reviewer: Nick de Bruyne
The Turok franchise began when Iguana Studios created a game for the Nintendo64 based on the Acclaim comic of the same name back in 1997. The game was well received obtaining an 85 out of 100 on Metacritic. A sequel was announced before the first game was even available for purchase.
With next generation consoles snagging up a lot of the gaming and a lot of first person shooter fans running amok, a “remake” sounds like a really great idea. So without further ado, let’s check out the new Turok game released for the Xbox360 and see if it’s any good.
Are you Lost?
In a rather strange move, Propaganda Games decided to mostly change the story of Turok . By mostly, I mean that they have kept the fact that his name is Turok and that dinosaurs are involved, but pretty much nothing else.
To give you a very light idea of the story, Turok a Native American, is in space as the “new guy” with a bunch of Mercs who don’t trust him when their ship gets damaged and ends up sprawled all over an unknown jungle planet . The ship has split into two, so Turok and the survivors from his end of the ship make a plan to find the other half, quickly realising that there is more to this planet than they realised (Oceanic Airlines?).
Out of Control
With first person shooters being a dime a dozen these days, every company who sets out to make one needs to pay a lot of attention to their controls and to figure out how to offer something unique whilst still sticking to a winning formula. In this regard, Turok fails very badly. To start with, this game has one of the worst aiming mechanisms that I have ever used. It’s tough to explain, because you would think that linking a crosshair to an analogue stick would be pretty simple. Apparently not. This games controls are frustrating to the point that I could almost call them entirely broken.
Even when the look sensitivity was turned down to its lowest setting, it is still nearly impossible to shoot at anything with any sort of precision. Had there been some decent form of auto-aim in this game it wouldn’t have been an issue. I usually have no problems sniping something two pixels wide when playing most shooters, but Turok’s controls lack precision to the point where it can become impossible to aim at someone who is standing dead still a few metres in front of you as you battle with the inability to make small adjustments to your crosshair. To make matters worse, the game gives you the ability to zoom in with most weapons but in Turok it’s not a good thing. Usually this means that you will look down the barrel, giving you greater accuracy at the expense of movement. In Turok however, the game does nothing more than actually zoom in, making the controls feel even more sensitive than they already are with no difference to accuracy at all.
This is a huge dissapointment as it is something so incredibly simple and to get it wrong is to destroy the core element of your first person game. The rest of the controls are fine and I had very little issues getting used to them but the aiming is infuriating and I can probably imagine that if any sort of casual gamer picked this game up, they would suffer with the controls to the extent that they would stop playing because I had an immense struggle with it and I have been playing console games for 20 years now and I could barely handle it when playing the game on it’s easiest setting.
The addition of a decent auto-aim or a smoother aiming system would have easily made me think higher of this game, but the controls alone made me want to take it out of my console and never put it back in again.
As far as the rest of the game is concerned, some very bad choices were made. You will often come across a boss or scenario that requires you as a player to utilise a mechanic in the game that has never been mentioned before, leaving you angry and frustrated as you die over and over again only to eventually stumble onto the completely illogical answer. Kind of like realising that to switch on your television, you need to go outside and kick the tree three times. Usually when you figure out how to kill a boss you are left with a sense of accomplishment, but in Turok you feel cheated. The AI is also exceptionally thick with human enemies having the tactics of a brick and the dinosaurs feeling compelled to run circles around you as you try to keep up with the crosshair. I did however have a good laugh when one of my gunshots scared one of the friendlier dinosaurs and it ran around in the same circular path for about five minutes and I imagine it would continue to do so until I shot it or left.
The save points are also a big issue, there are points in the game where they are placed too far apart, forcing you to replay entire battles to get through to a boss that is able to kill you in mere seconds, this became a huge issue, sometimes creating a situation where you spend almost an hour to complete was it essentially around 5 – 7 minutes of gameplay.
Turok uses the Unreal Engine 3 and as far as the graphics in Turok are concerned, they aren’t half bad and the framerate seemed pretty solid throughout the game although its not the UE3 engine at it’s finest.
A lot of the problems with the graphics are actually more a case of bad art design. A lot of the characters are quite ugly. When I first saw Turok, I wasn’t really looking forward to acting on his behalf, mostly cause he looked like a bit of an idiot, with incredibly large cheeks. The level design can be bland at times but that’s not the biggest problem. Half of the time you are put in levels so linear that if you closed your eyes and held down the analogue stick, you would make it to the end. The rest of the time you are put into levels that are very open, but so confusing that after exploring for ten minutes, you find yourself back at the beginning again.
