Based off the comic series of the same name, the Turok games on the N64 were must-play titles for anyone who owned that system. Along with the first two Burnout entries, they were also among the most noteworthy games to be published by Acclaim Entertainment. Acclaim's bankruptcy and and the muted response to Turok: Evolution seemingly brought an end to the series, depriving fans of further virtual opportunities to explore the dangerous Lost Lands. Then, in 2005, Disney's Buena Vista Games announced that it was going to revive the franchise with the help of Propaganda Games. Eventually released in February 2008 by Touchstone Games (the mature branch of Disney Interactive), the Turok reboot was initially available for Xbox 360 and PS3 and was later ported to the PC by Aspyr Media.
A complete reimagining of the series, Turok replaces the Lost Lands of prior games with a sci-fi setting, casting Native American Joseph Turok as a space marine. Turok and a team of soldiers known as the Whiskey Company are assigned to capture Turok's former commander (the psychopathic General Kane), who is conducting illegal experiments on a distant planet. Things go horribly wrong, of course, and soon Turok is dealing with Kane's men, suspicious teammates and (most importantly) a ton of belligerent dinosaurs. The plot and characters aren't terribly deep (some of the conflict within Turok's team feels particularly forced), with individuals being more notable for the actors that are voicing them than anything they're saying. Those actors (including Ron Perlman, Timothy Olyphant, William Fichtner and Christopher Judge of Stargate SG-1 fame) deserve the credit for any narrative weight Turok has, as the story itself is entirely forgettable.
If you go into Turok expecting a polished, big-budget experience, you may be disappointed. Enemy AI is pretty stupid (which is fine for the dinosaurs, but not for the humans) and weapons feel rather stiff. True to its era, there's Call of Duty-like regenerating health and a number of quick-time events. You have the option to dual-wield smaller weapons, but (unlike with Halo 2) this feature doesn't feel like a natural part of the gameplay, and there are very few situations where it ends up being useful (especially compared to the more powerful miniguns and pulse rifles that appear later on). The main fire mode of the shotgun is pathetically weak to the point of being almost worthless (seriously, I haven't seen a shotgun this woeful since Die Hard Trilogy 2: Viva Las Vegas), though its flare-launching alternate fire (which draws out enemies) can be handy. Unusually, one of the best and most effective weapons is Turok's knife, which can trigger a number of insanely cool attacks that will spray blood everywhere, grant you immortality during the animation (and giving you a moment to regenerate health) while dispatching most enemies in one attack. It may seem counter-intuitive to be running up to dinosaurs to slit their throats when you already have automatic weapons, but this game's knife kills are so satisfying (even after you've been pulling them off for over seven hours) that I found myself attempting them whenever I could. The game's level design, while usually quite linear, also opens up at certain points, giving you the option to play stealthily (with Turok's knife and bow) or go in with guns blazing. The boss battles have a certain old-fashioned charm to them, with a particularly notable fight against a sea serpent adhering to the three-stage formula that we all know and love. The final level is pretty satisfying, wrapping up the story's few meaningful threads and providing a neat battle against a vengeful Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Completing Turok took me about seven and a half hours, but I bet you could have chopped about an hour and a half off of that if the checkpoints had been better placed. Some action scenes in the game go on for a tediously long time before the game grants you an auto-save, leading to much frustration when you get killed near the end of a battle. This problem existed in the console versions too, and Aspyr tried to rectify it on the PC by adding a quick-save feature. Unfortunately, this alleged improvement is rather broken, causing huge scripting problems and other glitches almost every time it is used. Reloading a save from when I was standing on an elevator in motion resulted in the game placing the elevator at the bottom of the shaft and spawning Turok halfway up the shaft (causing him to take fall damage) before preventing the elevator from moving, forcing me to restart the level from scratch. Later on (during a particularly frustrating set-piece battle near the finale), reloading caused several enemy turrets to glitch completely out of existence, making the rest of the level a cakewalk (although, given how tough that section was, that was one bug I could appreciate).
Technically, Turok doesn't make a strong impression, falling far short of the standard set by the best Unreal Engine 3 games. Most of the game is set in jungle environments, and compared to the lush tropical settings of Crysis, Uncharted or even the first few Far Crys, Turok's are rather ugly. The blurry rock textures grow very repetitive, and the grass and foliage is largely made up of obvious sprites that rotate to face the player. Rain and other weather effects are unconvincing, and the game also has issues with extremely blocky shadows. All that said, the dinosaurs (who are really the focus of this game) look great. Their animation is very smooth and threatening, and the blood and water effects on their skin are easily the most appealing in the game.
Turok is a strange title. Gameplay-wise, it makes a lot of mistakes, but you'll forget about all of them when you're stabbing a dinosaur with a knife. Likewise, the visuals are generally poor (especially given the eighteen gigabyte installation), but the slick dinosaurs do a lot to make up for that. In other words, the level of entertainment I got from Turok was usually directly proportional to the number of dinosaurs on screen. Fortunately, though some sections are lacking in that department (such as a boring trip through a cave infested with giant scorpions), most of this game has prehistoric reptiles to spare. As long you're prepared for something less than a triple-A experience, then you might have some dino-killing fun with Turok.
+ Slashing at dinosaurs with a knife is great fun
+ Old-school boss fights
+ Solid voice cast
- Iffy PC port
- Bad checkpoints, broken quicksaves
- Lame scriptwriting
- Underwhelming visuals
Reviewed on 11/1/2011
Edited on 6/30/2020