shakes in a natural looking way as dinosaurs brush past them. This allows the gamer to spot where a dinosaur is before even seeing it, and therefore allows better anticipation of an attack whilst allowing stealth kills to be carried out in a more effective manner. The natural movement of grass when a creature or player interacts with the material has been featured in two video games that come to mind; Uncharted: Drakes Fortune on the Playstation 3 and Crysis on the PC, and therefore is a very unique feature to next generation gaming. Not only does the swaying of grass and plants add so much to gameplay, it also helps make Turok feel more realistic and lets the gamer feel more involved with the surroundings. Whilst this is a stupendous addition to the game, it is let down by the grass and plants themselves looking noticeably poor. At times, the grass often looks two-dimensional and this unfortunately retracts from the realistic feeling the game could have given you.
Propaganda Games have done a good job of incorporating new and innovative features in Turok. The grass movements come in to this category, but also knife killing animations and new additions to multiplayer matches which I will explain later in the review. Using the Combat Knife can often be the most efficient way to kill an enemy in Turok, as well as the most fun. As you sneak up on an unaware enemy or stationary dinosaur, a Right Trigger symbol will appear on the screen. When this is present, all you have to do is obviously squeeze the Right Trigger; and what follows is breathtaking. The game will spiral to a third person review, where you will see an animation of Turok slashing his sharp blade through a dinosaur’s head multiple times, as blood spurts from the dinosaur’s motionless body at an incredible rate. There are different animations stored within the game to help avoid boredom seeing this clip, which makes the knife sequences a joy to watch every time. The first couple of knife kills are likely to keep you staring at the screen in amazement, drooling on your game pad. Some people might feel this is a pointless addition but I believe Propaganda Games have been clever in introducing this seemingly cool feature. If people enjoy the animations, they are likely to perform them time and time again. In order to do these on the human Wolf Pack enemies, stealth tactics will have to be used in order to approach the enemy without having him shoot fairly painful bullets in your direction. Turok is very much a stealth game, and certainly not a run and gun shooter like so many others released in recent times. The astonishing killing animations will encourage you to play in a stealth manner intended by the game’s developers.
The knife might sound fun to use in Turok, but most other weapons unfortunately are not. This is due to a highly over-sensitive aiming system being present in the game, as the default sensitivity is far quicker than most other first person shooters. “No problem”, I said to myself, “I will just lower the aiming sensitivity in the menu”. No such luck, because even the lower sensitivity levels are still way too fast to accurately execute an enemy. The lowest possible setting will be acceptable to most shooting fans, but it still seems incorrect and this could put a few people off completing and enjoying the game. I find it a shame that Propaganda Games failed to act on the feedback given from the demo, as the sensitivity annoyance was mentioned by many.
If the game’s shooting mechanics are not to your liking, fortunately you will not always have to pull out a weapon in order to see your enemies descend down into the depths of hell. Whilst playing the campaign mode, you will often come across scenes where dinosaurs and Wolf Pack members are fighting and killing each other, unaware of you watching on. The wise thing to do here is to let the fight commence, and then assassinate the last one or two remaining enemies. An example of this during the game is when I was largely outnumbered by Wolf Pack members, only for a gigantic Tyrannosaurus Rex to come striding over the landscape and give me some assistance. I gladly accepted and ran away to cover, allowing my new team-mate to finish the job. This is a refreshing feature to see in the game, and can often be a handy situation when you are low on ammo or trying to reach your objective using a stealth approach.
Although Turok introduces exciting and innovative ideas, the game also has a few critical disadvantages which harm the gameplay substantially. The aiming system already described is one disadvantage, with the other being the enemies Artificial Intelligence, also known as A.I. Whilst in gun fights you will often see enemies attempt to hide behind cover, but for some reason only duck to the side of an object instead of actually hiding behind it. With a stationary enemy out in the open, you will find it extremely easy to execute a head shot and drop the enemy to the floor without any attempt of a fight back. This type of situation seems to occur way too often in Turok, and this makes the game feel like an unfinished product. Not only that, but it reduces the realism factor of the game; in real life situations, a trained, lethal army soldier is unlikely to stand out in the open begging to be killed!
You will find becoming lost a hard task during the campaign mode due to the gameplay generally being extremely linear. Most levels throughout the game are straightforward, offering little alternative for exploration. Some gamers might see this as an advantage, due to nobody finding getting lost fun, but in contrast, some exploring would add a few hours to the single player experience. Turok certainly has its downfalls, but fortunately it has enough advantages and innovative features to make the game an enjoyable experience. The single player game will last for approximately eight hours for the average gamer when played on the normal difficulty setting. In bizarre fashion, even the normal difficulty level seems to be difficult and provide a sturdy challenge in Turok, with Inhuman mode being on the edge of ridiculous and requiring a lot of patience and time. To unlock Inhuman mode however you will have to already have completed the game on an easier difficulty level. This can be inconvenient to players who just want to experience the single player and then indulge themselves in the multiplayer aspects, and also for those who wish to achieve the full 1000 gamerpoints in Turok, due to an achievement for completing the game on Inhuman mode for 60 gamerpoints. 60 gamerpoints just to play the game again on an extremely frustrating difficulty level? It does not sound like a fair deal to me, unless you immensely enjoyed the game the first time around of course.
