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Turok: Evolution (Xbox) artwork

Turok: Evolution (Xbox) review

"The original Turok was amazing to me, especially as I had been a console-only gamer up to that point. The wedding of fast, fluid, non-linear FPS action with well-conceived levels struck me as a great and original formula at the time, and on that basic level I consider it superior to the almost universally-praised Goldeneye. Taking a trip back to my sleek, black Nintendo 64 confirms that Turok the Dinosaur Hunter stands the test of time as well. "

The original Turok was amazing to me, especially as I had been a console-only gamer up to that point. The wedding of fast, fluid, non-linear FPS action with well-conceived levels struck me as a great and original formula at the time, and on that basic level I consider it superior to the almost universally-praised Goldeneye. Taking a trip back to my sleek, black Nintendo 64 confirms that Turok the Dinosaur Hunter stands the test of time as well.

So, considering that this is Acclaim we’re talking about, it is a matter of course that the series be bastardized and cheapened gradually over the years, leading us eventually to the disappointment that is Turok: Evolution. I should have suspected it when I noticed that Maxim magazine was one of the critics quoted on the box. My sensibilities were rousted when I saw the “Get Your Game On With Acclaim!” registration card. But I must admit that I wasn’t fully prepared for a bad Turok game. That it was mediocre I had surmised, but I at least expected it to be worth the lowered price of twenty bucks. Sadly, this was not the case.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Turok: Evolution controls just like every other console FPS in the universe, and it does this well. Smashing some lemur monkeys and deer at the outset of the first level is a nice warm-up and a breeze, and anyone familiar with dual-analog FPS controls should have no problem moving about in Turok’s world. The first few enemies can be dispatched of pretty easily as well, but after that things start to go awry.

The enemies in Turok: Evolution are great shots to say the least. In fact, they are often able to shoot you even if they aren’t in your line of sight, right through a wall. Add to this the fact that almost every pixel on the screen is some shade of green for the first several levels, and you have a battle with phantom enemies that can get quite frustrating. You, however, the Indian guy whose name I can’t be bothered to look up, are a terrible shot. There is no auto-aim (like there was in Halo, for example), so you feel the effects of not having a mouse and keyboard pretty heavily. Oh, and our muscular and poorly designed Native American hero can’t fall five feet without taking damage. I know obese people who can jump farther than he does without breaking their legs and having to go back to the start of the level (not that I know what level broken-legged obese people would go back to the start of). The best way to sum up the action of the first chunk of the game is: “hopelessly outnumbered, constantly retreating”.

All of this is soon broken up by one of the many on-rails shooter segments thrown into the game for whatever reason. Although controlling your flying dinosaur in these segments is not very pick-up-and-play, it’s actually quite a fair challenge once you get used to it (think Pilotwings). These short and basically mindless portions of the game are all that allowed me to keep my sanity while trudging through Turok: Evolution. After flying through a canyon or valley and fighting opposing air forces with some twin blasters and missiles, you’re generally given a free 360 task such as a boss ship or some ground targets to destroy. While not noteworthy by any measure in and of itself, the flying aspect of Turok: Evolution outshines the main game by a long shot.

So once you get back into the next bout of first person action, the question that jabs you in the ribs is, “Should I go on?” More linear, grassy stages filled with phantom snipers is unappealing to say the least. All the way to the final showdown, the good points are consistently punched in the face by the overwhelming tediousness and unimaginative, linear gameplay. I’m very sure I would have not continued on to even the second third of the game had I not planned to review it.

There are more points to cover in this game to be sure. The plot, characters, and dialogue have a “talented seven year old” feel to them, the levels are as linear as a tightrope, the physics engine is terribly glitchy, the enemies all look the same with about three variations to speak of, blah blah blah--I’ve got a page full of notes. But drawing all of this out is meaningless when the core action of the game is as flawed as it is here. There’s really nothing to enjoy from the start, and nothing to keep you in for the ride to see all of the other crappyness. Turok: Evolution is just… fundamentally bad.

The graphics aren’t up to Xbox standards either. The character models are designed and detailed marginally well, but they’re animated like stick puppets. The flat grass on all sides of you in the green levels is terribly low-res, looking almost N64-ish at times. There is pop-up of items about 15 feet away! The lip-synch is always totally off. The shadows under enemies flicker. The frame-rate needs to switch to decaf. Forgive the exasperated list in place of proper writing. Suffice to say these are the kind of graphics that look good as single frames, but fall apart in motion.

The audio is one area where Turok: Evolution doesn’t falter so badly. The less-is-more tribal drums that make up a good deal of the soundtrack are very subtle but effective, and the sounds of wild-life all around you goes together with it perfectly. From the twang of the bow to the shwwwwk of the ill-conceived super-duper laser death cannon, the weapons all sound pristinely sonically forged. A couple of downsides worth noting are the overacting on the part of the voice actors and the amateur use of the stereo sound channels (something in the middle and slightly to the left will be heard almost only from the left speaker). But when you go to punish Acclaim Austin for their sin in creating this game, you might be safe to let the audio guys roam free to pursue other work somewhere. Their contributions to this game are certainly not as contaminating as those of the more important contributors.

Turok: Evolution doesn’t make sense on any level. Save the flying segments, the entertainment value contained on the DVD is theoretical at best, and subjective to a player’s tastes to be sure. I enjoyed smashing some lemur monkeys and other helpless wildlife in a cheap way, but from that point it got really disappointing really fast. The series has hit its low point, and only hopeless dinosaur junkies should consider this game as a serious purchase.

richorosai's avatar
Community review by richorosai (March 22, 2003)

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