Turok. The name that turned Acclaim's failing fortunes around with one broad sweep of its mighty arsenal. Upon its release, Turok faced little in the way of competition in the first-person shooter category. Shoddy ports of Hexen and Duke Nukem 3D did little to stifle the success of Acclaim's newest franchise. Not only did Turok: The Dinosaur Hunter pounce on the barren N64 landscape like a bat out of hell, it established development studio Iguana as a force to be reckoned with. However, as other developers got up to speed with the N64 development kits, the competition slowly but surely trickled in, most notably a humble little concoction by Nintendo favorite Rare. That game was GoldenEye. Incredibly fun and brilliantly designed, GoldenEye was, and still is, one of the N64's best titles. It had been acknowledged by many as the best first-person shooter on a home console to date. Knowing it had its work cut out for it, Iguana nevertheless decided to start from the ground up and fashion what would become its finest work to date: Turok 2: Seeds of Evil.
Nestled within the confines of its 32-meg cartridge (the largest N64 cart ever, along with Zelda) is one of the hugest games you'll ever have the pleasure of playing. Spread out over five virtual miles of gaming real estate, each of Turok 2's levels is absolutely gargantuan. Within each level are a certain number of areas that are accessed through warp portals scattered around the environments. The first level, for example, consists of nine areas, each larger than some entire levels in Banjo-Kazooie. The game is so large in fact, it's been stated to take approximately 45 hours to complete if you know where you're going. Not bad for a shooter.
So what do you get for all 32 megs? The first thing you'll notice right off the bat is the graphics. Along with the newest Zelda, Turok 2 possesses the finest graphics yet seen on a home console. Gone are the numbingly repetitious texture patterns found in the first game that resulted in those incredibly monotonous environments. Each of the six levels in Turok 2 contains its own exclusive texture data, meaning that no two levels will look alike. On top of that, the attention to detail in each level is so astounding, you'll have a hard time believing you're playing on an N64. Gorgeous lighting effects abound, along with other visual tricks and eye candy. Once you're done gawking at the environments, you'll soon take notice of the creature models. Although humanoid, there are no human enemies in the game. Instead, you have a large portfolio of reptilian monstrosities to share your ammo with. Each of these monsters is rendered so realistically (if any of this can be called "realistic") you'll probably catch yourself getting beaten while you watch these "beauties" in motion. Of extreme significance is Turok 2's compatibility with Nintendo's 4-Meg RAM Pak. If you manage to obtain one of these little wonders, stick it in where the N64's Jumper Pak lies and watch the game lap to the next visual level. If you thought Turok 2 was good looking, wait until you see it running in high resolution. Simply amazing. You also have the option of switching to a hi-res letter-boxed mode if you prefer. Either way, you'll swear you were running this game on a high-end Pentium PC with a Voodoo2 board. The only downside is some slowdown when numerous explosions are going on at once. Control is largely the same as the first game, although there is a GoldenEye-style setting (called "Arcade") for those who prefer it. Changes that have improved Turok 2 for the better are numerous, starting with jumping. Wisely deciding to minimize the gratuitous platforming elements, Iguana has essentially fixed what was one of the most severe downfalls of the original game. In Turok 2, most jumping is done for practical purposes and is much more forgiving this time around. Anytime where jumping is required, it's responsive and simple to perform. Any untimely deaths from here on out will be the gamer's fault, not the game's. Level design is also greatly improved. Multisectioned and multitiered, the level design in Turok 2 is nothing short of inspiring. Unlike the claustrophobic hallways of GoldenEye, Turok 2 is made up of wide-open spaces and cleverly constructed alien habitats. With the increased texture detail and brand-new graphics engine, which allows you to see four times as far as in the first game, you'll soon find yourself immersed in Turok's incredibly authentic environs.