To help keep you intrigued throughout the campaign and multiplayer experiences, you will discover the ability to use a wide range of weapons. Whilst the game contains 13 different weapons, none of them are likely to fill you with a sense of excitement and adrenaline. You will have access to the aforementioned Combat Knife which produces the interesting kill animations, the famous Combat Bow found in previous Turok games, a 9mm Handgun, the Enforcer Shotgun, three different standard Rifles, Grenades, a Sniper Rifle, a Flamethrower, Minigun, and finally a Red Fist RPG. Although this might sound like a good variety of weapons, each weapon has been seen in other games of the same genre and therefore will fail to give you a wow factor and leave you begging to pull the trigger on an unfortunate foe. It would have been nice to see some new, innovative weapons to go along with the innovative gameplay that Turok introduces to us.
To go along with the engaging story-line a multiplayer component is also available over Xbox Live and this is really where the game shines and brings good replay value. The single player campaign is not the only component bringing new aspects to the FPS genre due to Turok introducing a very clever feature which will keep you on your toes throughout multiplayer games. You will not only have to worry about your enemies evil intentions, but also dinosaurs and bugs that will spawn and roam around the map, trying to digest you for a nice snack. You will have to either exterminate them or risk being eaten alive as you line up that perfect headshot; only to be attacked from behind! I must admit though, it can be a handy when you are low of health, about to be killed in a gun fight, only to see a thunderous T-Rex storm on to the map and attack your enemy.
There are seven different maps to play with each differing in appearance from the next, helping to avoid boredom during multiplayer. Seven maps might seem like an unacceptable amount to some though, with other first person shooter games such as Call of Duty 4 containing fifteen or more maps to explore and battle on. If you get bored of capturing your opponents’ flag or killing countless noobs in multiplayer, then you can team up with a friend and take on one of three maps specifically designed for Co-operative play. Co-op play is a growing feature in this day of age, and is a nice addition to the game providing a break from the single and multiplayer experience. Not only will the co-op maps allow you to have a good time with some buddies, but at the same time some nice shiny achievements. Each map completed will award you with thirty gamerpoints; an incentive for the many achievement enthusiasts among you.
Turok runs on the now famous Unreal Engine 3, which has produced graphical masterpieces such as Gears of War and Bioshock, obviously leaving me with high expectations for Turok. Unfortunately, the graphics delivered are certainly a mixed bag. The two-dimensional grass mentioned earlier detracts enjoyment from the gameplay, and when up-close to certain objects textures will appear blurred and unrealistic. However, some scenes really are beautifully done. An example of this is when looking out on a valley far below; you are able to see dinosaurs roaming around, hunting for prey. The environment is also particularly well done in Turok, and helps to create a creepy, futuristic atmosphere during the game. The game looks up to par graphics wise, but no better than most other games currently available for the Xbox 360 games console.
Propaganda Games provide us with another solid first person shooter game to enjoy, but fail to provide yet another solid achievement list. A large percentage of the achievements are dedicated to multiplayer gaming, and this may anger a large majority of gamers due to a recent survey proving most people prefer single player achievements. Whilst none of the multiplayer achievements are extraordinary hard to gain, the sheer amount might put some of even attempting to achieve them. You will receive forty gamerpoints for completing the game, and as stated earlier in the review, this will unlock Inhuman mode. Completing Inhuman mode will then award you sixty gamerpoints. You are likely to run out of patience before achieving these sixty gamerpoints though, due to either already playing through the experience once and lacking motivation to explore the world of Turok again, or just giving up due to the outrageously high difficulty level. A good achievement list can help add hours of enjoyment to a game, but instead, Turok’s is more likely to put you off playing the game.
The audio is done reasonably well in Turok, but nothing to note as being impressive or innovative. Orchestral work is done well to help build up an atmosphere before encounters with dinosaurs and the Wolf Pack.
For the most part, Turok looks pleasing to the eye, and so it should due to using the Unreal 3 engine. The movement of grass and plants as you brush past them looks very nice indeed, and adds to the immersive gameplay due to allowing the gamer to hunt down dinosaurs before being hunted themselves. The graphics are slightly let down however by the grass and plants looking two-dimensional, and up-close textures lacking a lot of detail.
The single player campaign offers a solid experience with an intriguing story-line, but nothing that would warrant multiple play-throughs. The multiplayer side of things is done well, with the new feature of dinosaurs and bugs becoming a nuisance for you, yet alone the other enemies! With only seven multiplayer maps and a handful of game modes, the enjoyable experience might not last long enough unless new maps are added via download content in the future.
Neatly presented to the gamer, with aesthetically pleasing menus and a generally tidy, easily accessible interface throughout. Over-sensitive controls are a major letdown.
Unless you are an avid fan of multiplayer achievements, you will be disgusted by the list Propaganda Games have wrote up for you.
The first next generation offering of Turok implements innovative and exciting features into the shooting genre, but unfortunately is let down by a mixed graphical bag, a campaign on the short side, and a lack of multiplayer maps and game types. The multiplayer modes are certainly worth trying though, just to experience the thrill of having to fight both dinosaurs and other human players at the same time. Co-operative play is also offered on three different maps, which is a nice feature most developers appear to be implementing in recent games. Overall, Turok is a solid first person shooter, but will fail to produce a WOW factor and will most likely only keep you entertained until the next hyped game is released.