Turok

Review

posted 4/1/2008 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms: 360
To warrant at least some small part of its trademark, the game gives Turok his traditional weapon, the bow. The weapon is slow—it takes time to steady the aim and pull back an arrow, but the range is good and a fully tensed shot is lethal to any ordinary enemy. The bow is essentially a second sniper rifle that Turok has with him at all times. My only gripe is that Turok will only hold an arrow back for so long, and then he lets it fly. Apparently his size-of-large-hams biceps are only strong enough to keep a bow drawn for a few seconds.

For the new game, Turok trades his old spiked gauntlets for a trusty combat knife. He can’t melee with any other weapon, but the knife makes up for it. If you press the right trigger down in time with an icon on screen, Turok will perform an instant kill move with his knife that will dispatch any regular soldier or dino in a brutal takedown cinematic. Pulling these moves off is so easy, it gets a little cheap; you can charge into a pack of raptors and take three or four down without suffering a single bite. The knife is also handy for stealth based combat, in that it kills enemy soldiers silently if you can sneak up on them.

The stealth combat leads me to Turok’s most glaring flaw: its fragmented and indecisive gameplay. When it’s not being a run-of-the-mill FPS, Turok tries to be three or four different kinds of games and half-fails in each respect. The aforementioned stealth elements feel scripted and out of place; you’ll come upon a clearing filled with enemies milling about, but alert one of them and you’ll have the entire mountain’s complement of troops chasing you.

At other times Turok tries to be Gears of War, without any implementation of a cover system. This was rather disorienting at first—knowing that I was playing a Turok game, I’d run in, triggers down, expecting a spray and pray gunfight, but then I’d be overwhelmed and killed within seconds. This new brand of Turok expects you to huddle behind rocks and crates, firing from cover without any way to really hunker down or pop out for a quick shot. You basically have Gears of War combat with Quake-style movement mechanics, and they don’t go well together at all.


The inclusion of regenerating health doesn’t help this situation either. Regular readers of my reviews will know that I absolutely hate regenerating health, and Turok has only fueled my ire for the trope. As the titular hero sustains more and more damage, his vision gets red and bleary, making it harder and harder to aim at and kill the annoying guy pumping bullets into you. Explosions also tend to throw Turok flying through the air, landing with his back to whatever is attacking him. The only effective way to handle combat is to barrel in, kill a few guys, make a cowardly run halfway across the battlefield to recharge, and repeat.

The game has a lot of frustrating moments like that, where it’ll apparently give you many ways of dealing with a situation, when in reality there is only one effective solution and you aren’t made aware of that. The final boss battle with a T-Rex is a good example. The battlefield is littered with weapons, but the only real way to defeat the T-Rex is to grab a shotgun, distract the dino with its secondary flares, and then pump it full of rockets while it stares dumbly at the shiny flare on the ground. Incidentally, the dino can withstand more explosives than could effectively kill the Incredible Hulk, so expect to be devoured a number of times as you scurry around looking for more rockets.

The checkpoint system makes the gameplay even more tiresome, because most of the checkpoints are placed at inconvenient times. You’ll get wasted again and again, only to retry from a point five or ten minutes ago, and then have to battle your way through the same platoon or pack of raptors all over again. Prey let the player save whenever they wanted to, and that game was released a couple years ago. The 360 has big memory cards and a hard drive, and Turok needs to get with the times.

The gameplay is on the average side at best, and frustrating at worst, but at least Turok sounds good. The score is primarily orchestral, and does a good job of wrapping the linear action in an epic disguise. The music isn’t something I’d want on a soundtrack, but it’s well done and consistently fits with the action. The voice acting is surprisingly good, within the constraints of the stereotypical space marine characters. The cast includes Ron Pearlman and Timothy Olyphant, and Gregory Cruz is memorable as the new Turok.

As far as multiplayer goes, Turok has a healthy supply of modes and options, but for the most part they’re your typical fare, much like the solo campaign. I liked that the maps have dinosaurs running around, attacking players at random. The co-op mode is probably the multiplayer’s biggest disappointment—you can select a number of pre-set missions where you and friends fight against bots, but there is not option to play through the solo campaign with a friends. This is a little strange, considering Turok has an ally with him at almost all times during the story mode. The multiplayer is online only, with no split-screen support, so you probably won’t be breaking Turok out for parties like you would Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4.

Overall, the new Turok left me a little conflicted, because I had such a love-hate relationship with it. It’s a competent shooter in most respects but also an extraordinarily average one. Sure it looks good, but is that really a compliment for a 360 title anymore? I’m tired of saying “this game looked spectacular, but…”

I guess I agree with Ben Croshaw on this one. Most of Turok’s problems come from it ripping off Halo, just like every other FPS these days. Yes, Halo was very creative in many ways when it came out; the free-roaming vehicle levels, limited weapon capacity and squad based combat really hadn’t been done before. A lot of people forget that the other half of Halo was repetitive level design, linearity to the point of mindless tedium and a pretty clichéd story. Any game that copies Halo to the letter is going to imitate the good and the bad—you’ll inevitably get the stereotyped space marines, and the recharging health in a context where it doesn’t make sense and gets on the player’s nerves. Last time I checked, Turok doesn’t have a fusion-powered alien energy shield that re-juices after a few seconds.

If you really liked the older Turoks, maybe you’ll just be thrilled that the series is back. There certainly isn’t much of the original spirit left, though. This new flavor of Turok has potential as a series, but the developers need to give it a personality of its own, add more nostalgia for the old fans and make the gameplay more engaging.


C+
Turok’s return from death isn’t exactly a monumental occasion, but it’s not all that bad either. The new Turok is pretty average as FPSs go, but there’s definitely potential for a sequel if the developers innovate a little.


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