52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 6
Release Date: January 31, 2008
Developer: Propaganda Games
ESRB Rating: Mature
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
Week 6 and I am still in the middle of renovations. For this reason, I shall recycle a previous review I have done of Turok. At the time of my review I had completed just over half the game, but this time I completed the entire game and updated my initial review with my new opinion of the game (for it did change slightly).
Before starting this review, I have a small confession to make. I am a huge fan of the Turok comic book, but I have yet to play any of the Turok games. In the comics Turok was always above and beyond all else, a devoted tribesman first, great warrior second. It is with this passion for the character that I have approached this review.
I quickly came to realize this was not the comic book version of Turok. All hopes of living out great adventures in the Lost Land quickly faded as the story unfolded in front of my eyes. Turok is no longer a proud Native American warrior. In fact, before being recruited by Roland Kane for his newly formed black ops crew, he was a petty criminal wearing an orange jumpsuit. This new Turok has little to nothing in common with the Golden Age Turok, or even the Valiant Turok. The game shares only the name, the fact that he is still Native American, and dinosaurs and little else. From that moment on, I knew I had to set aside the Turok from my memory, and actually started to view Turok as a Riddick (from Pitch Black) wannabe. Once I convinced myself that Turok was not really Turok, just a Riddick impersonator, this allowed me to enjoy the game much more.
The main story in Turok is nothing gamers have not seen and heard before, as it is just standard sci-fi fare. In this game, Joseph Turok was a member of an elite squad of blacks ops. His former black ops leader, Roland Kane, is now in charge of a evil empire of bad guys and must be stopped. Joseph Turok is part of a team that is sent to a remote planet to capture Kane. (I guess hollowed out volcanoes are no longer in style).
The game is a graphical marvel. The jungle is alive with huge trees that tower on either side of the player. The ground is littered with plenty of plants of various sizes and plenty of grass. But the star(s) of the game are the dinosaurs. Turok features a large assortment of thunder lizards for gamers enjoyment, all beautifully rendered. In fact, every visual aspect of the game is amazing, well the parts that can actually be seen are amazing (more on that later). At it's core, the game is a first person shooter with dinosaurs. The game does set itself apart of from first person shooters in several ways, some good, some bad.
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I noticed that there did not appear to be that many different weapons choices as in most games of this type. But this is not necessarily a bad thing as it forces players to become reliant on the guns that are available in the game. In most shooters, finding a huge gun indicates an impending huge battle. This is not the case in Turok, as huge battles are always close at hand, and players must learn to deal with these battles with the tools in Turok's possession. Two of the most useful weapons are the long bow and the hunting knife. The knife in particular gets a lot of usage, as it is perfect to take out small to medium dinos. The best thing about the knife is that when Turok is a specific distance to an enemy, an indicator will appear on the screen to press the right trigger which is pressed at the correct time will reward the player with a great kill animation from a third persons perspective. Once gamers get the timing down, it shall be easy to take out a herd of dinosaurs in no time while wasting no bullets. The compound bow is great to snipe enemies from a long distance. There is no physics involved with the bow, so no need to arc the shot for distance or wind, just aim and point like a sniper rifle, pull back and let go. The game does not take any chances beyond the knife and compound bow as all the other weapons are standard fare of hand guns, machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifle, rocket launcher and grenades.
The game does have it's downside. As with most shooters, the AI is at times brilliant and at other times downright dumb. I have witnessed times when the enemy will hide and then flank me, but on other occasions I have literally walked in front of two enemy troops and they did nothing. So as a good soldier, I decided to knife them both, and as I knifed a poor soldier in the back (Riddick never did have honour), his friend watched but still did nothing, so I knifed him next. Ah the joy of war!
