Anyone who has seen me in the forums or read my blog has seen just how fired up and angry I have been at Turok. At the end of day one, I was fuming and frothing at the mouth, about ready to return the game for a full refund. After finishing the game, I've decided it's a standing love-hate relationship.
Most of the love comes from the single player campaign. It's generally well done with the unfortunate distinction of having some serious gaffes that mar the experience considerably. Focusing on what's good about the game for a moment, before I start railing on it, the game's character is one of its biggest strengths.
You are Joseph Turok, a Native American convict-turned-black-ops commando who left his company when they started committing acts he deemed inexcusable. You are a special guest of a PMC headed to a new planet rumored to be the location of WolfPack, Turok's former company, as you have experience with the PMC's target, and your former mentor, Roland Kane. You also have the PMC company, which is comprised of a number of individuals with their own separate likeness and voice actor. They're a large collection of meathead stereotypes, but because of their character models, the voice actors portraying them, and the well-above average facial expressions and lip-syncing, they're all worth caring about enough to push along.
The dinosaurs in the game have a sort of personality themselves, whether it be the curious-yet-mostly-indifferent compies, to the standard raptor, which is the most common dino you'll find, as you could probably guess, to the deadly large-yet-quick dilophosaur, which will often kill you outright, and you'll get to know which is which by their behavior, their size, and most importantly, their sounds. The dinosaur AI in the game is pretty impressive, considering. Each dinosaur reacts a different way to thing like being rushed, being shot, etc, and many times, you will be legitimately flanked by raptors, which is why that sound is so important.
The sound is another good element of the game. Like mentioned before, the voice actors lend excellent gravitas to the characters in the game, including Ron Perlman as Slade, your most frequent and most indignant companion. Because of the large amount of foliage in the game, you will unable to spot enemies perfectly, and some enemies are small enough, or cunning enough, to use the tall grass to hide themselves from your sight, leaving you to listen for them to make a noise. If you have a mono TV, you'll probably be at a large disadvantage when fighting outdoors.
The weapons are a pretty straightforward bunch, most definitely the biggest change from Turoks of past. You will always have your combat knife, used only for instant kills, and your bow, which can pin enemies to the wall and comes with explosive tipped arrows. In addition, you can carry two weapons, and can dual-wield several of them. Your choices include:
- a pistol, which surprising packs a whallop and has a burst-fire secondary mode
- an SMG which features an optional silencer
- a shotgun, which fires raptor-attracting flares
- a pulse rifle that also fires grenades, which are notable for not actually doing damage, but rather blasting the enemy into the air and hopefully into a position you can kill them from more easily
- a minigun which can be propped up as an automatic sentry turret
- an RPG which either lobs a dumb-fire rocket or an optional targeted missile
- a grenade gun which detonates remotely, featuring a secondary fire that fires another primed grenade without triggering the first one
All but the pulse rifle, RPG, and minigun can be wielded in tandem with another gun. In a slight nod to the perfectionist in heavy FPSers like myself, you can actually pick on the fly which gun is held in which hand, which I thought was a sweet touch. Most guns, though, are much harder to hit enemies with when dual-wielded, and when doing so, you lose the ability to precise-aim and lob a standard high-explosive grenade.
The story itself isn't the most imaginative or well-told, despite the characters, but it still manages to be interesting. The game takes place on a planet off on the outskirts of the solar system, where Turok and his company come out of cryo sleep for briefing, only to be shot down with an ground-to-air (space?) missile, and amidst the wreckage, the remaining members of the company struggle to organize and get off the planet, while finding Kane in the process, if possible. While the story doesn't hold many surprises, the dinosaurs are pretty well explained by an evolutionary jump brought on by accelerated terraforming. It wraps up pretty nicely, though, which is a nice thing and a rarity these days. There's only one loose end, and most people will miss it. The length IS on the short end, though, clocking in about 6-7 hours if you're a junkie like me.
That leaves graphics, which is a great stopping-off point for my concerns with the game. The character models range between servicable and great, the dinosaurs are definitely the stars here, and the jungles are appropriately lush and detailed, but there are several visual issues with the game. Any time you head underground or indoors, the level of detail drops to nearly nothing. The buildings are boring, and the caves are almost literally the same texture everywhere.
