Tech News on G4
Turok makes a thundering return
February 16, 2008
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
The new Turok is simplicity at its finest, right down to its name.
If you enjoy A) shooting guns or B) dinosaurs, then you owe it to yourself to give this game a try.
After more than a decade-long absence, the Turok name returns thanks to the work of the folks at Vancouver-based Propaganda Games. Considering this is the developer's debut game and many of the leaders there worked on sports titles at EA Canada, it's an impressive first person shooter to say the least.
Propaganda didn't reinvent the wheel with Turok, but it most certainly did make a first person shooter that should be commended - for its intensity, for its unapologetic difficulty and for its old-school vibe, all at the same time.
Turok harkens back to a day when you didn't have to worry about upgrading powers, about making moral decisions, or about conserving ammo. In this game, it's shoot (or stab) first and think later. That doesn't mean it's a dumb game; in fact, what we're trying to say is that it's a whole lot of fun.
In the game, you play as Joseph Turok, ex-member of special-ops squad Wolf Pack. Turok has now become one of the good guys and joined an elite commando team called Whiskey Company, which has been tasked - interestingly enough - with detaining Wolf Pack's old leader Roland Kane, who is now known as nothing more than a war criminal.
As you arrive at a mostly-unknown planet where Kane is holed up with hundreds of his soldiers at a massive fortress, your ship is shot down, and thus begins your adventure into the unknown.
The absolutely fantastic pacing of the game starts off with a thrilling escape from your ship, which you follow up by finding your initial set of weapons (complete with bow and arrow, and trusty knife) and then getting your first glimpse of the other force you'll have to go up against on the planet - dinosaurs. This may have been a reimagining of the series, but Propaganda wasn't about to ignore what made the first game that appeared on N64 so darn fun. Turok is still very much a dinosaur hunter, and sneaking up to a raptor and stabbing it in the neck never, ever gets old.
The knife combat surprisingly plays a big part in the game. If ever you can take out a few enemies quietly with the knife, it's best to do just that. Keep in mind that though the stealth aspect can be a lot of fun, we shouldn't kid ourselves - 95% of the enemy encounters you'll end up in will result in many, many bullets being shot.
A few things would have really helped the gameplay though, without making the game disappointingly easy. As fantastic as the knife is as a melee weapon, there is no melee action when you're holding a gun, which is sorely missed in some of the up-close battles. It also would have been great to have a leaning function when hunkered behind some cover. Considering how accurate enemies are with their shots, it's almost unfair to force players to have to run completely out of cover to see where they have to shoot.
Lastly, it can become extremely dizzying when either being knocked down by something (dinosaur, rocket, etc) or after knife-killing an enemy. When you knife something, you go into a third-person perspective, and when the first-person perspective comes back, you're usually not facing in the direction you started off your attack in. Being knocked down by something does add to the immersion of the game, but again becomes frustrating when you're just about to recover from a hit, and it happens again and again, without giving you so much as a chance to fire off a bullet.
Speaking of bullets, your arsenal is pretty standard stuff - automatic rifle, grenade launcher, rocket launcher, shotgun, handgun, etc, etc - but each and every weapon is still satisfying in its ferocity. Nothing feels underpowered - not even the bow. It's extremely satisfying every time you pull back on it and hear the wire tense up and see your arms shake as you put full pressure on, waiting to pin an unfortunate soldier to a wall.
The levels themselves are for the most part extremely well-done. Though the game is very linear (not a complaint), a lot of the outdoor levels feel more open than they are. The indoor levels, on the complete opposite end of the scale, are truly claustrophobic and really give the feeling of being trapped. The only big complaint here is that some underground levels like the caves can be too dark, and with no gun flashlight (a la Doom), it can sometimes be very disorienting.
The AI is also a little up and down. Enemies are very, very good shots, but show problems when you're close to them. They won't attack nearly as much up close, and tend to run directly toward you sometimes without so much as putting their finger on the trigger. Your AI friends, meanwhile, are useful in the middle of firefights, but tend to stand around uselessly when you get too far away, then miraculously appear out of nowhere once you've hit your next checkpoint.
We can't forget about the other stars of the show though - the dinosaurs, which are great fun, though the true star everytime it appears is the Tyranosaurus Rex. Its entrance is grand to say the least (and it even helps you out a little bit) and my heart started pounding every time it appeared after that in the game. The developers didn't overuse the T-Rex at all - it appears only a few times, very strategically, and every time was memorable.
The game sounds great as well, with plenty of jungle chatter always around you, with birds flapping overhead and grass crunching underfoot, while underground, noises reverberate against walls, water drips onto puddles, and gas escapes from cracks in the ground. A voice acting crew featuring the likes of Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Timothy Olyphant (Hitman) and Donnie Wahlberg (Saw III) manage to save a plot that is as cliche as they come. And remember that scene from Jurassic Park where you see the water in the cup ripple as something really big walks closer and closer? Remember what appeared in the movie shortly after, and be ready to run when you hear the same thing in the game.
The graphics are a little underwhelming, meanwhile. The main characters sometimes look like their faces are painted on, and objects constantly appear in and out of focus during cutscenes. It's by no means a bad looking game, but compared to the Gears of Wars and Call of Duty 4s on Xbox 360, Turok doesn't hold a candle.
The multiplayer component will also give the game legs for months. Once again, we've seen everything here before, with the usual checklist of game modes and firearms, but throwing dinosaurs into the fray makes things that much more exciting. It sure hurts the ego when you're getting mauled by a raptor and shot in the face with a pulse rifle at the same time, but it's wickedly satisfying to watch another player take out a dinosaur with his knife, then pulling out your knife and stabbing him in the back (literally) a second later.
It's unfortunate that the full single player campaign wasn't available to play co-operatively, but Propaganda did throw in three bonus online-enabled co-op levels that are, like the rest of the game, truly challenging. In fact, this is the one and only section where I would say things became unfair. Two to four gamers can join up in these levels, but if you play with only two, things become downright impossible for a couple of reasons. One - infinitely respawning enemies. It's hard enough taking down enemies that are holding sniper rifles, gattling guns and rocket launchers all at the same time. But when one guy has to hack into four separate computers in the middle of all this, leaving one guy to fend off a neverending onslaught of bad guys who have nearly pinpoint accuracy, it's just not do-able. If two guys could plausibly clear out an area, then hack the computers, it would be a whole other story.
The other truly frustrating aspect of co-op is that in one level I played through with two other friends, one player used up the team's last shared respawn and was stuck watching from the sidelines. Two of us reached a helicopter to lift us to safety and some glorious, well-earned achievement points ... but no. The remorseless objective screen told us that all players had to reach the rendezvous point together. In other words, we fought through the entire final section for nothing, as the moment the third player lost his last life, we were doomed. Annoying to say the least.
If not for these problems, the co-op levels are otherwise actually a lot of fun.
So besides a few naggling issues, Turok is a great first person shooter that doesn't hold back at all. There is almost no hand-holding, and for that, it may not be for some new-school gamers who are used to games like Bioshock where enemy damage remains even after you die, or Prey, where you can earn a trip back from the afterlife by playing through a minigame.
For anyone else who wants a challenge, who wants fun, and most of all, wants to shoot a lot of guns at a lot of things, Turok comes highly recommended.
Rating: 8 / 10
About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.