Throughout the game you'll be required to complete a number of objectives in each level, ranging from rescuing children, to freeing prisoners, to detonating explosive satchels in enemy ammo dumps. At the start of each level you'll be briefed on your objectives by your guiding spirit, Adon. This lady will also save your game for you, as well as refill your health and ammo once during each level. While attempting to complete your objectives, there will of course be numerous baddies who will try to impede your progress. The remarkable thing about these nasties is the complexity of their AI. Enemies like the Endtrails will use stationary objects for cover from your gunfire, all the while lobbing grenades at you with reasonable accuracy, making it extremely difficult to draw a bead on them. Additionally, when you're using a particularly lethal weapon, even before you fire one shot, they'll recognize its power and start running the other way. For enemies who aren't nearly as chicken-hearted, like the Sentinels, it's unnerving the speed at which they'll attack you. No shooting gallery of slow-moving sprites in this game; instead, you'll watch as half your ammo decorates the landscape as your enemies bob and weave their way around you. Needless to say, the further you advance in the game the more difficult these enemies become. Fortunately, as in the first game, Turok has an impressive array of weaponry to unleash on these hellish minions. The bow and shotgun are back, although the bow can be upgraded to tek bow status, complete with explosive sniper capabilities. Other weapons like the firestorm cannon, scorpion missile, and the flamethrower (complete with fully polygonal flames) are substantially more impressive. Perhaps the most awe-inspiring of the new tools is the cerebral bore. With this devious armament, you aim the targeting cursor onto the enemy, and the CB locks on to its brain waves and fires a drill that latches onto the victim's head and bores deep into its skull, causing waves and waves of gray matter to gush out of its head. This is possibly the grossest weapon ever conceived. Even the simplest of weapons, like the talon, can be upgraded into a wickedly lethal war blade. Making this all the more satisfying is something Iguana calls "real-time flinch generation," which is fancy talk for saying that if you shoot a creature in the arm, its arm will recoil with the shot. If you're using a powerful enough weapon, you can blow that arm right off of its body. In fact, the number of disgusting ways to dismember your enemies are many. You can blow off their arms, ditto for the heads, you can cut off their heads, or you can punch a hole through a baddie big enough to see through. You can even "remove" three-quarters of a bigger creature's torso if you're using the right stuff, causing it to spurt blood with ribs exposed the entire time. This game is utterly gross. However, despite the incredible selection of weapons and their gory results, your success will be proportionate to your skill. In some ways similar to Metal Gear Solid, you won't get far if you blindly storm into untraveled areas with guns a-blazin'. Your enemies have a line of sight that can work to your advantage if you've gotten the hang of the sniper mode using your tek bow or plasma rifle. Stay tucked just out of their line of sight, and plant one right between their eyes. For all this firepower, a single shot squeezed out of your basic pistol can do all the work for you if your aim is true. Of course, as the creatures become increasingly antagonistic and more heavily armored, stealth takes a backseat, and the grenade launcher will suddenly make a lot more sense. The short of it is that each enemy requires a different strategy to defeat it, making it worthwhile to study their patterns. Finally, what good is a first-person shooter without a number of deathmatch options? While the number of options in Turok's multiplayer modes isn't as extensive as GoldenEye's, it tries to make up for it in other ways. Supporting up to four players via a split screen, Turok 2 has three different modes of play: bloodlust, frag tag, and team blood. Bloodlust is your basic every-man-for-himself type of free-for-all. Team blood places players as either the blue or red team and pits them against each other in a cooperative deathmatch. However, the most entertaining of the three, and the mode most likely to be played at parties, is frag tag. Supporting anywhere from two to four players, one player is assigned to be "it," which is represented by the chosen party being turned into a monkey. Once the session begins, all the other players attempt to perforate the monkey before he gets to a checkpoint where someone else, at that point, is turned into the monkey. Surprisingly enough, a good amount of strategy can be used in this mode, where a savvy player will utilize the shadows to his advantage and make for the checkpoint at the nearest opportunity. This mode is incredibly hysterical considering the panic it causes when your weapons stop functioning and you realize you're "it." Thankfully the multiplayer modes all run anywhere from 20-30 frames per second depending on how many people are playing. If you happen to have the RAM Pak, it looks even better, with little sacrifice in background detail and character animation. Additionally, the playing screen remains unobstructed by your weapons (as they were in Duke Nukem 64), making gameplay fast and frustration-free.
Sound in Turok 2 is surprisingly important, and if played on a good sound system, a much better experience for it. The music is well suited to the game and never intrusive. In fact, its ambient nature helps add the necessary tension in a "less is more" kind of way. Sound effects are plenty and well done to boot. Walk through water and you'll hear the appropriate splish-splash. While walking over an uneven surface you'll hear Turok's footsteps and even his grunts as he climbs a ladder. The same goes for the weaponry, approaching monsters, underwater sounds, and even seagulls. The sound is not only superb, but essential as well. You'll need the volume turned up in order to hear when an enemy is lurking around the corner. To tally everything up will cause many people to compare Turok 2 directly to GoldenEye, which really isn't fair. It would be like comparing Virtua Fighter 3 to Tekken 3, both of which are fighting games, and both of which take a completely different tack to achieve their results. Turok 2 is nearly as much an accomplishment as GoldenEye but for different reasons. Less cerebral but requiring almost as much stealth, Turok 2 fills in the gaps with the sheer adrenaline-pumping power of its combat. Played on a good sound system, Turok 2 achieves almost complete suspension of disbelief when you hear an enemy's footsteps approaching. With huge levels to explore, Turok 2 offers substantial playing time and excellent replay value, especially when you unlock the secret codes level by level. You will also need to reexplore previous levels after having found certain power-ups that will allow you access to places previously inaccessible. Combined with mission objectives and excellent level design that together make for a logical and thoughtful progression, this game is almost perfectly paced. Those of you looking for the complete package need look no further than the superbly orchestrated cutscenes that preface each level. There is also a surprising amount of voice acting that actually adds to the experience and remains unobtrusive. Turok 2 also possesses a streamlined, but effective, multiplayer mode. The main real criticism that can be leveled at the game is the lack of CPU-controlled 'bots in deathmatch.
It would be easy to ramble on about the things that make Turok 2 so damn good, so it might be better to leave you with this. Over a year has passed since the arrival of Bond, and now we are witness to the second coming of Turok, and he is back with a furious and terrible anger indeed. Just as GoldenEye raised the bar for first-person shooters, so too has Turok 2. Surely no one expected the genre to sit still. Learning its lessons well, Iguana and Acclaim have amply displayed that they know what it takes to compete in this genre. Turok 2: Seeds of Evil certainly and inarguably brings us the flash. More importantly, however, it brings us the thunder. It's a landmark shooter and a must-buy.