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by Acclaim

Turok: game of much potential, infinite hype and disappointing quality. Just so there’s no confusion here, now, or ever—don’t believe the hype. Easily the most overrated game in recent memory, the bulk of the mainstream press is lying to you. Turok blows.

I know, I know. I shouldn’t use language like "Turok blows"; I should say Turok doesn’t live up to expectations, or Turok is disappointing, or the semi-effective graphical achievement of Turok is compromised by a number of glaring errors that ruin the playing experience, or I could say that Turok’s lack of an in-game save renders it all but unplayable, but all of that clouds the greater issue because Turok blows, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.

Turok, Turok, how doth thou blow? Let me count the ways: First and foremost is the lack of an in-game save feature. I thought we had beaten this little piece of ill-founded foolishness out of gaming for good, but I was sadly mistaken. Each level, every gun toting enemy lizardman alien, every jumping puzzle, every dinosaur, every potential for a single misstep that can send you plunging to your doom, must be negotiated flawlessly to pass a level. One misstep and it’s back to the start for you—which means you will play most levels over and over and over again until you either quit and tell everyone you see that Turok blows, or you pass it and move onto the next level, which you then do over and over and over again until you either give up and tell everyone that Turok blows or you go onto the next level where you play it over and over and over . . .

You get the point. Here’s what happened, I imagine, at some point:

Bob, generic Turok developer: "Hi fellow developers, I have an idea for Turok. Instead of having an in-game save that gamers like, let’s make it easy on ourselves and just have a save feature between levels. That way when they get shot, which happens all the time, or twitch their wrists and fall off a cliff, which happens sometimes, they have to do the whole level over and over again. Repetition rules! Everyone knows that".

Bob’s boss: "Yeah, ok Bob. That sounds like a good idea".

What should have happened:

Bob, generic Turok developer: "Hi fellow developers, I have an idea for Turok. Instead of having an in-game save that gamers like, let’s make it easy on ourselves and just have a save feature between levels. That way when . . ."

Bob’s boss: "Bob, you need to shut the hell up. You always say stupid crap, and, quiet frankly, I’m sick of listening to it. Nobody likes you Bob—nobody. Not even your Mamma, and do you know why? It’s because you have stupid, asinine ideas about pretty much everything. It you ever open you mouth again, you’re fired. As a matter of fact, pack your stuff now, get out, and don’t come back—ever".

Unfortunately that’s not what happened, and the game is substantially poorer for it, which is just another way of saying that it blows.

In addition to being an FPS, Turok occasionally has stages where you fly on a dinosaur armed with machineguns and rockets. You shoot stuff as you fly, more or less on rails, until you enter a wide open area where you can maneuver around a bit more and shoot things. I encountered a control problem, especially evident on the first sequence of flying missions, in which the camera, upset at my choice of flying direction, literally ripped control away from me and smashed me into mountains more times than I care to admit—horrible lack of adequate play testing, that little routine. Aside from that, the flying is pretty standard. There’s nothing special or horrible about the rest of the experience. If it weren’t for my sense of duty to bring the whole scoop to the gaming public I would have given up on this "game" after the first flying stage.

The predictably disappointing multiplayer mode is flavorless and inspiration free— and it also blows, to be more colloquial. Although there are weapons exclusive to the multiplayer game, a reasonable number of levels, as well as ten different game modes, there is still little to recommend the experience. No cooperative play. No bots at all—zero. Generally, even skimpy, tacked-on multiplayer modes will go to the effort to throw the gamer a bone and add a few bots to round things out, but no such luck here. Neither thought nor effort went into delivering a top notch multiplayer game and it shows.

If you can endure the experience long enough, Turok does have a few above average points. The guns are pretty cool, especially their stellar effects. Assorted energy blasts and vicious projectiles devastate with flair. Weapons generally have two functions providing additional variety to your devastation, and for extra fun the zoom function on long-range weapons allows for moderately gory decapitations from afar. Turok also features less conventional weapons like the remote controlled spider mines, and battling hordes of viscous dinosaurs with a flame thrower satisfies in a way I can’t exactly articulate, which is what makes the enormous overall failure of Turok, and the fact that it blows, that much more tragic.

The graphics and presentation are pretty decent overall. Thick vegetation and winding mountain trails provide atmosphere and look good from afar, but are not nearly so impressive up-close. Paper-thin vegetation serves as an impassible barrier marking the boundaries of many levels. The dinosaurs look good as well; it’s enjoyable watching a T-rex charge you, and it’s too bad that the dinosaurs are background players to the much more common laser-gun toting lizardmen.

Not that there’s anything wrong with laser-gun wielding lizardmen, but these baddies aren’t the brightest bad-guys on the block. Enemy AI is pretty inconsistent, featuring some glaring holes. At times the evildoers will duck behind cover or even hit the ground rolling to avoid your shots, returning fire as they go. Other-times they just stand there getting shot, or worse, running around in circles waiting to get shot. I even encountered invisible barriers which pursuing dinosaurs mysteriously wouldn’t cross—easy picking if you stand behind the invisible line.

It should be noted that the X-box version is the best looking of all the versions, featuring sharper images and better lighting effects than either of the other two systems. The X-box version looks only slightly better than the Gamecube version, while both the X-box and the Gamecube easily put the PS2 version to shame, demonstrating an increasingly evident trend, though in the end it doesn’t amount to much because even the best version still blows.

The bottom line is that Turok: Evolution looks decent, but the overall experience is severely lacking. The first few minutes of game time notwithstanding, I never really wanted to play Turok: Evolution. After the first level it was much more of a chore than an enjoyable game, so I advise you to be extremely cautious with your fifty-dollar investment—keep in mind that Turok: Evolution blows when deciding whether this is the game for you. With X-box titles like Timesplitters 2 and Unreal Championship among the highlights on the imminent FPS horizon, you’re better off saving your money and waiting for quality.

Jeff Luther   (10/04/2002)


Ups: Nice weapons and weapon effects.

Downs: No in-level save feature; crappy flying controls; stupid, stupid story; bad AI; an overall disappointing step backward for a venerable series.

Platform: Xbox