When it comes down to weapons, the developers did a pretty decent job, with each weapon having an alternate fire but the major problem I have is that a lot of them feel like they were stolen right out of the cookie jar. The knife on the other hand can be a lot of fun. When faced with dinosaurs, the best way to take them out is with your trusty knife by selecting it and then pulling the right trigger as soon as the dinosaur or soldier gets close enough. This actives a nice animation of Turok doing some very gory blood-filled manoeuvres that end with the dinosaur/soldier becoming incredibly dead (Kind of like the chainsaw in Gears of War). While some of the animations can become repetitive, I found that they were a nice touch to the game and always had a pretty satisfying feeling to them.
The sound in Turok doesn’t really do anything special, it is not broken, which is a good thing I guess. The voice work is pretty terrible, with characters constantly repeating phrases in a monotonous tone. The strange thing is that this game is actually packed with an all star (kinda) cast with actors such as Ron Perlman (Hellboy), William Fichtner (Prison Break, Equilibrium) and Donnie Wahlberg (Band of Brothers, aka Mark Wahlberg’s brother). Again, the problem is down to some bad decisions, had the script been better and the use of voice been used in a more fitting manner, it could have been good. Another disappointment.
Have we met before?
The issue I have with the game is that a lot of it feels like it was borrowed, which in turn makes it feel like a lot of other games that you have already played. I saw levels from Half Life 2 and Quake, weapons from Aliens vs Predator and every other FPS, characters from Gears of War, Quicktime events from God of War. Honestly, i could go on for quite a while. You get the feeling that the game had five different lead designers over the course of its development because it simply can’t decide what it wants to be and instead tries to be everything else, making it feel very unfocused and very “average”. There is nothing truly unique to it and I honestly had points in the game where it felt like I was playing something from 10 years ago with a revamped graphics engine.
What really got to me was the fact that for some reason, it still felt like the game had something to offer, but everywhere you turned you were faced with another bad design decision that confused or frustrated you. I wanted to like this game, I really did, but everytime that I started warming up to it, it did something to change my mind again. Had this game been more polished and more thought out, it could have been a lot of fun. This is a great example of how a decent idea can be turned into an absolute pile of rubbish because of bad choices. I honestly can’t see how the developers played this game and thought that it was fun, they were so jaded with the ideas of knifing a dinosaur that they forgot to make sure that everything else in the game was actually playable.
The game does have multiplayer, which I was not able to test as there are no local games happening and the international one I joined failed to start up. However, as far as I have heard, it isn’t bad, isn’t great either but it definitely isn’t enough to save this game from the dismal attempt at a first person shooter that it is.
As far as I have heard, the publishers held the game back for a few months to avoid releasing it too near to the likes of Call of Duty 4, Halo 3 and Bioshock. Had they spent those months refining the game and fixing it’s problems, they could have ended up with an enjoyable first person shooter for 360 owners to play in the dry season. This wasn’t the case though, so what we are left with is a frustrating, average, shallow shooter which can be finished in around 8 hours ( Five hours if you know how to pass certain areas and aren’t left wandering or dying for 45 minutes at a time) that is not nearly worth the R600.00 price tag.
If you see this game on the shelf and are thinking about picking it up, I wouldn’t recommend it. If you are really desperate for a shooter and have already played most other shooters out there, then take a look at Turok, if not, move on. I oddly enough still have a bit of a good feeling about this game even though playing it was a painful and aggravating experience. I guess what this ultimately means is that I definitely do not recommend this game to anyone unless they are really desperate for a new FPS, but there is hope. If a decent development house got a hold of this franchise there is no doubt in my mind that a stunning sequel could make its way onto the shelves. Until then, I feel it’s best to leave Turok on the shelf where it belongs.
Gameplay: 4/10 : Spray and pray at its absolute worst
Presentation: 7/10 : Decent
Sound: 7/10 : Like listening to Kimi Raikonnen talk
Value: 5/10 : Depends if you use the disc as a coaster or not
Overall: 6/10 (Not an average) : A good idea destroyed by bad decisions in the design process. A real shame.
Last Updated: May 26, 2008