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

About Sanford May

I'm a freelance writer living and working in Dallas, Texas, with my wife and three children. I don't just love gaming; I'm compelled to play or someone would have to peel me off the ceiling every evening. I'm an unabashed shooter fan, though I enjoy good games in any genre. We're passionate about offline co-op modes around here. I'm fool enough to have bought an Atari Jaguar just for Alien vs. Predator, yet wound up suffering Cybermorph for months until the long-delayed "launch title" finally shipped. If it wasn't worth the wait, you'll never convince me.


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PS3 Review - 'Turok'

by Sanford May on Feb. 4, 2008 @ 3:29 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

Turok is sort of a Second Coming for the Turok franchise. It's also been described as a loose, current-generation adaptation of the plot behind the original, popular and highly rated Turok for Nintendo 64. The first N64 title was for mostly plot-free, but it still did quite well on a console that never quite found its ground. A sequel, spin-off, and at least one version of these titles adapted to Game Boy Color, were well received both in the press and by console gamers, though the third N64 installment slipped but didn't quite fall flat. Turok: Evolution for the PS2/Xbox generation of consoles received an amazing array of review scores, from a perfect 100 to the mid-teens. In all honesty, Evolution was a bad game and may have delivered the corporate version of a deathblow to Acclaim, its already troubled publisher.

Propaganda Games had been tasked with developing a product for the Turok license, and in so doing has proven that they're the best at developing with Epic's Unreal Engine 3 on the PlayStation 3, outside of Epic's own developers. The new Turok is easily as good as the first N64 game — certainly far better if you factor in the capabilities of today's consoles compared with the technology of the latter years of the past century.

Turok comes fully outfitted with an in-game plot, although somewhat nebulous and thin. The emphasis here is on action, not narrative. To draw another film analogy, it works out like, and was probably designed like, the most recent "Bourne" series Matt Damon vehicle, not the occasionally action-filled but also richly plotted work in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner." It is, after all, a first-person shooter game, so I can hardly fault it for being mostly that over a work of deftly plotted art.

The new title with the old brand stamped on it is loaded up with a fine selection of weapons, including the traditional bow for silent kills. For even quieter kills, and some outstanding kill animations, you get a monster of a hunting knife. All of this is complemented by the usual selection, or analogs to the usual selection, of lethal firearms.

Although the environments are mostly open, the single-player campaign is principally a linear affair of reaching objectives, triggering a checkpoint save and then moving onto the next objective and checkpoint. Clicking the left analog stick will, for perhaps half a minute, overlay an objective description and compass-like indicator pointing you to your next objective; the scheme works well, keeping you from losing your way even in the middle of, say, a valley where even with the directional pointer you wouldn't expect it to be easy to find the route. The damage and healing model is the now near-standard variety of get hit, get weak, hide and heal and get back in the fight.

Without gilding the lily, Turok is a "repeater," a "checkpoint-hugger," and a "die-trying-and-do-it-all-over-again" extravaganza. This may bother some of you no end, and in such case, you're advised to stay away. However, I've no problem repeating, sometimes repeatedly repeating, the same sequences, realigning my tactics for the big win, as long as I'm having fun doing it. In Turok, I had fun doing it — lots of fun. Turok, even set to its mildest difficulty, is a challenging game, on at least this one point reminiscent of self-flagellating FPS titles of the 1990s.

In graphics, Turok is probably the next best-looking Epic Unreal Engine 3 game for PS3 I've seen, second only to the engine creator's Unreal Tournament 3. It looks fully current-generation, with no perceptible compromises. I did notice two, and only two, instances of "video tearing" — the lower portion of the image doesn't quite line up with the upper part — limited to the opening cut scene, both of them minor and short-lived. (Without banging out a full-fledged primer on graphics technology, "video tearing" in current-generation consoles displaying to HDTVs is caused by more than just the game. How much you notice it is also related to your particular HDTV's onboard image processing unit, and how you've connected and configured your PS3.) Beyond that early, abbreviated hitch, Turok's graphics are excellent. On the other hand, Dolby Digital discrete-channel surround audio, while definitely acceptable, is not the sort of stellar production that perfectly immerses you in the game with sublime spatial sound effects. The production is fine, but Turok is not a show-off surround-sound game.

Control is all-around good. Never was I frustrated with the perception I'd failed because the controls weren't responding as I'd expected. Turok uses the now-familiar shooter shooting mechanism of "shaking" the screen when firing fully automatic weapons, as well as the same sort of effect when you draw and hold Turok's bow for a long time, to simulate weakening muscles. You get a longer, more powerful shot this way, but that shot is compromised by the requirement to work harder at holding your aim. This all makes sense in the context of the game, and it's far from exaggerated or overwrought.

Turok, for a title based on a purely single-player experience, features a deep online multiplayer suite with numerous options for size of game, type of game and many fine-grained options for hosting unique matches defined by particular rules. My overall favorite is War Games, a set of team, objective-based games that tend to go one step beyond, "Grab the … and win." It's more like, "Grab the … do something unique with it … and win." War Games, like the other modes, is available in hosting environments suited for both fewer and larger numbers of players. There is a co-op online mode, but be advised it is not a "co-op story mode"; it's not a play-online-with-a-buddy go at the single-player campaign, à la Gears of War. It's best compared to an online, multiplayer version of the "instant action" mode well known in games like F.E.A.R.: co-op missions cobbled together from or inspired by portions of the single-player campaign missions.

There's no voice chat support in Turok for PlayStation 3. I come from an era of networked multiplayer FPS games in which "voice chat" meant screaming across the office at the guy who just faced you with a rocket — after business hours, making good use of a large number of PCs all properly connected to one local network maintained by pros. With the advent of Xbox Live, I've come, like many other online console gamers, to expect in-game voice support by rote. At the outset, many PS3 online games did not include the feature or removed it late in the development cycle. Almost immediately, I discovered that I welcomed its absence; I'm even tempted to bump up Turok's score for omitting voice support.

But, for you youngsters — by this, I mean 30-year-olds — it's a valid point in evaluating an online multiplayer title. I'll admit playing, for example, Gears of War, I've had some moments of pure hilarity or great teamwork not possible without voice support. However, in general, I don't want to hear about how many shots of "Jager" you've consumed tonight — how can you aim in that state, anyway? — or the 10 women you've bedded in the past week, the only accurate digit in that numeral being the zero. Nor do I wish to listen to your plan for tracking me down and raping my mother because, ouch, I killed you a couple or three times in team deathmatch because you were on the opposing team, and for some reason I got it stuck in my silly head that was the whole point of the game. In this one reviewer's opinion, the absence of voice support in Turok's well-rounded multiplayer features doesn't detract one bit from the online modes.

If you're after a challenging, graphically attractive, pure-action shooter that's a lot of fun in single-player, also blessed of long legs in the online multiplayer department, Turok is your sort of gig. A cinematic experience this is not; expect this sort of "ambitious" or "high art" game, and you'll be disappointed. Likewise, Turok is a multiplayer title that, despite its many modes and features, lacks voice support. Out of this whole review, you can easily extract from those two terminal statements how you'll take to Turok.

Score: 8.8/10

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