Dinosaurs have always held their fair share of public interest. When the first dinosaur remains popped up around the start of the 20th century, humans were fascinated with them simply because it was not comprehendible at the time that there was once a species much more dominant than humans. This public interest led to a vast amount of research into these behemoths that once roamed the Earth. As this research continued, man began to learn more and more about dinosaurs. Then, like in any form of science, a pattern begin to beset itself in it’s unearthing of knowledge. Theories were formulated, those theories were elaborated upon, and as new dinosaur remains were unearthed, newer and more accurate theories and hypothesis’ were developed. Through this process, how we viewed dinosaurs began to change. Dinosaurs changed from large, lumbering lizards to quick and limber mammals.
When this information was published to the public, entertainment industries began to pick up on dinosaurs clashing with humans as a basis for their creations. Soon, movie audiences began seeing films like Godzilla, where cheesy clay figures and cardboard boxes were made to look like giant dinosaurs rampaging through cities. Books were also released using the “Man Vs. Big Lizard” idea. Michael Crichton’s famous novel Jurassic Park involved a plot where a cloning experiment gone astray led to a desperate fight for survival for several unlucky people trapped in the cloning grounds.
Like these other industries, video games have also seen their fair share of dinosaur killing sprees, one of the most famous being the Turok series. Being released on New Year’s Day 1997, the N64’s inaugural first-person shooter wowed many with its awesome graphics (for the time) and even better gameplay. The game was so well received, that it resulted in three sequels and a couple of handheld spin-offs. Now, hoping for the same success they received with the N64 Turok games, Acclaim has released their newest installment in the Turok franchise, Turok: Evolution, on not only Nintendo’s Gamecube, but also the PS2 and Xbox (the Xbox version being the one reviewed in this article.)
The Turok games have never been known for their plots, and while Turok: Evolution’s plot is a little better than the other games in the series, it certainly isn’t going to give Hideo Kojima a run for his money. TE’s plot follows a young Native American man by the name of Tal’Set, leader of the Saquin nation. Unfortunately for Tal’Set, the Saquin have fallen on hard times as their way of life is being threatened by Captain Buckner, a general of some type out to end the Saquin. All of this eventually leads to a war between Captain Buckner’s men and the Saquin, during which Tal’Set is mysteriously transported to Lost Land, a different world where dinosaurs are sophisticated and use weaponry along with their size as weapons.
Despite a somewhat interesting idea, Acclaim doesn’t develop upon the game’s storyline to any great extent. The cut-scenes are short, and not very informative. The plot has many holes, and takes many twists that really do not make sense. In the end, the plot just ends up being one jumbled mess, and does not end up helping TE in any shape or form. Video games don’t need stellar plots though, as many games before TE have proven that you don’t need a great plot to make a great game. One area though that a game absolutely cannot lack in is gameplay. TE delivers in this department to some extent, as the game’s FPS levels are superb, although it’s new inclusion of air fighting levels (atop a flying dinosaur nonetheless) leave something to be desired.
First off, the FPS levels are great. Though not truly revolutionary like Halo, Acclaim does show that after five or so Turok games, it has learned how to make some solid FPS gameplay. The game keeps good pacing, finding a nice balance between sneaking around the game’s lush forest environments and having all out wars with oversized carnivores. Acclaim has also done a solid job at making good auto-aim and manual aiming features, as both work well within the game’s environments.
The guns you’ll be aiming too are very well designed. Acclaim has always added a bit of a primitive flair to their gun types in the Turok games, and TE is no different. As such, Tal’Set is able to use weapons like the bow and arrow, where the weapon is not lethal but the ammo can be accumulated again after it has been fired, making it very useful when ammo is low. The game also has its normal weapons (handguns, sniper rifles) along with a few hi-tech and fairly imaginative weapons. The Spider Mine for example, is a mine that allows you to either lure your enemies with friendly noises, release a deadly gas, or just blow them up into smithereens. Weapons like this are plentiful, and when mixed with the other rather rudimentary weapons makes for a good weapons list, adding flourish to the game that is well appreciated.
Combing these guns with the game’s stellar FPS action makes for some fun gameplay, which is even better when experienced with some friends. TE features a whopping twelve different multiplayer modes, including the normal ones (Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, etc.) and a few other weird, yet innovative ones (anyone up for a game of Pass the Monkey?) These modes are good, although many of the game’s modes are just variations of other ones. Another downer is the fact that there is no LAN play available, which is really too bad, because TE could of really benefited from some LAN multiplayer modes.
Aside from the FPS levels, Acclaim has also tried to liven things up a bit by adding flying levels into the game. In these levels, Tal’Set hopes on the back of a flying dinosaur to glide across the skies of Lost Land. Unfortunately, these levels are what really drag TE down. It’s not that they’re terribly bad, it’s just that they aren’t on par with the game’s much better FPS levels. For one thing, the flying levels seem pretty bland at times, as a lack of enemies and difficult objectives just make for a rather dull experience. While I’m sure this kind of methodic gameplay is good for people with heart conditions, those of us who want to play Turok: Evolution for the pulse-pounding gameplay will not like these levels.
Actually, I take that back, the flying levels would not be good for people with heart problems. Why? Because when you are flying your dinosaur around the levels, your dinosaur will constantly blow up when you hit some of the level’s terrain, even if you just barely graze it. This becomes extremely annoying, seeing that some of the flying levels are very long, thus making it nearly impossible to make it through the entire level without dying. Considering the monotony of these levels, it would have been nice had the flying levels been nothing but a side note in TE, but instead you are forced to complete flying levels constantly throughout the game. This quickly becomes annoying, as many times you will finish an enthralling FPS level, only to be greeted with four mediocre flying levels before you can play the next FPS level.
Turok on the N64 was always very linear in design, and such is the case here. This linear design will seem good to the FPS purists who prefer straightforward mayhem to exploring, but gamers hoping for wide open areas similar to Halo will be sorely disappointed. Not making it wide open somewhat symbolizes that Acclaim didn’t take advantage of the Xbox hardware. The same holds true with the game’s graphics. The game does fix up the draw-in and pop-up problems that the PS2 version was loaded with, and does keep a steady frame rate through the game as well. The problem it has is that the graphics really aren’t anything spectacular. Sure, there is a cool grass effect here and there, but as a whole, nothing in TE is really amazing.
The music, on the other hand, is above average. The game’s orchestrated music is put together masterfully, as the game’s music design team did a great job of meshing string and brass instruments with African drums and such, to give the game a jungle feel. The music also does a good job of keeping with the pace of the game; staying low-key during the times when you’re just sneaking around and picking up quickly when you’re in battle with an enemy. The sound effects are also of high quality. Each sound effect is well timed with the action happening onscreen, and everything from the bang of a handgun going off to the desperate squeal of a dinosaur before it dies sounds remarkably good.
When it all comes down to it, Turok: Evolution could have been better. Though the FPS levels are solid in design, the game’s mediocre flying levels constantly get in the way of what is good about the game. If you’re a fan of first-person shooters, you should go ahead and buy Turok: Evolution. For everyone else though, you might want to rent before you buy.