Summary [6.5 out of 10]
Turok is a perfect example of a next-gen game almost being good, with close-minded, repetitive and sometimes punishing try-die-and-try-again game design dragging down some of the impressive technical accomplishments.
The premise of Turok is that you are John Turok and ex-member of the super-elite Wolfpack group and now a member of the mercenary group Whiskey Company. The reason you are an ex-member of Wolfpack is not revealed immediately, but it has given you a reputation as a “traitor” and some of your new friends in Whiskey Company aren’t thrilled with you being in their group.
The game opens up on a ship with the members of Whiskey Company in it, headed to a planet where your old Wolfpack group (lead by Kane) has gone to do some illegal stuff. It is Whiskey Company’s job to capture Kane and return him to Earth (I think) so he can be tried.
As your plane is coming in for a landing you are shot down and the huge ship crashes, scattering Whiskey Company across a good few-mile stretch of the planet’s surface. You are one of the few survivors.
For about the first 1/3 of the game you are “trying to meet back up with Whiskey Company”. The planet is a pretty lush place, very tropical, and has dinosaurs on it. You occasionally come across one of Wolfpack’s camps or control centers.
NOTE: I read a few reviews that said the game never clarified why there were dinosaurs on this planet, but it did clarify it and I think it did it in a pretty good way. At one point about 3/4 of the way through the came you come across a huge central command station and it is noted that the planet itself is in the midst of being terra-formed, which is why “everything is so screwed up”. I think it was a perfectly valid way to tie the old-Turok story into the new-Turok story.
Most of the game you are either fighting dinosaurs (which are excellently designed and animated… I really didn’t expect such good quality dinos from a typical shooter like this) or fighting Kane’s men.
For the most part the gameplay is straight forward… use your weapons to kill dudes.
There aren’t any puzzles to solve in this game, there are a few tense moments that may take you a few retries to get through if you want to consider that a puzzle, but nothing like organizing pillars to re-align a satellite or anything like that.
There are quick-time events like when a dino tackles you, but they are really forgiving with the timing and let you have fun with them versus have an annurism trying to get them right and not paying attention to what happens on screen.
This is one design choice I really liked and thought the Turok team has done better than most other design companies out there with regard to quick-time events… they would give you just one or two buttons to press during the sequence… there was none of this “A… B…. Trigger… LEFT….” shit… you just had to smash on the button and watch the scene unravel (like stabbing a dino in the face).
NOTE: I really hate quick-time events in other games like God of War, Jericho even Shenmue where the sequence is so fast paced and complex that you cannot watch the screen and see what awesome thing is happening. So cudos to the Turok team for getting this one right.
The jungle levels looked and felt really good to me… for the most part they are designed in such a way that they didn’t feel that linear, but they really are… there is only one way to go ever.
The interior base levels are repetitive and pretty straight forward… just keep going forward until you come out the other side and shoot everyone that pops up as you go.
The weapon design is awesome… there I said it. I really loved the weapon design, feel and sounds in this game. They feel solid, powerful and punchy… and you can dual-wield almost any combination of them which was a nice surprise (although I mostly stayed with a single weapon at a time). The shotgun sounds a little soft, but the damage it does makes up for it. The SMG feels the best by far.
Also an excellent design decision the Turok folks made was to allow for context-sensitive instant-kills using the knife. If you are near almost any enemy (not the 2 biggest dinosaurs, but all the other ones and human characters), you get a prompt on the lower right hand side of the screen that if you press R2 you can use the knife to perform an instant-kill.
Killing dinosaurs using the instant-kill is so satisfying. One kill in particular made me giggle all 733 times I did it, and it’s a raptor-sized dino kill, where you just freaking SMASH your knife right through it’s head into it’s brain, and then kick it over.
Most of the other kills are neck-slashing kills for dinos, and all the human kills are stylistic navy-seal stab/slice kills.
Unfortunately the praise stops here… I would say the first 1/2 of the game is really pretty fun to play, with maybe 1 frustrating moment. The entire 2nd half of the game is about 6 maddening moments separated by really repetitive and boring gameplay.
Gameplay – Auto-Respawning Enemies
Another game design element I saw in the 2nd half that I never saw in the first half is the stupid fucking idea of auto-respawning bad guys when a certain number is killed. You are never notified when this will happen, or given any indication that it’s suppose to happen (like a friendly yelling over the comm “Don’t worry about killing those things, just run!”).
