While not a terrible game, Turok suffers from some major flaws that keep it from being a genuinely satisfying shooter.

User Rating: 7.5 | Turok PC
This latest installment of the Turok series is a reboot title. While not a terrible game, Turok suffers from some major flaws that keep it from being a genuinely satisfying shooter. You are Turok, a Native American soldier who was once a member of an elite special operations unit known as "Wolf Pack". Set far into the future, where mankind has apparently colonized other solar systems (and everyone wears a Bluetooth), it takes place almost exclusively on a seemingly jungle planet straight out of the latest King Kong movie: You are treated to a panoramic vista of the place when you first land that is reminiscent of the first Jurassic Park. As the newest member of Whiskey Company, your mission is to capture your former mentor and commanding officer, Kane, who has gone rogue.

Slightly stylized in a similar fashion as the Gears of War and Unreal Tournament fashion, the graphics are pretty darn good despite some minor glitches here and there. However, it isn't as realistic as Crysis or Call of Duty 4 (the two most recent FPS kings). But nowhere near as perfect, mind you. The level design is repetitive, consisting for the most part of green jungle, sci-fi bunker, and more jungle, being more in the style of CoD4 than Crysis in terms of objective openness and railroading. The grass, for example, is of annoyingly poor quality, appearing as dancing paper sheets that look like some six-year-old cut them out with a pair of scissors and pasted them upright in the backyard: When you skulk around to get a stealth kill, you'll notice it right away. The specular lighting, which exists in abundance, causes a plastic look to many of the model textures (though not nearly as bad as in BioShock). The models of the enemies--about half of which will be Kane's goons--are all dressed up in futuristic armor of varying levels like a bunch of Helghasts (their eyes even light up red when you they go into alert and offensive mode).

The HUD, however, is thankfully minimal, though something you might not expect from a sci-fi piece (though I should mention that the only really sci-fi element here is the setting). What do you see in the bottom right corner is your ammo count, including hand grenades (of which you can only carry two). As another auto-healer, there is no health meter: the devs having chosen instead to adopt the recent trend where your status is indicated by a blurry red screen.

The cut scenes, as mentioned earlier, tend to flow in and out of regular game play smoothly in most cases with the camera zooming in or out of the main character's head. As is the custom in FPS"s today, the cut scenes are also in-game and not pre-rendered, eschewing breaks in the storytelling. And the storytelling is mostly good, though the story itself is fairly close to bland. Not letting the cat out of the bag, the plot is wafer thin, being as basic as any action serial can be, involving some secret weapon--but that takes a backseat here, for the story itself is blatantly character oriented. You expect twists and turns, but they never happen. Some of the cut scenes are flashbacks to Turok's past while in Wolf Pack, and focus mainly on the relationship between Kane and Turok as well as Turok and Slade (of Whiskey Company), and they do the job of fleshing out the protagonist well. But while the spotlight is certainly on the main character, character development is virtually absent; the only one displaying it being Slade, who, initially against Turok's inclusion to the unit, eventually warms up to him. The climax, up to and including the eventual showdown, is poorly spun. There is not a drop of dramatic build up, and the final fight is as quick and entertaining as a Tyson knockout in the first round--too much like Rainbow Six Vegas 2's ending.

And the boss fights highlight one of the flaws. Too often, they are staged as giant puzzle games. While puzzle fights are great to break up the action, too many puzzles can be a mind numbing chore. Tension was indeed high (because you are getting chased or attacked at the same time), but was due more to a gross feeling of caginess. Because the battles can only be solved one way, there is no reward for ingenuity. In first T-Rex battle, for instance, you can only defeat the creature by going to one spot only in the cave and using it as cover--going anywhere else is much too difficult to even try since you would be pinned between the T-Rex and some velociraptors, which spawn infinitely.

The game play is fairly standard fare, but it's here where many of the jarring errors rear their ugly faces. To begin with, you cannot run, which is a standard in most FPS's. Even R6V2 has finally jumped onto the bandwagon of added realism and introduced a run key. What is frustrating is that there are number of levels where you wish you really had a run key--like when you're trying to run away from a T-Rex, but instead move at a relatively brisk walk. You're just waiting for Jenny to yell "Run, Turok! Run!". In speaking of missing keys, the most obvious one is the quicksave key. A staple in any FPS is the quicksave; not only does it save you time from having to go into the menu and save the long way, but it also saves you from having to restart at checkpoints. Indeed, some great FPS's don't have a save function, but there is glaring evidence that the devs intended to put a save function in but left it out. If you go into the menu key binds, you'll find that quicksave is indeed a function, but for the life of me, I can't figure out how to get it work! So I am forced to respawn at the last checkpoint, which in turn forces me to waste even more time trying to kill an obnoxiously difficult boss from the very beginning... again.