Turok has two very ugly features that will induce the urge to toss controller towards the screen at great speed. The first is the way save games are implemented. The game cannot be saved whenever desired, in fact the game will save itself once certain checkpoints have been reached. This is not normally a problem, except for the fact that checkpoints are few and far between. In is not uncommon to play for a half-hour or more before reaching a checkpoint. This save method in itself is not the real problem as many games features such save mechanisms but in Turok, there are no items to replenish health instantly, instead opting for a Halo type of healing in that will replenish health after a short while of not getting hit. This system may have worked for Halo but this game does not feature slow moving aliens, but very fast dinosaurs. It is very easy to get surrounded by dinos while fending off enemy soldiers, leaving little place to hide to allow Turok's health to regenerate. The choice of save game method does not add any real element of danger to the game but does have the negative result in slowing the pace of the game down to a crawl as players will move forward cautiously for fear of getting killed and having to redo the last hour of gameplay. The technique I used was to reach a checkpoint, then run into the next zone to draw out the enemies, die, then restart from the last checkpoint knowing where most of the enemies where located, hunt them down, then proceed inch by inch trying not to die. In my opinion, the game is most fun when entering a zone guns blazing and take out the enemy/dinosaurs, but the save game feature combined with the lack of instant heals forces gamers to play much more conservatively, and that is a shame.
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Another thing I could not understand was that a lot of the game occurs in less than ideal lighting conditions. I gave an example above of walking in front of two enemy soldiers and they did not attack me. You may wonder why would I walk out in front of the enemy, well I did not see them till I was in their face. The game can be this dark at times. And to make things worse, Turok does not have any light source. Consider the fact that, he is a member of an elite military operation, that flew to a distant planet to apprehend a dangerous war criminal. Our hero is fully decked out in body armour and have a top of the line weapons at his disposal, but not a single person thought about bringing a flashlight? This is not just a minor irritation, but a major problem in this game because of the previously alluded save game format. Many times I had to restart from a previous checkpoint because I did not see the enemy (or dinos) and got outnumbered. I already vented at how frustrating and repetitive this can get. As a results of those two flaws, the single player experience is a mixed bag, at times extremely fun, but most times just frustrating. Only dedicated first person shooter fans will stick with this game till completion. The good news is that for those that do, the game is extremely rewarding.
All is not lost for Turok as the saving grace of this game is the multiplayer experience. When I first started a multiplayer game, I noticed that it looked like every other multiplayer game out there. The game does not take any chances in this section either. In multiplayer mode, gamers can choose to play ranked or unranked deathmatches, team deathmatches, capture-the-flag, and other similar game types. The game ships with seven large maps. Also present are three co-op missions. Again, nothing new. In fact Turok multiplayer experience offers only one small addition to the standard offering of similar type games, but it is this small addition that make the game so much fun, well to be honest it’s a rather large addition, the dinosaurs. Each map has free roaming dinos scattered around the landscape, normally right where all the good weapons are located. These dinosaurs will gladly attack anything that moves. A good strategy is to let an opponent battle the dinos and then swoop in for the kill while they are distracted or reloading. Just be ready to have to face the angry horde of reptilian critters when doing so. It was amazing at how much fun it was playing multiplayer matches with dinos in the mix. When getting shot, players cannot simply just jump down to a lower level to safety as the lower level is most likely populated by giant scorpions or velociraptors either of which can be a worse fate than the barrage of bullets they were facing. This also makes the online games feel that much larger in scope, as a deathmatch of 16 players now include an extra dozen or so dinosaurs. The dinosaurs are more than just another obstacle in multiplayer matches, they can also be used as a very effective tool in dealing punishment to opponents. For some strange reason I cannot understand, dinosaurs in this game are attracted to flares (I really do not remember seeing this on the Discovery Channel). If you shoot an opponent with a flare, the scaly ones will do short work of the poor sucker. The only complaint I have for the multiplayer is that the knife is broken in the game. When being attacked by an opponent, they can absorb a full clip of bullets and still live, then swoop in and knife you. Unlike the melee attack in Halo 3 that greatly weakens your character, in Turok this attack is an instant kill every time. Multiplayer ends up being nothing more than a series of people running around knifing each other, while avoiding the dinosaurs of course. The real shame though is that since I first wrote this article, the multiplayer aspect has all but dried up. I logged on to play a few rounds and found only a few gamers that were only interested in boosting for achievements.
Turok has it's flaws but if gamers can overlook the dark environments and occasional AI hiccups, the game does offer plenty of action and will challenge even the most seasoned first person shooter fan. As I indicated at the start, even though my gaming time was limited by cause of renovations, I still managed to finish Turok in my week. This was very satisfying as I had to restart due to a lost save game. On a side note, it is with sad news that I read that development on Turok 2 has ceased. Maybe at one point it will be picked up again and dino hunting shall be back in style.