Originally slated for release last year, the much delayed and anticipated Turok truly makes a case for 64-bit gaming. Of course there's one big question we're all asking: Does Turok, a game based on an obscure comic book character, actually live up to the lofty N64 standards? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.
Turok is quite interesting in many ways, especially since it's one of the first third party titles released for the system (by Acclaim nonetheless), and the second action oriented title for this platform. Rather than wallowing in the world of Doom clones, Turok truly lives up to its subtitle (Dinosaur Hunter) and mimics a hunting safari. And instead of packing the levels full of monsters, turning the game into a white-knuckle fest of constant action, Turok moves a little more deliberately - though not less brutally. Players have the time to choose their actions more carefully, and actually sneak up on enemies one at a time.
The enemies in Turok look amazing. Killing them looks even better, as some of them have long-drawn-out death animations. Some guys grab their necks as blood spurts out in a dazzling fountain of crimson - grab their necks, that is, before they crumple to the ground and thrash around before giving up the ghost. Some of the dinosaurs flop around on the ground when they've been dealt a fatal blow, and as they thrash, blood flies everywhere.
The rest of the game's graphics are also amazing - but they come at a high cost. Since the enemies are made up of so many polygons, the system can only handle three or four enemies onscreen at a time. To compensate for this limitation, enemies beam to your location in a Star Trek fashion. This gameplay sleight of hand keeps the action going without sacrificing the game's frame rate. Put another way, confront an enemy, run away, and then turn around to see them all onscreen. The result? The game's frame rate drops to an achingly slow three or four frames per second. Thankfully, this doesn't happen very often, and the bulk of the game runs at a fairly brisk pace. Also, a thick mist shrouds Turok's universe. It creates a steamy jungle atmosphere and keeps the player's visibility down to around 25 yards. This provides a neat effect, especially when monsters emerge from the mist fangs first, but it also conceals the N64's limitations by keeping the onscreen polygon count lower than it would otherwise be.
Turok is one of the first console games that could be called totally immersive. Besides the great graphics, the ambient sound effects are awesome. Bird calls and tiger yells are perfectly rendered, and convey the feeling that you are not isolated in a dungeon of death. The music soundtrack mainly consists of jungle drums, and it works well within the parameters of the game, even if it does get a bit repetitive.
Also adding to the list of factors that help move Turok past the realm of being a game (and more towards an experience) is the control. Although extremely awkward at first (the analog controller is used for turning and head motion, while the yellow C buttons are used for actual movement), the controls are totally accurate and very well done. After a bit of practice, picking off a grenade-tossing goon and sending him plummeting off a distant ledge won't be a problem.
In terms of layout and design, the game is broken up into eight levels, each of which can only be accessed after a certain number of keys are found. This means Turok must wander around and collect these keys while men try to riddle him with bullets and dinosaurs try to tear him apart. The levels are amazingly huge - tough, but not empty. In fact, on some of the later levels, if you were to just run in a straight line, it would still take three or four minutes to make it across.
Turok is more than just another Doom clone. And while Doom 64 and Hexen may provide more action, only Turok delivers a complete package of great graphics, outstanding sound, and a fresh premise. If you are one of the N64 owners who think there is nothing past Mario 64, you haven't played Turok.