But Turok does give us the much talked about knife kill. Unfortunately, in the PC version, getting a knife kill is somewhat more difficult than in the console version. Through my own playing, I find it easier to get it to stick when I am standing still: any movement tends to lessen the chance. But when the knife does stick, you get a cool animation where the enemy is instantly dispatched, which is instantly gratifying. The animations, which send the camera into third person mode, may vary depending on the creature (such as a velociraptor) you attack and the angle from which you strike. Your knife may end up digging deep into the raptor's skull or you may elegantly slice his throat. You even get to play mini games to fight off dinosaurs that have pounced over you, the success of which may result in the death of the beast--similar to CoD4 when you are knocked down by the attack dogs. The mini game concept, however, also finds its way into the final fight with Kane, which is more than a little disappointing.

The controls are, on the whole, fairly simple, though again, there are some missing features. You cannot go prone and you cannot lean right or left. You cannot stealth walk (which would have made knife kills much easier, but then the areas where you can actually do them are all staged). The weapons are nothing special are all quite standard: SMG, pulse rifle, pistol, sniper rifle (which doesn't have a toggle or wheel zoom but requires you to hold the right mouse button instead!), shotgun, and rocket launcher. There is even a crossbow, mini-gun, and flamethrower for added fun, though you will probably only use the pulse rifle for the majority of the game for its balance of power and accuracy except where you are forced to use something else (such as your knife--which happens on many levels). Secondary modes of fire are accessed by holding shift the key. Curiously, the devs chose to impose this system of holding the shift key down (pressed along with the right mouse button) over the ubiquitous grenade key, such that you have to think just a little bit more to throw lob one. There is even a special pistol that shoots delayed explosion sticky balls of energy as its primary fire; it shoots balls of energy that explode on impact for its secondary fire (which probably should have been switched, considering how much more effective it would be to spam those buggers). There is also a dodge function, which causes your camera view to get stuck in one direction with the animation until it finishes, being only useful against melee-ers such as dinos.

The sound is nothing fancy, and the soundtrack is forgettable. Even CoD4 and Crysis had hummable tunes. However, the voice acting is superb, really lends itself to the cinematic feel. Many of the characters are memorable in Whiskey Company--but they don't stay around long--and you can't help but just wish they'd fleshed them out some more. (Especially, Reese, the albino sniper, whom I affectionately call "Whitey".) There were time during the cut scenes where I though I was watching a really good animated film, such was the acting combined with the expressive facial animations.

The AI has apparently not been fixed from the console version. It's certainly not broken, but there are times when the AI may gain a fantastic Force sense and anticipate you walking into a room, proceeding instantly to shoot at you with stunning accuracy while moving from about 200 game yards away. And sometimes the AI attempts to shoot you from behind cover--but fires every single shot in an attempt to shoot THROUGH the cover. One particular species of dino can often times be seen on tree trunks from many yards away, allowing you to take some shots from afar. And their specific AI doensn't know where you are if you're not within a certain range of him so that you can keep slinging rounds downrange until he's done. But where it isn't spotty, the AI does manage to dish out some of the best use of small units tactics I've seen from any game. I've witnessed a soldier try to pin me down with fire as his teammate attempted to outflank me by running behind him, forcing me to choose between two targets.

All in all, it is a good game, though alarmingly handicapped in spots. You get this nagging feeling like the writers and the devs originally wanted to do something really big with this project, but were hammered down by budget/time constraints. There was even talk of including vehicles in the game, but that was eventually scrapped in exclusive favor of the more intimate, visceral action of run and gun. In the end, when you have completed the game, you feel as if you just finished a Hong Kong action flick where the plot was never really there and doesn't really get tied up like it's supposed to. In the post-game arena of multiplayer, I am also left unfulfilled: I can't even find a game that exists, leading me to believe you can't participate in PC Internet games as of yet! But all is not completely lost. This current version of the Turok world is still a breath of fresh air from the latest craze of modern military shooters--however short the breath. It is definitely worth borrowing if not buying to add to your shooter collection, if only to think about what a truly marvelous game this might have been...