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Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

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Reviewed by Peter Morris First, let me just state that if you're looking for a Doom or Quake clone, don't buy this game. It is much more than that. If you're looking for an adventure game or anything with character interaction, don't buy this game. It isn't that at all. If you're looking for a game with deathmatch capability, don't buy this game. It doesn't have it. What Turok does have, however, is a very immersive feel, a sense of almost being there, a sense of the game being in the room with you. The programmers at Iguana have done an outstanding job in accomplishing this, and they have done it through attention to detail, a tried and true method of making great games that has been used throughout gaming history. I will be taking a look at four crucial aspects of this game in order of importance: gameplay, control, graphics, and sound. The gameplay in Turok seems fairly straightforward: run, jump, shoot, climb, dive to reach your objectives. However, upon playing the game (all weekend, as it turns out) I found that it's not just a simple blast fest. The plot is also straightforward. You must find the keys to the successive levels in the levels you are currently playing. Level one contains 6 keys (three for each of the next two levels), and is perhaps the most frustrating, because if you miss a key, it is painful to backtrack and find it. I am speaking from experience, because I spent about two hours Friday night looking for one of the keys to level 2. It turns out it was in plain sight. From level one you access the hub, which in turn accesses the other seven levels. The levels in Turok are enormous. I had my doubts when the interviews were published, but those were soon qualmed as I wandered about level 1. It's really hard to imagine how huge they are until you actually play it. Huge as they are, you can't just run through them. If you do, you'll find yourself getting ripped apart by various gunfire and teeth. The key to this game is to play it like a hunter (hence the name). When you hear something off in the distance, sneak up on it, then kill it. Of course, it may reappear, as enemies have an extremely bad habit of doing this. However, I think most people will find that only certain enemies reappear infinitely, while the majority reappear once or twice, or at the most three times. The enemies aren't too incredibly diverse, but they tend to die in interesting ways. There are several different 'death acts' for each enemy character, from simply falling over to more melodramatic sequences in which they bleed to death. To me, this adds a great deal to the game as you can always count on somebody dying differently each time you play. There is a lot of extra stuff in Turok. While the map generally displays everything, it appears at first that you can't reach everything. There are hidden areas, though, that don't show up on the map that may lead to some goody which is sorely needed. There are also these blue temporal disturbance looking things which randomly appear. If you can get to it, it will take you to a bonus level full of those little coin things (100 and you get an extra life) and sometimes an ultra health or backpack or something. Also in scattered throughout the game are pieces of the chronosceptor, some funky gadget that must do something cool. Ammo is generally in corners, behind plants, or deep in a cave. There is plenty of ammo, which is good, as enemies tend to not drop too much in the way of tons of ammo. Weapons are not always easy to get to. A minigun is hidden deep within a cave in level 2, but I haven't figured out how to get to it yet. I can also see the grenade launcher and plasma rifle in level 4, but I can't get to them, either. I say this to emphasize the importance of searching the entire level throroughly, so as not to miss anything. Otherwise you may find yourself wandering around with low ammo levels, low health, and no armor. You may also miss the keys and weapons the first time around, which isn't bad, since you may access a level more than once, but I wouldn't want to try and take out the later enemies without the minigun or pulse rifle. Replayability in Turok may be somewhat limited. I'm playing it on easy, and it's taking a while (by my standards) to get through the game. When I finish it on Easy, I'll go through normal and hard. Without deathmatch, a game like this is hard to play over and over. However, if you find something you have never seen before, which can easily happen, that may help. Also there are cheat codes that appear when you do something spectacular. Currently I have found the infinite lives cheat, which seems to appear if you collect more than nine lives. There are several other cheats, and may add life to the game. I currently am on level 4, and have access to level 5. At my current pace (I can play more on the weekends than I can during the week), I think by the end of the week I'll be at level 8, possibly being able to finish it on easy sometime after that. This is a rough estimate. Turok is a surpising game, and difficulties may arise that simply take time and practice to complete successfully, which brings me to another important feature: the saves. Saving in Turok is a little different. First off, you need a memory card to save. Otherwise when you die you have no choice but to start at one of the checkpoints. I hate this, though, and prefer to have all my stuff (you lose the backpack if you die). In each level there are one or two save points, fairly strategically placed so as to plop you back in the middle of everything quick should you die and choose to reload. I prefer this method of playing, even though it means I have to do the same things over and over. It gives me practice and gives me the opportunity to explore different areas separately, should I go down a path that is too hard at first. Overall I would say the gameplay in Turok is pretty solid for its genre. There's enough stuff to do so that you don't just run through the levels, but it's not so mind boggling that you'll sit for hours perplexed at what to do. Oh yeah, and I forgot to tell you that shooting the deer and warthog is great fun!! (Try it with arrows). The control in Turok is unique, to say the least. I warn you, though, it takes time to get used to it. Using the analog stick to look around and aim is brilliant, and making the horizontal and vertical controls adjustable really helps out. I found the default settings a little too touchy, and it was great to be able to make them less sensitive. Exploring is a whole lot easier by using the stick to look around. It is so easy to do. I remember the pain of using the insert and delete keys in Duke 3D to look up and down, and thought this rather cumbersome and annoying. Turok's control makes this method look archaic. I reiterate, it is so easy to control Turok that after a few hours I became an expert marksman in the game. Some people expressed worry that it would be unnatural for right-handers to use the z-button for firing. I find this to be nonsense. I'm right handed and I have no problems at all. It's all in your mind. If you convince yourself that you can't