Turok is a meathead of a game - simple, violent, stupendously masculine and utterly predictable. Like a Sylvester Stallone movie franchise, the old Red Indian dinosaur hunter has been brought back from a simpler and earlier time, probably because someone couldnít think of anything better or just maybe because next generation technology can finally do dinosaurs some graphical justice.
Indeed I like to think itís the latter. Turok may be a Ďby the numbersí multiformat first person shooter based on the increasingly tiresome Unreal III engine, but it does have a certain no-nonsense swagger and B movie appeal that fans of the genre may appreciate. Sure, we have a large Halo-like dose of crash landing space marine science fiction. We have recognisable stock weapons such as shot guns, plasma rifles, sniper rifles and even a bit of dual wielding. And naturally we have standard growling voiceovers, linear checkpoint levels and simple puzzles and fetch quests. But we also have something eternally enjoyable and still fairly underused in games. TREBLE DíS. No fellas, not lovely huge boobies, but
Decently Drawn Dinos.
It does make a difference. And when you realise that these scaly and glistening monsters are hidden about some convincingly designed alien forests ready to spring and chomp your throat out, you know that your afternoonís gaming will not be entirely unenjoyable. Now donít get me wrong, Turok is no visual powerhouse. The graphics vary from some quite detailed distance geometry to jaggy and bland textures close up. And there are some distinct moments of slowdown and texture pop up, on this PS3 version at least. But some thought and work has gone into crucial areas so that things are not a dead loss.
First of all, the Dinosaurs all look like reptilian muscle and blood. They move convincingly, feel weighty and twitch mortally when they die. Thereís a huge screen-shaking T-Rex, smaller vicious raptors, head butting herbivores and some rather nasty and agile tree climbers to frag. Secondly the jungle looks convincing. Sure, the lighting may be a bit flat, but the dank pools of water, dense murky trees, rough ledges, swaying grassland and mangroves all provide a believable and adventurous atmosphere. Other locations such as generic caves and bland buildings are disappointing yet with that they are unfussy, believable and get the job done. The quick camera switching to a third person finishing move with the knife provides a nice savage edge and makes you believe in a man called Turok.
There is a human back story to the game to keep things ticking along and as you would expect, itís full of attitude, intrigue and square jawed characters with obvious macho names like Kane and Slade. And because Turok ends up fighting both a human resistance and a reptile one, combat remains fairly fresh and thoughtful, what with the speed and ferocity of the lizards and the cover using tactics of enemy soldiers. Although I have heard it criticised, the power of the knife and the bow provides an interesting balance. They are tremendously powerful and satisfying against most dinos, but then there are occasions where you are swamped by them from different angles and the need to pull off well timed finishing moves is a necessity to survive as a reliance on guns gets you killed.
Quick switching to military ordinance is required for the more distance based fire fights against your human foes, and itís this constant change of tack that keeps things enjoyable and interesting during the linear exploration of the game when otherwise it would be left to die as a no-hoper. There is something I have noticed about using the sixaxis springy triggers in games where tension is emulated, such as a car accelerator or, as in this instance a bow and arrow, that feels really satisfying and it certainly makes using Turokís signature weapon highly enjoyable. In fact the game does play pretty well all round with the controller although the looser sixaxis analogue sticks suffer somewhat when trying to pick out the tinier figures against muddled backgrounds in the distance.
All in all, for PS3 owners this is not as polished a piece of sci-fi as Resistance: Fall of Man. Nor is it as cinematic or clever as Call of Duty 4 or The Orange Box. But for fans of shooters who have already gobbled those up and adore dinosaurs and outright machismo itís really not as bad as you might think. The choice of good first person shooters on the PS3 is still a trifle limited and with leviathans like Killzone 2 and Resistance 2 being some months away it could tie up any wannabee space cadet reptile ripper quite nicely.