Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (Xbox One Review)
Nostalgia can be a wicked vice. Reflecting back on fond memories of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter on the N64 brought on an uncontrollable childlike excitement, and being able to revisit the Lost Lands of Turok in HD was an opportunity I simply couldn’t pass up. But only when my nostalgia had been satiated and the Lost Lands free of evil warlords did I question how Turok would be received by those who did not experience Turok in its glory days.
Turok takes place in a world separate from time and space, The Lost Lands. Players control the peacekeeping Native American warrior Tal’set in a crusade against the Campaigner; a warlord from a different realm with the sole goal of tearing the fabric between these two realms apart, allowing his forces to invade. And that’s where Turok’s title may be a tad misleading as players won’t only face dinosaurs but insectoids, robots, ogres, and humans. This diverse range of enemies does well to spice up the generic settings of Turok by pitting them against an assortment of adversaries that might have been otherwise stale.
What continued to surprise me was Turok’s level structure. Unlike traditional games of the era, when loading the next level was compulsory, whereas Turok’s level structure and transition are seamless. You jump from one level to the next via hub portals streamlines Turok’s gameplay so that the sometimes necessary backtracking isn’t a chore. Keys are scattered throughout 7 of its 8 levels for the player to find, and that’s their main objective. However, level keys on offer unlock multiple levels so players don’t have to stick to traversing them in order. Players can transition between levels in whichever order they like, gathering firearms, ammo, and health in any order they deem fit.
And as an FPS, that’s Turok’s calling: hunting dinosaurs with ever increasing firepower. From the trusty bow to the impeccable and destructive chronoscepter, a weapon so lethal it can tear the final boss apart in only two hits, Turok has an expansive arsenal for you to play with. Even with the right equipment, bosses can pack a massive punch that will deplete your lives and ultimately result in a game over. That means if a player forgets to save, countless hours can be lost in one blow, but this only really becomes a problem on the higher difficulties. If players are fortunate to have not found an in-game save point, or simply forgot to save, then they could lose hours of progress. Though, it shouldn’t be much of a problem unless you’re playing on the highest difficulty setting.
There’s one fatal mistake in Turok’s moment-to-moment gameplay, and that’s the constant respawning of enemies. It’s common that clearing an area in an FPS usually results in progression—in fact it’s usually the main objective. But Turok isn’t your average FPS.. Enemies will constantly repopulate already visited areas and stand in the way of those backtracking for additional items. There’s absolutely no harm in it as it keeps the levels lively, but with ammo conservation being key in Turok players will suffer what can only be described as The Great Ammo Famine. And when that crop has been culled, you’ll be left swinging nothing but your ineffective knife.
And of course we can’t wrap up without mentioning what is most likely to draw people’s attention to Turok, and that’s its HD upscale. Like a fossil preserved through time, Turok is very much the same as it was 21 years ago. The environments still look rather flat with basic geometry making up most of the levels. Turok’s gleam doesn’t show until you get into the more detailed environments like the subterranean catacombs full of decorative carvings and vestige of the Lost Lands. The last boss’ flagship is of worthy note as its high-tech machinery and futuristic decals contrasts Turok’s primitive native setting. A nice additive to Turok is the graphical options setting, something PC players are all too familiar with but console player rarely see. Players can change the bloom settings, anti-aliasing, field of view and even water refraction/reflection—the latter being beneficial to tweak as the water reflective surface is very 1:1, meaning it’s hard to see what in the water and how deep it goes. As I said before, this isn’t something superb or extremely noteworthy to those that play PC games, but it’s a nice addition to us console folk.
While Turok does hold a weighty and rooted place in my heart, it most certainly won’t be to everyone’s liking. Turok’s simplistic run-and-gun nature with its open-ended level structure make Turok a causal entry in the FPS genre, but Turok still stands tall as a hallmark of its time, one that nobody should miss out on.