Publisher/Developer : Acclaim
Release Date: 8/31/02
Turok is back and the newest foray to the series, Turok: Evolution, is debuting on a system near you. Xbox owners who are also fans of the Turok games should be particularly happy since this version sports superior graphics and faster loading times when compared to the PS2 and Gamecube versions. Is this game worth attempting to break the current world-record for queuing by waiting in line for nearly two months to buy it? Uhhh, no. It is an evolutionary upgrade to the past N64 titles and proves to be very entertaining at times but overall it just isn't good enough to merit the same acclaim as its three (lets forget about Turok: Rage Wars for the time being) predecessors. It is a cool game though, and FPS fans should definitely check it out, if not only for its jaw-dropping visuals and area-specific body damage that allows for enemy limbs to be shot clean off.
Turok: Evolution’s story revolves around a warrior named Tal’Set, leader of the Saquin Nation and archenemy of Captain Bruckner, a brutal killer of the American Army. The plot picks up right as these two bloodthirsty rivals are about to clash in combat, but just as they commence battle are plucked out of their own world and thrown into the midst of an unknown ancient time and place; the Lost Land. You play the part of Tal’Set and will explore the lush tropical terrain of the Lost Land and fight your way through dozens of dino-filled scenarios as you come to terms with carrying the mystic mantle of Turok. Tal’Set must make his way through water, land, and even air atop the back of a pterodactyl until the final confrontation with his long-hated nemesis.
Progressing through the game’s 15 chapters consists of battling hordes of a reptilian race known as the Sleg and solving simple switch-based puzzles. The FPS action is solid and dynamically reminiscent of Halo, by default the L-stick moves you around while the R-stick changes perspective. The R-trigger will fire the currently selected weapon and the L-trigger will switch between different types of arrows when using the bow. The face buttons are allotted for cycling through weapons, ducking, and jumping. The control-scheme is simple to use, even in instances where platform acrobatics are required.
The combat in Evolution is very cool, there are 16 different weapons scattered through the game’s levels and they range dramatically in both design and function. One of the cooler weapons is the Tek Bow, which looks like a futuristic mechanized Bow that has a built-in telescopic sniping scope. Other notable weapons in Evolution include a Quad Shot Shotgun, the underwater-compatible Flechette Gun, a Flame Thrower, remote-controlled Spider Bombs, Rocket Launcher, and the mysterious Dark Matter Cube. As if the sheer variety of weapons were not enough, some of them even feature alternate functions.
Aside from the tried and true run-and-gun elements of Turok, Evolution also sports a handful of air-based stages where you'll control a pterodactyl and navigate your way through perilous obstacles taking out enemy units with machine guns and heat seeking missiles. While these levels do help to keep the action feeling fresh, the combat mechanics in this mode tend to feel more like the dreadfully unentertaining Savage Skies for PS2 than it does the fast-paced action of games like Panzer Dragoon.
The enemy AI is pretty impressive, the Sleg will run behind protective rocks and objects upon spotting you, cover their heads and run for cover if they are critically injured, or throw their defeated hands in the air hoping that you’ll spare them. At times, the opposition will act curiously, wandering about in a set course without seaming to pay attention to your presence, or remaining still despite the fact that his buddy just got his head blown off from five feet away. The AI isn't quite perfected but opponents are usually entertaining to fight due to the handful of techniques that they intermittently use.
The problem I have with Evolution isn't the gameplay dynamics or enemy behavior so much as it is the fact that the levels, which can sometimes consist of four or more stages of progression, don't allow you to save at any time, the only time the game can be saved is after a level is completed. This forces you to replay particularly difficult stages multiple times, going through ten minutes of jumping through hoops only to get to the part where you don't know what you’re supposed to do or where you are supposed to go.
While completing the one-player mode in Turok: Evolution will prove to be a daunting task that should keep you busy for quite some time, you will inevitably get tired of the single-player campaign. Luckily, Acclaim integrated a very well rounded multi-player component that allows four players to simultaneously participate in a myriad of m-player modes. There are 10 modes in all that range from standard deathmatch and CTF to odd-ball modes like pterodactyl duels.
Turok: Evolution on the Xbox is a visual masterpiece that in some regards makes it one of the most graphically impressive titles currently available. The overgrown-lizard motif was masterfully executed and the high-tech gadgets and weaponry contrasts nicely with the ancient surroundings. The various atmospheres sport detailed plant-life and even defenseless wildlife like deer and monkeys. The effects from some of the more powerful weapons induce wild heat waves and momentarily mutate the on-screen environment into a scene that is a testament to the many graphical abilities of the Xbox.
The sound in Turok: Evolution gets the job done but doesn't manage to be quite as impressive as the visuals. The music is inconspicuous and underplayed as you traverse through safe areas and then revs up to a faster-paced rhythm as combat ensues. The dynamic musical element of the game helps to aurally reflect the on-screen action and keeps the tension high and trigger-finger itchy during the many enemy combat sequences. Voice work is appropriate and believable almost without exception and the sound effects are realistic and exciting. The blasts from the many weapons are all diversified and some really test the limits of your subwoofer’s low-level bass frequencies.
While Turok: Evolution is certainly a respectable FPS in its own right it also manages to integrate a few unique elements in its pterodactyl sequences and target-specific body-damage. Fans of the series will get more of the same hack-n-slash run-and-gun action but the sometimes-stuttered progression may tend to disappoint longtime Turok veterans. What Turok: Evolution brings to the table is inspiring and exciting visuals coupled with cohesive gameplay dynamics and a interesting storyline. Like the game’s subtitle suggests, this is a logical ‘evolution’ in a series of entertaining titles that should satisfy all but the most fanatical Turok fans.