Sunday, May 17, 2015

Retro Review: Turok

A giganotosaurus! Everyone will just think it's a T-Rex, however.

There has been a disturbing dearth of dinosaur video games, for reasons I can not contemplate. Perhaps the spectacular failure of Trespasser has something to do with it. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, released for the N64 in 1997, established a popular series that gets rebooted with 2008's Turok, developed by the now-defunct Propaganda Games. Given the gritty reboot treatment, with graphics courtesy of the Unreal Engine 3, Turok rewrites the colorful history of prior games, replacing the Lost Land, aliens, and inter-dimensional beings with space marines, a terraformed planet, and genetically-altered dinosaurs. Joseph Turok is now a former mercenary hell-bent on revenge against his former mentor, Roland Kane. There is little story in Turok, which isn't necessarily a problem. Give the player a motive, some cool weapons, atmospheric environments, and plenty of dinosaurs to battle, and all will be well. Turok delivers on some of that promise. The dinos are well-animated, and the game lets you pit them against generic space marines by use of flares, which is pretty cool. Various species of raptors, dilophosaurus, and of course T-Rex, feature prominently. Turok unfortunately breaks up the dino action with boring levels spent traversing under-detailed military installations populated by brain-dead space marines. These are the worst sections of Turok: without dinosaurs, there is nothing to separate it from Halo or any other shooter. It doesn't help that the game uses a checkpoint save system, which is poorly-implemented. There are several fights which are frustrating because the time between checkpoints is too long. Turok also screws up most of its boss battles. There is a lengthy battle against a sea serpent which seems to take forever. It also has a bad habit of placing you out in the open at the start of a boss fight to become devoured or riddled with bullets. The game certainly seems like it was rushed; the jungle environments are low-poly rocky valleys that never give you space to breathe. The voice-acting, however, is pretty good, featuring the talents of Timothy Olyphant and Ron Perlman. No one plays games for the voice acting, though. The weapon arsenal is also very basic, with the usual assortment of shotguns, machine guns, pulse rifles, and rocket launchers.

If you can stomach its annoying save system, and some poor boss battles (spoiler: you kill Kane in a quick time event! WTF), Turok isn't too bad. You can probably find it for pocket change. A sequel, which looked pretty cool, was canceled when Propaganda Games closed. Hopefully we'll get a good dinosaur game sometime in the future.

Concept art from the canceled Turok 2. Nothing this cool happens in Turok.

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