play it this way, then you won't be able to. And if switching weapons is weird enough the right way, I can only imagine how weird it would be the left way. Jumping is very similar to other games where you jump. You run, you jump, you land on the platforms. It's pretty simple. It does help, though to use the map when jumping from small platform to small platform. This allows you to see exactly where you're jumping and when to stop, so you don't fall off. Overall control in Turok is excellent, with only the map button being a bit out of the way. Graphics. Traditionally important, I have always felt that gameplay was more important (remember Out of this World?). In the case of Turok, though, I'll make an exception. The graphics rank right up there with the gameplay, and they really add to the overall feel of the game. Most of the plants and trees aren't just simple textures. They're bent and distorted polygons, or something. Go stand in one, and you'll see what I mean. It really makes the game more real. There are vines, spider webs, waterfalls, rocks, lava, fire, everything! I mean, duh, the graphics for the levels and enemies are fantastic; I expected that. But the attention to detail is so above anything else previously done that it will hopefully set a standard for this type of game. Let me give you some examples. Not all the water is calm. Some of it has wave action, a very simple form compared to Wave Race, yes, but it is still amazing nonetheless. There are ripples when you shoot into the water. When you hit an enemy in the water, blood spots pool on the surface, then dissipate. Bubbles rise to the surface of some of the lakes. At waterfalls, bubbles float away from them for a ways before poppins. At the entrances to some of the caves, there are cobwebs blowing in the breeze. Inside some caves there are dripping water spots. When you look up, there is that weird camera effect when you cross the sun, or whatever it is. When you shoot someone, a blood stain appears on the wall behind them. This was a little over done, though, as these blood stains sometimes appear on walls that are much too far away. Unless, of course, all the enemies are just real gushers and have some serious pressure in their bloodstreams. Then there is, of course, the nefarious fog. You've heard about it. You've seen the Quicktimes. And now that I've played in it, I can tell you that yes, it can be annoying. BUT... it is necessary for the mood of the game. Turok is in a misty jungle atmosphere. Everywhere else he goes is either a cave or underwater. There are areas where yes, the fog just doesn't need to be. It would help to be able to see further. But remember, the fog hides you as well as your enemies. They can't hit what they can't see. If you can escape far enough out of view, they'll leave you alone. Navigating due to the fog is difficult, but by making clever use of the map, you can easily make your way through the majority of Turok. It even helps in discovering some of the secret areas. Underwater the fog effect is truly justified. Have you ever sat in a large pool and tried to look to the other end? You can't. There is a fog that prevents you from seeing so far. Turok is the same way, and when diving deep, it not only has the fog effect, but it gets darker the deeper you go. Very, very cool indeed. One of the few complaints I have is that the blood could've been done better. As it is it's just large blobs that emanate from enemies when they're hit. It's alright, and it gets the job done, but it's not what I expected. Overall graphics are excellent. Attention to detail is incredible, and really adds to the feel and mood of the game. The fog gets annoying at times, but generally justifies its existence in most areas. OK, I have a secret: this game is creepy. Grab your tuner, plug it up and don't even think about that piddly TV sound, even if it's a stereo TV. Turok was meant to be heard on a big system. Turn out the lights and draw the blinds. You might even want to turn the brightness on your TV down. This game is an experience. Sound is everywhere. The music gets the job done, but my advice is to go to options and turn it down so it's just in the background. You've got jungle noises: catcalls, birds, insects, frogs, monkeys, and something really, really huge that I hope I never see. There's lava sounds, fire sounds, water sounds, wind sounds, and the sound that those blue portals make. You've got weapons sounds; sounds of the enemies running around; sounds of them screaming in pain as you kill them; sounds of them reappearing. You've got cave sounds: drips, drops, things hopping around, critter crawl sounds, that echoing sound that everyone loves to use, and the sound of someone screaming in a lot of pain. I swear, the first time I heard that it really freaked me out. Things got a whole lot eerier after that. You've also got the standard rumbling fair whenever large objects move (i.e. when walls slide down). This may seem silly, but this game can send chills down my spine. I've been playing games for 15 years, and only a select handful (perhaps three) have acheived this effect. Overall sound is excellent. Music is decent, but then I never buy games for music. That's what bands are for. Very creepy, very moody. If you don't have a good stereo, this is the perfect excuse to buy one. Again, I totally disagree with NG Online's pathetic excuse for a review of this game. Either they didn't have the mood right, or they didn't have the sound on, or something. But their review is just plain retarded. There's no other words for it. This really isn't my favorite genre, and I love this game. I wasn't even going to buy it until I heard you could trade in a game and get half off. And lucky me. Someone gave me MKT: box, instructions, and all for free (I love rich Japanese students!!). So I think my opinion is a pretty unbiased one here. If I had rented it, I would have bought it. Despite its annoyances, I really enjoyed Alien Trilogy for the PS. It was creepy, dark and had all those eerie sounds in it. But it basically bit the big one because the bullets travelled all of ten mph. Turok maintains this creepiness and perfects everything else. No, it's not a blast fest. No, it's not an interactive adventure. What it is, though, is a game where you are on the hunt (or sometimes being hunted) and the sense of being there, compared to Doom or even Quake, is so far advanced and above that it will really blow your mind. Bottomline: if you like 3D shooters, you'll love Turok. OK, so my ratings will seem weird here. I like the percentile ranking, and what this represents is the percentage of next-generation games that I think Turok excels over. For example, I think that Turok controls better than 95% of the next-generation games out there. The annoyance factor is something that I use to balance my score out. It is a factor (0.01 to 0.99) that I multiply by the average percentile, then subract that product from the average, and I get the overall score.

Gameplay: 90% Controls: 95% Graphics: 94% Sounds: 96% Music: 83% Annoyance factor (fog, constant reappearing of enemies, distant save points, etc): 0.05 (compared to 0.21 for Alien Trilogy's glaring faults). Average: 91.6% Overall: 87.0%

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