No, instead, you sit there for like 10 mins, blowing through all your ammo killing enemies that are being replenished on the side until you realize after a bunch of wasted time and ammo that you are wasting your time.
Then there are other levels that seem very similar to that, that require you to kill a certain amount before continuing… again with no prompting or indication that you need to… so you either die trying to run past them all and figure out you NEED to kill them, or you waste all your ammo trying to kill them just to figure out you didn’t need to.
Gimme a freaking break… it’s almost like separate teams developed certain levels and gameplay elements in this game… one team that liked gaming and the other team that are stuck in 1995 game design.
Gameplay – Boss Fights
The “boss” fights are awful. For the most part boss fights are suppose to be epic in size (think of God of War, Devil May Cry, etc.), but not epic in difficulty. They are suppose to be harder, yes… but not EPIC-LY harder (like in Lost Planet where you spend more time getting bounced by bosses than by getting away and recovering).
It’s not that the bosses themselves have insane life bars that make them impossible to fight, it’s the way the boss fights are designed. The fights themselves are designed to be faught 1 way and ONLY 1 way, but you aren’t given an indication of what that one way is, so you just have to trial-and-error your way through the process, tearing your hair out as you go.
As an example, there is a helicopter in one scene you need to blow up… but using grenades (4x), explosive arrows (12x) and plasma grenades (8x) won’t do it… nope, you have to run across the map and get the RPG, you know, cause the explosive material in the arrows and grenades isn’t the right kind.
Another example is a sea-serpent boss that looks cool, but again the only way to kill it, is to use your flame-thrower on methane-gas clouds that bubble up infront of it’s face with perfect timing. If you try and burn it with the flame thrower (for like 2mins straight), use grenades (a billion), plasma grenades and explosive arrows guess what? Don’t do a single lick of damage to it. Wow, THAT’S awesome…
The other maddening thing is that once you figure out what the “trick” is to win the boss fight, it’s still not easy. You will likely retry the fight 2-8 times before getting by just because the AI did something different that one time that made it infinitely easier than the other 7 times where it was impossibly hard… the general unpredictability of it drove me nuts after a while.
While I normally look forward to boss fights in games, the ones in Turok were such a frustrating chore to get through that I would have happily traded more repetitive play for it.
NOTE: There are no vehicles in this game either, in some early marketing screenshots they show dudes in a jeep shooting a T-Rex, but that never happens in the game. Just wanted to point that out for folks that love vehicles.
Gameplay – Checkpoint System
I generally hate checkpoint systems because they force me to rely on the developer not being a total dick head and making me replay massive portions of a level when I die or when I decide to quit. Oddly enough the checkpoint markers at the beginning of Turok are spaced much farther apart than in the later levels of the game… I was growing to hate the game because I was restarting and dying and retracing my steps for so long that I almost gave up, but noticed towards the end that the distance between checkpoints tightened up quite a bit, letting me retry individual hard portions of a single level rather than the entire level like at the beginning.
The lack of consistency was annoying, but atleast it went from loose to tight, as oppose to the other way around… I might have just stopped playing it if it hadn’t.
So for folks that like to go Rambo-style into fights, be prepared to restart a lot… and you might just end up getting annoyed enough that you don’t want to play anymore if you do play that way. I ended up falling back on being super-long-distance-sniper style of play to make it through scenes that were ridiculously hard.
NOTE: Whoever at Propaganda Games designed the spider-tank boss fight, “Fuck You”. That might seem harsh, but for the life of me I cannot figure out how you ran that level through even just internal play-testing with your OWN DEVELOPERS and didn’t get at least 20 complaints about how confusing and unnecessarily hard it was. If retreating from a giant attacking tank is the wrong decision to make, as it seems it was, then don’t let the fucking level continue going if it’s impossible to continue without getting blasted to hell. All you do is confuse players.
Graphics & Sounds
The graphics I found to be generally excellent… while some of the interiors were bland, I didn’t really see any scenes that I thought had bad graphics. The human character design was much better on the lead characters than on the background characters and the dinos actually looked pretty awesome. The bad human characters look pretty cool, very Jin-Roh’ey with the full armor suits and red eyes.
Some of the scarring/bleeding effects on the dinos was excellent, but there is absolutely no gore when it comes to the human characters… I don’t know why they skimped there… maybe hoping for a T rating or something I guess?
The voice acting for the main characters (Turok, Kane and Ron Pearlman (forgot char name)) are generally really good… the voice acting for the rest of Whiskey Company was pretty awful and one guy that sounded like Timothy Olyphant was really bad.
