Developer: Propaganda Games
Release Date: February 5, 2008
The Turok: The Dinosaur Hunter franchise is one with a long, and not entirely happy, history. The original Turok was a comic book tie-in game released on the Nintendo 64, and one of the earliest first-person shooters to be found on a console. It was met with favorable reception at the time and promptly spawned a series of sequels. Unfortunately, each succeeding sequel was less and less well received, coming out after games like GoldenEye 007 and, in the case of the last title, Halo had taken the FPS genre far ahead of Turok. After a disappointing reaction to the 2002 Turok: Evolution, new developers Propaganda Games decided that perhaps it was time to bring Turok into the future with an entirely new entry into the franchise. Now, almost six years after the last title, Turok returns to the battlefield with Touchstone's latest offering, simply named Turok.
Although Turok is a long-running series, this new entry isn't exactly connected to the older games. It's more of a reboot that uses similar characters but starts over from scratch. Turok tells the story of a soldier, unsurprisingly named Turok, who was formerly part of the Wolf Pack, an elite soldier squad. Long after he left the Wolf Pack, however, his mentor and squad leader went AWOL, hiding on a dangerous alien planet surrounded by his army of mercenaries. Turok, along with a new group of soldiers, Whiskey Company, is sent in to eliminate him. They barely arrive on the planet when their ship is shot down, and they find themselves separated and trapped in hostile territory. You see, for some unknown reason, this alien planet isn't just swarming with mercenaries, but filled to the brim with supposedly extinct dinosaurs as well. Turok and his fellow soldiers have to somehow make their way through mercenaries and dinosaurs to reach their target.
Turok has access to a wide range of nasty weapons, ranging from machine guns and shotguns to the more basic knife and bow and arrow. With the exception of the knife and bow, Turok can dual wield any weapon he comes across for greater firepower, or he can stick with a single gun, which allows him to access grenades and the gun's secondary firing mode. Thanks to his time in the Wolf Pack, Turok is a master of archaic weapons, and these seemingly useless throwbacks are actually some of the best items in his arsenal. Turok's knife, for example, is absolutely brutal. With the exception of some particularly large foes, Turok can kill almost any enemy in the game with a single attack from his knife. Sneak up on him (or run right up), press the right trigger at the correct moment, and Turok will unleash an automatic, and often brutal, instant kill that leads into a short cut scene depicting the death. Turok's bow, on the other hand, is like a long range version of his knife. Silent and accurate, the bow can even be "charged" to do more damage, easily taking out all but the most resilient foes in a single shot, without even warning any nearby allies.
Turok has almost completely done away with the head's up display found in most FPSes. Instead, with the exception of a small bar at the bottom left of the screen displaying grenades and total ammunition, the player's view is mercifully free of data. There's no ammo counter in a player's weapon, but each gun has a glowing stripe that fades from green to red as the player's clip drains, and gamers will have to decide if they can spare the time to reload. Likewise, Turok doesn't have any heath meter, and the game uses a Gears of War-style health bar. As Turok takes damage, his vision becomes red and blurred, and avoiding damage for a time restores his health. It's an interesting attempt to bring the gamer further into the game world; there's no comforting buffer between Turok and a dinosaur's teeth — just the player's skill and wits.
Of course, a Turok game wouldn't be a Turok game without the series' iconic dinosaurs. For some reason, the planet on which Turok is stranded is inhabited by every species of dinosaur under the sun, from the Velociraptor made famous in Jurassic Park to the tiny and harmless Compsognathus, to the big daddy of 'em all, the T-Rex. Since dinosaurs can't use guns, fighting them tends to require very different tactics than one would use against the soldiers. They're a lot stealthier, have the ability to knock Turok to the ground and tend to require brute force, not careful accuracy, to overcome. While a good number of these beasts are hostile to Turok (as he is made of meat), the planet also houses a fair number of herbivores, who couldn't care less if Turok wandered by — although they don't take so kindly to predators.
Perhaps the most interesting element of Turok is how the dinosaurs play into combat. Naturally, they're your foes, not unlike the soldiers, but they're also a weapon in your arsenal. Turok's dinosaurs don't distinguish between humans. They might rush at Turok and try to tear him to shreds, but there is just as good a chance that they'll go for the louder enemy soldiers instead. The primary focus of this is allowing you to turn a potential threat into a potential ally. As long as Turok isn't stumbling around firing his gun into the air, he's less likely to attract attention, which can lead enemy soldiers directly into a pack of Velociraptor. Turok can then sit back as they fight it out. Certain weapons, like his shotgun, also come equipped with nonlethal flares to draw a dinosaur's attention, allowing Turok to trick a Dilophosaurus into rampaging into an enemy ambush or another dinosaur. While Turok is more than capable of blasting foes to pieces, it's a lot more satisfying to make your enemies do the work for you.
While Turok's gameplay is shaping up interestingly enough, its visual presentation still needs a bit of shine before release. The outdoor environments in this preview build were interesting to explore, full of lush foliage and multiple routes, but the underground cave area in the beginning was lackluster and felt particularly worse when compared to the outdoor locales. Likewise, while many of the animations looked fine, a few, particularly those involved with Turok's stealth kills, looked rather awkward. However, with Turok not due out until February, there is still a good period of time for this to be addressed before the game goes gold, and if these few kinks are worked out, Turok will be a great-looking title.
Multiplayer mode in Turok is fairly customizable. You can change the map, number of total players (up to 16), score limit, time, number of lives, friendly fire and weapons loadout. Game types include deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, war games, assault CTF and co-op.
There are daytime and nighttime multiplayer maps, from a fiery lava-filled landscape with rocky terrain and varied topography to expansive jungles with lush vegetation, to a very gloomy industrial factory featuring vents, pipes and underground passageways. Maps are vast yet still manage to have nooks and crannies that are conducive to close-quarters combat. The locations typically consist of multiple layers, so you can climb up a ladder to reach a gun turret or jump down into sunken passageways.
Weapon stations are located by the spawn point, but the multiplayer action moves quickly so you can't dally while choosing your guns, or you'll be respawning in record time. Weapons encountered during the multiplayer session include a bow and arrow, knife, pulse rifle (secondary fire is a rapid-fire Disruption Grenade launcher), mini-gun (which secondary function that converts it into a ground mounted auto turret), rocket launcher, sniper rifle, and sticky bomb gun. Depending on the map options, you can dual wield weapons for maximum carnage. The knife and bow and arrow are used in the same manner as in the single-player mode, and the same can be said of dinosaur behavior. You'll be shooting and blasting away at your enemies, when a dinosaur will join the action and decide to make sandwich meat out of someone. Dinosaur deaths at knifepoint yield particularly juicy cut scenes. The sticky bomb gun can launch a remote bomb that sticks to its target, which, once attached, can be manually detonated from a distance, turning unsuspecting dinosaurs into explosive objects. Adding to its functionality is the ability to fire spreads of proximity mines that explode with lethal force when an enemy approaches them.
As it stands now, Turok is going on a different path than the other games in the franchise. Rather than focusing on overpowered and insane weapons like the Cerebral Bore of the Chronostaff found in the other titles, Turok instead relies on using the dinosaurs as your weapons. Even Turok's multiplayer is going to utilize this concept, and it's an interesting and unique way to handle FPS combat. Beyond that, Turok seems to concentrate on delivering a satisfying first-person experience for fans of the franchise and newcomers alike, and when Turok hits shelves in February, gamers will get a chance to see if the franchise has been revived, or if it should have stayed extinct.
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