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Turok

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Buena Vista / Touchstone

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Xbox 360 Review - 'Turok'

by Rusty Bailey on Feb. 21, 2008 @ 3:31 a.m. PST

Turok is a story-driven first-person shooter set on a dark, mysterious planet in the near future. Players take on the role of Joseph Turok, a former Black Ops commando, now part of an elite Special Forces squad on a mission to take down a war criminal on a genetically-altered planet.

Genre: Shooter
Publisher: Touchstone
Developer: Propaganda Games
Release Date: February 5, 2008

After top-notch first-person shooters such as Bioshock, Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3 graced Xbox 360 consoles last year, the bar has certainly been raised for future candidates. In order to raise any eyebrows, new shooter titles would have to bring something different to the table that is above and beyond the expected fare. This reimaging of Turok is good and definitely tries to do something new, but it doesn't attain above-average status.

Joseph Turok, a former member of the Wolf Pack, an elite solider squad, joins the ranks of a new group of soldiers, Whiskey Company. In the beginning, Turok is trusted by very few because of the rumors that he had screwed over his former team. Whiskey Company's newest mission is to take down Kane, Turok's former mentor and squad leader, who has apparently gone AWOL. However, immediately after the briefing, Whiskey's ship is attacked, and they crash-land on a strange planet filled with dinosaurs.

And here begins the bloodshed.

Once you make your way out of your ship, you acquire your knife, which is possibly the coolest weapon in the game. You can't successful hack away at an enemy with it as you could with a wrench or crowbar; the knife is purely for stealth kills. When you're near an enemy, an R2 button prompt appears on the screen, and you can press it to perform an action sequence where Turok proceeds to slit the enemy's throat or stab him in the head.

While this works perfectly with dinosaurs — you can perform a stealth-kill without fear of getting attacked by other dinosaurs in the process — it doesn't work so well with soldiers. If you use a knife to kill an enemy and a soldier sees you, you can get shot but you won't be able to do anything about it until the action sequence has run its course. It doesn't really make sense that during these action sequences, you can be harmed by bullets but not vicious dinosaurs.

Naturally, with Turok being a first-person shooter, there is plenty of gun action. You start off with an SMG, the first of many satisfying automatic weapons. Most of these weapons can be dual-wielded, and that includes dual shotguns, and there is never a shortage of ammo since it seems you can find it in every imaginable nook and cranny. Simply equip an enemy's gun, and you get new ammo with every death.

Turok also has his trademark bow, which is ideal for silently killing enemies who are too far away for death by knife. You hold the right trigger to pull back on the bow, and the further you pull back, the more powerful the shot will be. Pull back far enough, and you can even pin enemies to the wall.

In addition, every gun has a secondary fire, whether it is a silencer, grenade launcher or the shotgun's useful flare. You can implement the flare to lure dinosaurs over to an area, either to distract them or to make them attack enemy soldiers, which brings into play an interesting aspect of Turok.

You're on a planet inhabited by dinosaurs, and they don't like anybody — including your enemies. If you approach a scene with dinosaurs and soldiers fighting, you can just hang back, let them duke it out and finish off whoever is left. It's really enjoyable to watch raptors tear apart the guys I was going to kill anyways, and just when the dinos thought they were done, I waltzed in there and killed the whole lot of them.

While Turok is mostly a run-and-gun shooter, there are some pretty suspenseful moments. At times, it gets really quiet, and you can only rely on the sounds of nature to help you out. This may lead to a surprise attack by a raptor, which you can fight off by quickly pressing buttons. However, one of the coolest things is hearing the roar and rumble of a T-Rex in the distance while you're running for cover, haunted by the intense fear that it'll come storming around the corner.

Given all of the positive aspects of this heart-pounding shooter, there are plenty of drawbacks that keep it from becoming an above-average experience. For one thing, it tries too hard to be realistic sometimes. For example, when you're aiming through the sniper scope and an explosion occurs, the camera shakes so much that you can't do anything. If you get hit with something and are knocked down, there is a neat animation where your legs pop up in the air as you fall back, but you always turn around 180 degrees. I guess it's a nifty effect, but you will almost always get disoriented, and in the fray of battle, it could easily lead to death.

Regardless of how good you may be at playing video games, death seems to occur more often in Turok than it should. There are some very easy parts that are all in a day's work: mow down the enemies and kill some raptors with your knife. Then there are the areas where an enemy soldier has a rocket launcher and you keep getting turned around by blasts; these instances will inevitably have you racking up the bucks in your swear jar, which you'll need to buy a new controller after you throw this one across the room. The checkpoints are also spread so far apart that once you die, you've lost enough ground that it brings a tear to your eye to think of trekking all that way again to get killed by another rocket launcher blast.

To make things even worse, the AI occasionally has senior moments. In some instances, raptors start running after me, run into a wall … and keep running. One occurrence made me wish that friendly fire was available in story mode. My ally, Slade, and I were traversing the caves and about to fight an onslaught of bugs. I start whaling away with a wall of ammo, and I expect to see him come behind me to assist with his flamethrower, but I look over, and he's just staring at the wall and not even moving. That was a one-off incident, but there were too many times when I wanted to sneak up on a group of enemies with some bow-and-arrow kills, but my ally decided that it was better to run in with guns blazing.

The multiplayer mode has the requisite capture the flag and deathmatch options, and a few dinos are thrown in for good measure, but unfortunately, there is no split-screen multiplayer. However, an online-only co-op feature is included where you can play through some of the story mode levels with a friend. Unfortunately, your excitement will be quickly extinguished when you realize that there are only three levels through which to play.

While Turok has some extremely detailed jungle environments, a lot of it is lost when it takes forever to render the graphics. It reminded me of when I would play Gears of War online, and it would take a few extra seconds to render all of the armor textures, during which everything has a slick, unnatural look. A lot of the dinosaurs have that same look to them all the time, so in a sense, parts of Turok look like Gears of War before it's fully rendered.

There is no denying that Turok is a fun first-person shooter. It feels great to kill a horde of soldiers with some automatic weapons and pick off the remaining dinosaurs with your knife, but there are so many little problems with the gameplay that it can't be anything more than an average title. It succeeds at being an enjoyable, trigger-happy adrenaline fest, but it certainly doesn't push any envelopes or blaze any new trails.

Score: 7.2/10


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