Turok Review (PS3)

Ah, good old Turok. Forever destined to be hounded by dinosaurs in strange jungles, using weapons apparently designed by a complete madman, the big fella still somehow manages to soldier on across a variety of modern console platforms. After the now-defunct Acclaim Studios all but ran the series into the ground with successive poor releases and increasingly bizarre publicity stunts, Touchstone Studios has decided to take up the mantle and attempt to transform the perennially average series into something more fitting to a new generation. With the lineage of the past few games still within clear memory, they certainly couldn't make it a lot worse, that's for sure.

So, the first step in transforming a gaming series into the modern age: Turn every major character into a Space Marine, and watch the profit margin increase with every gruff and banal voiceover. That's exactly the case here, and serves as a depressing reminder about the state of innovation in the western gaming market. Do 90% of shooters really have to be this way?

The world is almost uniformly grey and green

Stealth kills work well occasionally

The loose Sci-fi storyline starts off with a small homage to Aliens, with a group of Marines awoken from deep-space slumber around a strange planet, and our friend Turok shunted into the role of a distrusted newcomer. As the marines are debriefed for the assignment to come (the elimination of Turok's old squad leader, Kane), it doesn't take long for things to take a turn for the worse, and our band of clichéd heroes soon find themselves marooned in the jungle with a demolished spacecraft, and beset by a vast number of humanoid and dinosaur enemies. From here, it's a simple case of navigating from point A to point B in each linear level, dispatching foes as you encounter them, and mixing things up with the occasional boss battle along the way.

In that sense, Turok plays out like any other shooter. Your weapon triggers are mapped, funnily enough, to each trigger on the SixAxis, whilst the usual slew of duck, jump and selection controls play out in the same manner as any game to come before it. The mechanics of combat are solid enough, and although aiming is touch sensitive on the PS3 pad by default, this can be tweaked from the options screen. Even at low settings however, the turning controls still seem to accelerate from the mid-point far too quickly, leading to consistent 'oversteer', to borrow a term form the racing world.

As this is a Turok game at heart (and essentially a reworking of the original title), the dinosaurs should really be the main focus of combat, and for better or worse that definitely turns out to be the case. From the very beginning you'll be encountering a variety of historical creatures, from velociraptors through to the imposing T-Rex, and dealing them all swift justice with knife, gun or bow. There are a small amount of friendly dino's in the mix, and a very basic AI system in place to make each species react against each other. Unfortunately the illusion of conflict quickly breaks down with any attempt to intervene, and occasionally the AI will pull some comical moves like infinitely circling a dinosaur around the same five yard space, or having it literally pace back and forth on a 10-yard line. It's almost enough to make you want to put the poor thing out of it's misery.

One of the numerous set pieces in the campaign

The bow will come in handy throughout

Unfortunately the same ill-effects of the AI system can be found in the more generic squad-based combat of the human foes. Quite often you'll encounter enemies that simply run around on the spot or within the same 10-20 yard radius, completely oblivious to the presence of anybody else. Other times, you'll encounter the more traditional bugbear of an enemy spotting you from a couple of hundred yards away, even when crouched in long grass and moving at a snails pace. Obviously this isn't a problem that's isolated to a Turok game, but it's an endemic fault that rears it's insatiably annoying head to an unacceptable level here.

All of which serves to undermine what should perceivably be the crowning jewel in Turok's cap, the ability to actually hunt and prey on your enemies. Let's be fair here, when it all comes together, pulling off a stealth kill with either knife or bow can be supremely satisfying. Covering yourself in long grass, shuffling towards an enemy to get within range of a brutal execution kill is all good fun, and should really have been exploited in a better fashion. The problem lies purely with the AI detailed above, and some supremely shoddy detection mechanics, which can see you stood practically on a velociraptors tail without being able to trigger the move that you need.

The above cocktail of small annoyances means that Turok can only potentially dig itself out of a hole in a couple of areas, and unfortunately that doesn't turn out to be the case. Graphically, the game looks seriously rushed. Texture pop-in is rampant throughout, and the amount of light bloom on each character simply looks ridiculous. The swaying jungle grass looks impressive enough, but you get the feeling that too much effort may well have been spent here, with the rest of the environment bland and unimpressive as a result. The whole thing is swallowed up with a colour palette that's half fresh-green turf and half Gears of War style muted hues, which makes everything look disjointed and unconvincing. The PS3 version is specifically at fault here, with an increased amount of texture and character pop-in, along with vast amounts of tearing and the occasional bout of slowdown.

He's a tough bugger alright

Sneaking through long grass to perform a stealth kill

Multiplayer options are robust, and generally seem to be lag-free, yet extremely low in population (PS3 version tested). Again there isn't anything wrong with the offering here, all of the staple deathmatch and other modes are supplied, but there isn't anything that stands out as being worthy of a purchase. Considering the superior control mechanics on the likes of Resistance, and if you switch consoles, pretty much every 360 shooter currently around, it makes it all a little pointless in execution.

With all that said, Turok's various glitchy elements eventually come together to form an averagely enjoyable shooter. Parts of the game are memorable, and the alternative-fire modes on each weapon are innovative and occasionally fun to use. However, when you look at the best moments that you'll have with the game, most of them will come from exploiting the silly AI routines, or simply rampaging through the jungle on a Serious Sam level of destruction, mainly borne out of pure frustration with the stealth mechanics. If you can find it for a cheap price then it may well see you through a couple of sessions on a lonely weekend, but no further than that. A shame then, as this is a premise that certainly holds potential for somebody to make a classic game at some stage.

Top game moment: Sneaking through the grass for an unsuspecting stealth kill. When it works.