The other big problem with the game is a lack of color. That's not to say that the color isn't bright, but rather, there's only one color. When you land, it's blue-green. The next stage, it's bright green. The next stage, is orange. The next stage is dark blue, and then dark green, and then back to orange, and when you're not outside, then everything is grey, or blue, or grey-blue. Really, it amounts to three things on this world: Rocks, vegetation, and metal, and that's about all the color that follows it. You don't see bright red or purple plants, and the dinosaurs are rarely any color but green or brown. It's just a mess.
Amidst these issues are some other issues that cause grief among gamers. The human AI is dumb as a stick. If it's not big, square and metallic, they probably won't take cover behind it. Also, things like a lack of aim assist of any kind for those who would like it, no subtitles, no brightness/contrast/gamma (making the game so dark on my TV I had to turn off the lights when I played), no option to change the ass-backward control scheme (Y is crouch, while Left Click activates the objective reminder, yet Right Click and Back are both unmapped? Who designed this?), and the most annoying checkpoint system to have reared its head in a while really tick you off, bit by bit. For every one checkpoint in Turok, you'd have had three in Halo or Gears of War, and yet there's no save system to speak of, and the enemies usually outnumber you consistently. I chalk it up to lack of polish and consideration. Oh, by the way, lefties? No southpaw, either. Sorry.
The guns, depending on which mode you're playing, are either servicable at best, or nearly worthless at worst. The shotgun is one of the biggest offenders, you can some times take a human down in one shot, and then take 8 shots the next and he's still standing. More often than not, though, the weapons are useful enough in the campaign to consider having any of them in the arsenal, though the bow is rarely a good option for direct combat, and the SMG's spread makes it a terrible choice for a long-range weapon. Where these weapons really falter, though, is the multiplayer, which is where my largest complaint lies.
((EDITORIAL NOTE:This section was edited after I had posted my review initally)) Multiplayer is what I bought Turok for, expecting the game to be of short length. Understandably, if it isn't satisfactory, I'm going to be disappointed, and I am...scratch that: WAS. It's multiplayer, but with a dinosaur/danger element to it. You can take the high-road and put yourself at risk to the other players, or take the low road and fend of dinosaurs. I initally asserted that the game is basically sniper bait above ground, and a major stealth breach among the dinosaurs. Neither was an accurate summation of each level. I found that, after revisiting the multiplayer, I was wrong on both accounts. Sniper rifle placement is a bit suspect on the map I used as an example, but isn't necessarily true of other maps, and I hadn't even played half of the maps, apparently.
When I said the weapons were disappointing in MP, it's not only because of the guns themselves, but because of the maps themselves. There is a lot of open space, leaving the SMG and the shotgun fairly disadvantageous to wield. The bow is a poor option because if your target isn't standing still and near you, you'll probably miss due to travel time and gravity. The pulse rifle can hold its own well enough, though it overheats pretty fast, and the pistol can be effective too if you finagle it a bit, but the really viable weapons are the Grenade Gun, the sniper rifle, and (imagine that...) the knife.
Explosive are easy to justify. They explode. The sniper rifle, though, is an outstanding culprit because of several factors:
- The zoom goes up to 10x, and no map seems to be large enough to make even it not enough
- Many of the maps I've seen are excessively open, meaning any approach to the base is going to be met with a bullet to the dome...well, not as large as I had originally thought, but still pretty large
- The sniper bullet doesn't stray or lag. It's instantaneous
Don't forget the knife, which makes you run about 20% faster than your average player-with-weapon and allows for one-hit kills which are only supposed to work from behind, but about half the time work from the front or side, too. This could be an issue of lag, though. It's hard to tell.
When playing player matches, the other team was able to hear my conversation within a certain proximity, and while that's cool and all, I wasn't sure if they were on my team or not (because there's no speech indicator) and in one case, actually told the other team right where I'd be, which, obviously, got me killed. Ranked matches don't seem to be any different after all. I guess just be quiet as you storm a base, or maybe intentionally try to lead the enemies to the wrong spot. That is still a minor complaint afterwards.
All told, I liked the single player game, though it could have been longer and more color-varied, and even after my ranting at the end of day one about how much I hated the game, the game won my respect back. The multiplayer was better than I initally gave it credit for, and if anything, this review has taught me not to judge the game by a one-day playthrough. This game most DEFINITELY grows on you.