Like the mindless Hollywood blockbusters that it emulates, Turok features plenty of dinosaur-hunting action and not too much else.
- You get to battle dinosaurs
- Great voice cast
- Killing a T-rex with a knife.
- Set-piece battles go on for far too long
- Few checkpoint saves add to frustration
- Human opponents aren't dinosaurs.
Considering that it's published by Touchstone, an interactive arm of Disney, it's not surprising that Turok comes across like it was based on a screenplay. This new Turok game is the first in the franchise in six years, and it feels like a reboot in many ways. Gone are the time-traveling aspects of the previous games, and in its stead is a sci-fi story that involves a ship crashing on an alien world inhabited by dinosaurs. The ensuing action and story unfold very much like a standard Hollywood summer blockbuster, complete with familiar and expected plot twists, cheesy dialogue, and plenty of mindless action.
You play as Joseph Turok, a Native American warrior who is part of a mission to hunt down a rogue military company of which he used to be a member. That fact doesn't exactly endear him to his fellow squadmates, who are voiced by actors such as Ron Perlman, William Fitchner, and Donnie Wahlberg. There's even a hilarious bit of dialogue when one soldier accuses Turok of being responsible for his brother's death; it's a line so cliché that you feel like you've heard it before in countless movies. In keeping with this, Turok liberally borrows from many other sources, and the plot feels like a mishmash of Unreal, Jurassic Park, The Dirty Dozen, and more. Even the visual design of the characters and vehicles feels taken from Gears of War.
Regardless, the heart of the game is battling dinosaurs as well as giant scorpions, flies, and lizards. It turns out that the planet is a strange laboratory where evolution has been put on overdrive, though whoever is responsible for this is a mystery; the game leaves that for possible sequels to answer. If you're a big fan of dinosaurs, there's plenty of dino action to admire from different varieties of lightning-quick raptors, docile vegesauruses, and, of course, the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex.
At your disposal are your standard firearms, such as a pulse rifle, a shotgun, a rocket launcher, and more. You can carry only two weapons at a time, and you can also dual-wield many weapons. Nevertheless, the best weapon is your trusty knife. The game has many cinematic action sequences in which you're tasked with mashing a certain button or jamming a trigger rapidly to execute a kill move, from picking up a smaller dino and breaking its back across your thigh, to jumping atop it and jamming your knife into its cranium, and more. It's so well done that it's a bit unsettling just how exhilarating knife kills are to execute.
Turok is a game that has some great moments, including the first time you encounter the raptors in high grass. You can't see them until they're practically on top of you, but by then it's too late. However, it's also a game that has issues. The human opponents are fairly conventional, and they get in the way of killing more dinosaurs. Another annoying issue is that the game doesn't know how to quit when it's ahead, especially when it comes to the many set-piece battles. Imagine battling a horde of giant scorpions or raptors, only to turn around and see another wave rush you. And as soon as you finish that wave, more often than not, a third wave will appear. The first wave was exhilarating, but by the third wave some frustration sets in. That reinforces the feeling that the designers are just padding the length of the game. It doesn't help that the checkpoint saves are few and far between, which means that if you screw up in the final wave, you usually have to restart at the beginning of the entire sequence.
There's also not a lot to the game in terms of story. Ship crashes on planet. Go find survivors. Go find radio. Then go find another ship to escape the planet. The end. As such, the game doesn't really have a chance to explore different settings, and the jungle environs are broken up only by some run-down interior levels. The visuals, powered by the Unreal Engine, seem middle-of-the-road, given that they're not quite as sharp or as crisp as in other Unreal-powered games. For instance, the textures seem a bit muddled. Granted, there are some great animations, particularly when dinosaurs lie twitching to death on the ground. The PlayStation 3 version looks as if it has better lightning and shading, though the Xbox 360 game suffers a bit less from aliasing. However, the two games are very close to one another.
The single-player portion of Turok will run a solid eight to 10 hours. It feels a bit longer than most contemporary shooters, though you'll probably struggle getting through a number of sequences, which explains the length. Then there's the online gameplay. The multiplayer modes can be fun because there are variations of the standard deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag. What adds spice, though, is the ability to unleash dinosaurs into the middle of a battle. These are effectively rogue elements that will attack anyone, regardless of what team they're on. You might be in the middle of a desperate knife fight with another player (you can execute the third-person camera killing moves if you're fast enough) when a raptor suddenly bursts out of a nearby bush. It's even possible to see someone leap atop a dino and slit its throat. There's also a handful of co-op missions that let you tackle some side adventures not seen in the single-player game. There's support for up to four players in co-op, and the action is a lot more intense than in regular single-player because the number of enemies and dinosaurs have been ramped up considerably. The downside is that it's difficult to find an available game at times online, even in the evenings.
In the end, like many Hollywood blockbusters, Turok doesn't leave much of an impression when you're done with it. It's a game about battling dinosaurs, and though it does a good job at that, there's not much more to it. The nondinosaur sequences are fairly conventional for the genre, and it all makes for a solid but not great game.