Some of you may not know this but Turok is actually a pretty old franchise. The Turok character has existed in some form or another since 1954 (mostly through various comics) before he eventually found his way onto the Nintendo 64 as one the machine’s key launch period titles. Acclaim (who’re now defunct due to bankruptcy) and Iguana Entertainment collaborated to show the potential of the first-person genre on the Nintendo 64 which was far more powerful than the PSOne and most PCs at the time and arguably truly
ushered in the 3D videogaming revolution (just look at Super Mario 64 non-believers).
As a massive success on the N64 (and with the uber-success of GoldenEye on that platform also), a sequel was announced to fan elation and it seemed like the Turok franchise would become one of videogaming’s mainstays. Unfortunately, a few more sequels that rarely touched the same plateau of the first and second games, along with publisher Acclaim going into receivership left a number of their key franchises floating in IP limbo, the most important of which is the subject of this review.
And along came Touchstone Pictures who were looking to break into the lucrative videogame industry and thusly bought the Turok namesake, seemingly rescuing one of console gaming’s great first-person shooter series.
While this reimagining of the series has everything it needs to succeed, it unfortunately falls short in several ways, most notably due to its straight-up mundaneness and failure to branch beyond the staple FPS blueprint that really should have been thrown out years ago. The story sees the entire franchise transformed. You’re no longer in a weird lost land hunting dinosaurs solo, now you’re a turn-coat soldier aboard a ship on its way to a planet to put an end to tyranny. As a former member of Wolf Pack, a separatist group of rogue soldiers led by Roland Kane, the members of Whiskey Team don’t take too kindly to you. You betrayed your own side, after all, so why should anyone else trust you, least of all the good guys?
Above the planet’s surface, out of nowhere a missile shoots down your ship and the entire rig crashes into the world below. Only a handful of people survive, and once you’re out and about in the field you’ll come across them, either being slain by members of Wolf Pack or alive just long enough to give you a small helping hand.
One character does fully survive though, his name is Slade (voiced by Hellboy’s Ron Pearlman) and aboard the vessel, he was the soldier who disliked you the most. Now, however, the two of you are forced to work together to survive. This doesn’t stop his incessant dislike of you shining through though, and just as b-grade movie-ish as all of the above has sounded so far, you can expect your relationship to continue down this predictable uneasy path.
Honestly, there’s not much here in the way of plot. It’s part Aliens, part Predator and all cheese. Dinosaurs make their way into the picture because the planet you’ve landed on is inhabited by them. That’s about it. The rest of the game’s narrative feels as though it’s being made up as you go along and for the most part you just won’t care. Your character, Joseph Turok, has flashbacks here and there, but capriciously they only serve as unlocks to new abilities and the like – it’s all just terribly arbitrary, which is a shame because the Turok legacy could end here.
So once all the flash that isn’t
the game’s narrative is out of the way (Touchstone would have you believe it is
flashy, though), the gameplay has a chance to redeem what is already falling apart at the seams. Aboard the ship while it’s plummeting toward the planet below, you’re thrown in the Tutorial Deep-End, so to speak. Jump here, crouch there and run this way – all standard fps game beginning tips. However, what you learn immediately is Propaganda Games have tried to switch everything up a bit, maybe in the hope it would make Turok something of a different shooter experience. Unfortunately shifting buttons and actions around on an Xbox 360 controller these days can be as annoying as changing WSDA on a keyboard and when the product is already suffering from a number of other pitfalls it just doesn’t work in its favour at all.
Despite all of the above, there are some enjoyable aspects to the game. While I didn’t really care for the Slade character, Pearlman does a pretty good job of bringing him to life. Some of the weapons are also pretty cool – especially when you get your hands on the bow. Moreover, while not nearly as pretty as most other games running off the Unreal engine, Turok has its moments of beauty; especially where massive dinos off in the distance are concerned. The stealth kills with your hunting knife can also bring you little more into the game and character, but like everything else, it's all just fleeting. These strengths are annoying because you know that somewhere in here there was once a great idea for a reimagining of the franchise, but ambition and perhaps being somewhat new to the industry has struck all the parties involved and it’s anything
Beyond the single-player campaign, Turok does serve up a four-player co-op mode, which is pretty cool. While the multiplayer can see up to 16 players slogging it out over Xbox Live. It’s all pretty standard though, which is something of a recurring problem with Turok – it’s just an average and derivative shooter. There’s nothing overly original here, and when the game does try to break from the norm, it’s completely unwarranted and only adds to the various (and myriad of) flaws.
Whereas the first two Turok titles on the Nintendo 64 were incredibly progressive (Turok 2 had some of the most imaginative weapons to ever grace the shooter genre, Cerebral Bore anyone?), Turok is as degenerative as they come. Maybe if this had launched on the original Xbox it might have stood more of a chance, but when the industry (and the 360 and PC more specifically) has the likes of Call of Duty 4, BioShock and the Half-Life series, a game like Turok will never stand a chance. Here’s hoping the new team involved in handling the Turok namesake take onboard all of our gripes so that the next instalment can live up to the true Turok legacy. For now though, this is best left alone.