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developer: Propaganda Games
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Jan 29, 08
|» All About Turok on ActionTrip|
I've spent the past several months going through every possible worthwhile 360 release. However, the long dry spell of the post-holiday era struck again. It ended with two new releases - Capcom's Devil May Cry 4 and Propaganda Games' Turok (And 'The Club'. - Ed). Thanks to my overpowering dinosaur fetish, Turok gets to be reviewed first.
When Touchstone and Propaganda Games decided to make another first-person shooter inspired by the comic book character Turok, they also opted not to tie it into any of the previous games (and there was quite a lot of them too - Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, Turok: Rage Wars, Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion, Turok: Evolution and so on). Oddly enough, it doesn't follow the comic books either, but appears to offer a separate plot altogether.
The game hurls players 200 years into the future and follows the account of a tough ex-black-ops dude named Joseph Turok. Turok is sent on a mission with Whiskey Company to hunt down Ronald Kane, once Turok's mentor and ally. Kane went rogue and now it's your job to bring him back. The whole operation goes pair-shaped, as your team's spaceship crash-lands on a planet where Kane and his followers prefer spending their free time. It just so happens that the same planet is inhabited by bloodthirsty dinosaurs, some of which are seriously bent on hunting down any unwelcome human prey.
One issue, related to the plot, arises very quickly. Things kick off fine, with flashbacks showing off the history between Turok and Kane. As soon as you start fighting for survival, however, your purpose changes from finding Kane to locating crash sites, finding com-link boxes and going on other mundane tasks. The story quickly loses its thread from then on, making the player less interested in the universe as well as its characters. So, I held my breath and did my best to immerse myself in another generic game setting.
The first few minutes of Turok are spent learning the primary functions of each weapon packed in the main character's inventory, as well as mastering the skills of stealth-style execution. As soon as Turok and Whiskey Company crash-land, they're immediately faced with a number of hostiles, yes, half of which are dino-carnivores. The other half, of course, are Kane's henchmen. It takes you about ten minutes or so, maybe a bit more, to get acquainted with the gameplay mechanics. Most of the time, you'll be struggling to stay alive in a jungle-like dinosaur-infested environment. From the very first dinosaur encounter, you'll notice that the intelligence of almost every beast is not to be underestimated. Be they small, large or medium-sized, they're all smart and they will pin you down easily if you don't stay on your toes. Therein lies the challenge of Turok. The concept of fighting against dinosaurs should bring your FPS skills to the test, even on "Normal" difficulty. Most of the time you'll find that you don't hunt the dinosaurs... it's the other way around in fact. And Propaganda Games have done an excellent job of creating tense scenes in dense jungles, while the main character creeps through the undergrowth, hearing nothing but spine-tingling beast shrieks in the distance and the sound of an unseen foe slowly creeping towards you.
Unless you want to be chopped into mince meat by dinosaur teeth, you're gonna have to think every step of the way. Trouble is, most of the time dinosaurs can leap out of nowhere and knock you over. As soon as your character gets back on his feet, your primary instinct will be to start shooting like crazy, which slightly throws the gameplay off balance and sort of casts a shadow over the whole strategic approach. Still, it's not a big issue. At that point, you're gonna want to rely on the weapons like the shotgun, hand grenades or flamethrowers and that's where the real fun begins. The more destructive weapons, the better. This doesn't imply that you have to use aggressive methods. Usually, there are numerous hiding spots in the surrounding area, where players can crouch down and avoid being mauled by some ravenous prehistoric beast. Concealing yourself has its benefits a lot of times. Before you find cover though, it would be a good idea to "ruffle a few feathers" and confuse any potential dinosaur threats. You can do this in a number of ways. Turok can toss flares which stick onto enemy soldiers and attract any dinosaurs lurking nearby. It's also possible to turn dinosaurs against each other to lure them away from yourself. Just shoot a bunch of dinosaur eggs and watch as a group of enraged dinosaurs takes their wrath out on unsuspecting enemy troops.
Combat mechanics are largely defined by Turok's struggle against dinosaurs. This system works very well in practice and makes this a rather challenging first-person action game. The AI will do its bit to keep you entertained and immersed, with dinosaurs reacting intelligently to the player's movement and actions. Much to my disappointment, when it comes to human opponents, clearly the AI wasn't tweaked enough. A few grunts ignored me completely even though I was in plain sight and jumping around. Basically, one of them waited until I put him out of his misery, as I fired a few rounds straight into his face.
Going against dinosaurs is a great challenge and huge fun, awesome weapons, decent single-player and multiplayer.
Ultimately uninteresting setting, story loses its thread very fast, unpolished human AI, poorly presented indoor areas.