The weapon sounds are fantastic, all spot on and punchy. Nothing more to say, I totally dug them.
Environmental sounds were pretty good, with my surround sound system there were moments where I thought I heard something behind me. Having dinos hunt you in the grass is really intense with some nice sound queues.
The dino sounds themselves seemed pretty good, I never noticed any dino sound that sounded bad, so I guess they were all pretty spot on.
Surprisingly good. The flanking and attack behavior from the dinosaurs was really good, especially in tall-grass it created really jumpy moments for me. The enemy soldier AI was also pretty good when in combat… but when out of combat it was retarded. Sometimes I’d kill a guy that was standing next to another one, and the other guy would keep standing there while I got my bow ready again.
Other times I would kill 1 guy across a map, and another guy about 200 yards away from both of us would suddenly turn and start firing at me.
Also the AI for your buddies from Whiskey Company is terrible… there is only 2 or 3 places in the game where you get a squad, and they are as useful as a sack of bricks. Usually staring at a wall and getting attacked in the ass, or staring directly at you while enemies swarm behind them.
I got more enjoyment out of shooting my own guys than watching them help… fuckers.
Not much to say here… I’m not sure if there were just not enough people playing or I just had the worst luck ever, but I tried 8 different online matches, an even mix of all the 4 different game types and I was unable to complete a single match without the server dropping, or having lag so bad I couldn’t shoot.
One cool thing I saw, but didn’t really work, was that when the person serving the game drops, the game will auto-migrate all users to the next person’s PS3 for the game to be hosted in real time… it’s a nice fail-over design, but with the online games being so underpopulated and disconnect heavy, it didn’t really matter.
Also there is a “Co-op” mode, but I don’t think the designers of Turok understood what “co-op” means in the classic sense of games now-adays… their version of co-op is dropping you into a single portion of a greater level, and letting you fight against the AI. There are only a handful of map segments that you can do this with and from what I saw, I don’t remember these maps from the main game… so I think they are just random map pieces throw in and since it’s not DM, they consider it co-op.
You definitely cannot play the real game with a friend at your side… so no real co-op to speak of.
Conclusion [6.5 out of 10]
You might have noticed I used the word “repetitive” a lot in this review… and that’s because it was. The only saving grave to Turok is nice graphics, some generally nice enemy AI, excellent weapon design and friendly quick-time sequences… the level designs themselves and “boss fights” are horribly done and frustration from experiencing them drag the game right back down from where the other perks pulled it out of.
Turok is the type of game you finish and forget within a week, not remembering the story, characters or what the premise of the game was.
Overall the poorly designed scenes are what ruined this game for me, and I think all of them were boss fights. The bosses themselves were fine, infact some were cool… it was just the narrow-minded, singular way they were designed in that drove me nuts. It’s a lot like someone giving you a relatively nice car, like a decked out ’09 Honda Accord, but the only way to start it is to turn the radio on, flick the windshield wipers twice, and open/close the passenger door twice… but they never tell you that. So not only do you have to figure that stupid series of events out on your own, but it doesn’t even make sense WHY it’s the only way to start the car. So at the end of the day, you aren’t that happy with the relatively nice car, because starting it drives you nuts and makes no sense.
Playing Turok is sort of like that.
Areas of Improvement
Like usual, we try not to make criticisms without providing constructive feedback on what specifically could have been improved, so here we go:
- Don’t “script” the boss fights where they can only be accomplished in 1 way… give the Boss some amount of health and let us kill it however the hell we want.
- Make the human kills gory… I didn’t like how guns and knives only threw “sparks” off their armor.
- Believe it or not, but impossible situations with next to no instruction going in aren’t fun (e.g. the bug-infested reactor station)
- Auto-respawning bad guys is fucking annoying… it HAS been fucking annoying since 1990 and it’s STILL fucking annoying. If you decide you have to use it in order to create a fake sense of urgency (like needing to run through a group of bad guys) then you need to give gamers a heads up, we aren’t goddamn physic.
- Checkpoint systems are OK if they aren’t painfully far apart… don’t make me hate your game by forcing me to replace massive portions of it each time I die.
- Squad moments in the game were fun, more of those would have been nice. I don’t see why Turok always has to go “investigate” stuff on his own while the other 10 guys sit around and jack off.
- Giving someone next to no cover, a scattering of weapons, and two turrets that are impossible to use against the enemy isn’t fun believe it or not.