Ever want to like something more than you do? That's the feeling you get while playing Turok. When it works, Turok absorbs the player into a vicious world, one of incredible beauty and ferocity. Struggling against the ever-present menace of dinosaurs, players will find themselves blending in with the environment, using their tools to quietly, and effectively, kill without being seen. Clear moments of brilliant game direction aren't too hard to find -- the problem is, they're buried underneath a mountain of frustrating and questionable design choices. There's a good, if not great, game waiting to arise from Turok. Unfortunately, this latest entry on Xbox 360 and PS3 is not the one to realize that potential.

There are some wonderfully memorable sequences in Turok. At its finest, the game successfully meshes stealth and action into something truly fun. Players can sneak around in tall grass, slowly taking the opportunity to sneak up behind enemies, and quietly knife them in the back. From afar, they can use their bow and snipe enemies quickly and quietly. Finally, players can throw a flare at an unsuspecting guard, luring hungry dinosaurs their way. Pulling these maneuvers off, while keeping an eye on the grass for any sudden movements, is incredibly satisfying. If the game managed to continue highlighting these sequences, it would've been a clear winner.


For a franchise that's synonymous with dinosaurs, the game begins with absolutely none. The game's first hour is a prime example of cut-and-paste FPS design, with Gears of War-esque macho men talking trash on a spaceship. Sabotage sends the ship crashing down to the planet below, where players will spend much too much time fighting generic enemies with generic weapons. The by-the-numbers gameplay is uninspiring, with scripted sequences that miss the visceral feeling of other modern FPS games.

The first hour may be generic, but it's also where you'll find the closest semblance to a story in the entire narrative. There are a lot of questions players may ask. For example, who is Turok? Why are we killing these random soldiers? Why are there dinosaurs on this planet? Who does Turok work for? Why? Unfortunately, you won't get too many answers. A majority of the game's plot can be summed up as such: find a comms device. Yes, you'll spend more than half the game doing just that.



The bare-bones plot isn't the main offender to the game. Rather, its the horribly inconsistent difficulty system. Even on the easiest difficulty, players will have trouble making progress through the game. There's nothing wrong with a challenge, but simply adding more checkpoints would alleviate many of the frustrations we found with the game. It's incredibly frustrating to play for twenty minutes, then go around a corner, get killed by a dinosaur and have to start all over again. Even worse is that we can clearly see places where checkpoints can easily be added. For example, there's an elevator sequence, where Turok must defend against enemies as he slowly rides an elevator up. There's a choke in the middle, which actually stops the elevator. After the player successfully kills every enemy, they can hit a button that'll make the elevator continue. Why isn't there a checkpoint there? Why must we go all the way back to the beginning of this ten-minute elevator ride when we get killed by the constant barrage of crossfire, from the enemies above? Why must we repeat the same task over and over again until we learn when and where enemy waves spawn from?

This isn't an isolated case, but rather a norm for the game. Checkpoints are few and far apart, and more than once caused us to simply give up on the game, swearing we'd never come back. We didn't simply feel defeated when we died -- we felt punished, as we had to stare at the game's lengthy load screens, as we were thrust back, with half an hour of our lives displaced.



A huge problem that we see players facing is simply knowing what to do, and where to go. A simple press of L3 is supposed to give players a clue as to where to go. However, as mentioned earlier, half of the game's objective is to find a communication device. What does that even mean? The game doesn't even offer a direction to go. Had we not had a reviewer's strategy guide to tell us where to go, we're certain that we'd be in a perpetual state of being lost. Unsurprisingly, many parts of the jungle can look the same.

Speaking of looks, would it have hurt to include an in-game gamma and brightness setting? There are times where it is literally impossible to see anything. Even after adjusting the settings on my television, there are parts of the game where all I will literally see is my hand and total darkness. It's hilarious, in a way, to see ourselves aimlessly moving the analog stick whilst in a dark cave, hoping that we'll somehow manage to stumble out alive. Perhaps it's meant to be an accurate simulation of being in a dark cave. Apparently, that isn't a very fun thing to do.



Another issue we had with the game came with the basic controls: they simply aren't fine tuned for controller use. With a keyboard and mouse, we can see ourselves having no problems. However, the developers simply didn't account for the dead space in a SIXAXIS controller. Modern FPS games have relatively quick cursors when not zoomed in. When going for precision, however, the reticle slows down. Call of Duty 4 smartly refocuses the reticle to the enemy when zooming in, which perfectly makes up for the generally imprecise nature of a console controller. Turok, however, seemingly does not. Expect to waste a lot of bullets while adjusting to Turok's unique sense of aim.

This is a long list of complaints, yet the game still manages to offer some really fun moments. Given a lot of grass, dinosaurs and sniping points, we find it undeniably fun to use Turok's two best weapons: the bow and knife. The knife is used to take dinosaurs down in well-animated, gory, and satisfying instant-kills. The bow is used to snipe from afar, with a satisfying penetration that'll often pin down hapless foes to the walls. However, fans of the franchise's penchant for extreme weapons should look elsewhere. Beyond a late-in-the-game rocket launcher and chaingun, you won't find much weapons variety in the game.



We're assuming the campaign is roughly about six hours long, assuming you don't die a billion times like us. There are also unlockable achievements accomplishments, in-game friends list, and online modes. At the very least, you're getting a good amount of content on the disc. The sometimes-pretty graphics work best in outdoor environments, but indoor settings suffer quite significantly. Expect to see the odd visual glitch once in a while, and framerate issues.

Ultimately, Turok fails to deliver upon its incredible potential. There are a number of great ideas we'd love to see in future games. Unfortunately, as it stands right now, this is a rather flawed game that hides the truly clever mechanics the team was attempting. Far from a bad game, Turok proves to be entertaining when all the game's elements coalesce properly. However, in such a crowded genre, where hits like Call of Duty 4 and The Orange Box demand higher standards from gamers, Turok can be overlooked.

PS3 Fanboy score: 6.0

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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