It’s been a while since we heard from Turok. The once-championed franchise of Acclaim studios has taken a six-year hiatus, and returns now under the guise of a different developer, Touchstone studios. It must be somewhat of a blessing and a curse to work on an incredibly well-known series such as this, and attempt to turn around the fortunes of a franchise that seemingly fell by the wayside a long time ago. Given the reputation of the previous few games however, the only way is up, and that means the time may be right to finally push the series forward into the consciousness of a new generation of gamers.
Just don’t mention Ripley…
No next-gen title would be complete without the requisite space marines and rich sci-fi plot, and Turok shouts loud and clear from that particularly over-crowded rooftop. In this instance, Joseph awakes from deep sleep on board a spaceship, and quickly gets shunted into the role of the hated newcomer amongst a group of typically macho space marines. We soon learn of the overarching plot premise to assassinate Turok’s old squad leader Kane, shortly before the ship ends up crashing and burning under attack from the surface of a strangely lush planet. Landing on the surface and beset on all sides by dinosaur and human foes, Turok teams up with squad leader Slade and attempts to salvage anything they can from the mission, with survival being a top priority.
Each level plays out in a largely linear and traditional manner, much the same as any other shooter before it. Simply put, you’ll start off at point A, and make your way to point B, dispatching anything that scurries or shoots towards you. Combat is solid enough even with the over-sensitivity in aiming, but the PS3 analogue sticks are still not the ideal solution for this type of game, and never will be. Tweaking the control options can make for a satisfactory experience, but don’t expect a finely tuned Resistance-like experience, because Turok simply fails to deliver on that front. In fact the entire game comes across as incredibly rushed.
Check those corners…
Of course the dinosaurs are the main stars of the show here, and most of the combat revolves around attempting to drop them as quickly as possible. This can be achieved at long range with any of the guns or projectile weapons, or alternatively by hiding in grass and attempting to take them down with knife or bow. Unfortunately whilst sneaking around a jungle is a fantastic idea in practice, the implementation just doesn’t work correctly, with some strange detection zones for the one-hit execution moves. Simply put, you could be stood on the tail of a dinosaur without being able to trigger the correct move at times, whilst in other places you could be stood 3-4 feet back and be able to work it successfully. Such a random mechanic pulls confidence away from the player, and Turok suffers massively as a result.
Gunplay is fairly well developed however, with the traditional range of wacky and over the top weaponry on offer. As is tradition, alternative fire modes are available for each gun, ranging from grenades through to trip mines. Playing with these is a fantastic amount of fun, if only for a short time, and the range of enemy dinosaurs and human opponents can create some hectic large-scale combat. Turok’s vision will fade to red as you take repeated damage however, making it all but impossible to see properly after a couple of hits. This makes dashing for safety completely counter-intuitive, and you’ll end up running into a hail of bullets more often than not.
They’re… coming out of the walls!!!
Unfortunately whilst there are some solidly average mechanics for the game to build on, the Artificial Intelligence routines completely destroy any foundations that are built. Simply put, some of the moments we encountered were just laughable in nature, with dinosaurs pacing back and forth on the same spot or running around in a five-yard circle, and human enemies showing similar deficiencies. The age-old problem of enemies spotting you from 200 yards away even when completely covered in grass and crawling forward at the slowest of pace is painfully evident, whilst at other times you can run up behind somebody and they’ll never even know that you’re there.
Compounding the above is a rather scattershot approach to visual design, with a very muted palette of colours in use, combined with some bright green foliage and strong blood effects. In practice that might sound like a good idea, but the overall visual impact certainly left us cold. The environments are bland and devoid of charm, and whilst the dinosaurs are fairly well modelled, the lack of scale is highlighted throughout. You’ll never get the sense that these are the large, imposing creatures that they should be. On top of all this, the PS3 version suffers from some of the worst texture pop-in and screen tearing yet seen on the console, with entire characters fluttering in and out of existence in some cases. The framerate is generally solid, but does dip occasionally whenever a massive number of enemies are present.
Nuked from Orbit
Turok’s multiplayer offering is solid however, offering up all of the standard modes that we’ve become accustomed to at this stage. Unfortunately there simply aren’t many people to play it with online right now, which is a shame, because the multiplayer offering of the old N64 and Playstation-era games was always tremendous fun, owing a lot to the bizarre approach to weapon design (anybody else remember the Cerebral Bore?).
So online it’s pretty much a wash-out, and the single-player just has too many bugs and annoyances to make it worthwhile. This is a premise that’s crying out for somebody to make a great game however, and we’d love to see a sequel that really takes the genre apart and boils it down to the necessary elements. Sneaking around a jungle in first-person could be a hell of a lot of fun (as Crysis has already proven), lets just hope they give Turok a proper redesign from the ground up, and make it soon.