Review: Turok (Sony PS3)

Turok
Publisher:
Developer: Propaganda Studios
Genre: First Person Shooter
Release Date 2/5/2008

Ah Turok, what a strange and wonderful legacy you lead. Originally a character from my youth and those awesome Gold Key comics along with Solar: man of the Atom, and Magnus: Robot Hunter (although he belong to another publisher before then called Dell Comics), he came into prominence with the Valiant Age of comics. Man I loved Valiant. Turok went from being a Native American trapped in a valley of dinosaurs into a Native American stuck in a strange time loop where his arch-enemy created cyborg dinosaurs to help her with her wacky plans.

Then of course Acclaim purchased Valiant and screwed everything up with their typical style.

Well, that’s not exactly true. Acclaim did manage to take their version of Turok (written by Fabian Nicieza) and turned it into a very successful and well made video game developed by Iguana Entertainment. It remains one of the most beloved and respected first person shooters ever. It was considered the 1997 FPS of the year, and Iguana followed it up with another well made game, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, or Violence Killer Turok: New Generation as it was called in Japan.

THEN everything went to hell. Acclaim decided to develop Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion themselves, and it was god awful. It was critically panned and fans of the previous Turok games hated T3 as much as they loved the first two. Of course Acclaim decided to repeat their mistake and release a fourth Turok Game, Turok: Evolution for the PS2 and Xbox, and Game Cube. There was also an awful Turok: Rage Wars game that was Acclaim’s attempt at copying the success of the Unreal Tournament games. That failed too.

It was even worse. Two years later, Acclaim went bankrupt, and the rights to Turok went to Random House.

It’s been five and a half years since a Turok game was last released, but now two companies, Propaganda Studios (developer) and Touchstone Studios (Publisher) have released their first ever video game in Turok. Does the game revive the franchise and remind us of its better days, or does it instead remind us exactly why the Turok games needed to be shelved in the first place?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Wow. This is awful. Really awful. I realize Touchstone is used to publishing really bad films like Ernest Saves Christmas, Corky Romano, but really did you guys have to give us a plot that made people go, “Well compared to Turok, those films aren’t half bad!”?

Every cliche and bad action movie mainstay is in this game, without any attempt to make the story anything more than a poorly stitched together Frankenstein’s monster of all the things people tend to hate about summer blockbuster films.

You play as Joe Turok, a brand new character not in any way connected to the other Turok characters. Also, you’re now in Space. This Turok is set far into the future and your protagonist is a member of the Whisky Company. It’s a group of commandos/military/bounty hunters/whatever (the game never actually says) who is trying to take out a group of interstellar terrorists. It turns out that the leader of this evil group is one Roland Kane, who was once Turok’s boss in the Wolf Pack, another group of guys with guns who are never developed or described past a shallow backstory set of flash backs here and there.

What’s that? Turok is supposed to be about dinosaur killing and we haven’t gotten to any dinosaurs yet? Oh well that comes after your ship is shot down by the terrorists and you land on a planet filled with ALIEN DINOSAURS. So Turok and a few of his friends that survive the crash end up having to wade through this planet’s jungle, killing dinosaurs and people while trying to get off the planet.

That is about as substance filled as the plot gets. No characters are developed beyond a two-dimensional personality. The game is exceptionally linear and dull, and as mentioned earlier, you have every cliché possible, from “You killed my brother!” to a barely developed relationship between Turok and Kane. It’s awful.

It’s rare that I walk away from a game thinking my intelligence has been insulted, but I damn well did here. Any story bits feel like they were tacked on after the fact. Wooded dialogue, a lack of substance behind any aspect of the plot, and totally unlikable characters just leaves you wishing they hadn’t even tried to include a story piecing the slaughtering together.

Story Rating: 2/10

2. Graphics

I’m sorry, is this supposed to be a next generation game? Holy crap was this ugly. I’ll come right out and say the original Turok looked better. You know, the Nintendo 64 game? Let’s make a laundry list of what is wrong this game: horrible texturing, character designs that are Liefield-esque, water that looks like it was made in a high school graphics class as it doesn’t move or ripple or anything (Seriously, I’ve seen better water effects on the GBA), massive lighting and shading issues, no blood even when you shoot 8 rounds of shotgun shells into a Raptor’s head at point blank range, background graphics blurring and sometimes disappearing altogether, and amazingly bland visuals all around. This game is ugly pure and simple. There is literally NOTHING this game does right visually, and certainly nothing that couldn’t have been done a console generation ago.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the dinosaurs, the humans, the space ships, or just rocks and boxes lying around, this game looks like it was put together for the first year of PS2 or Xbox development, not the beginning of the second year of the PS3’s life. When you can sit there and notice that anything from cave walls to guns you are carrying look half-finished, it makes you wonder how this thing passed quality control in the first place. Bad first impression Propaganda. If it wasn’t for the amusing Bowie Knife kill cinematics you can get, this would be a total wash.

Graphics Rating: 4/10

3. Sound

This has a pretty interesting cast list on the surface. Ron Perlman, Powers Booth, and Don Wahlberg and pretty good actors. In Turok though? They’re phoning it in for a paycheck. I can’t count how many times my friends and I laughed at the monotone delivery in this game. Of course, considering how bad the scripting was, it was probably all any of them could do to keep from laughing.

Sound effects are oddly missing at times. No wind, no water trickling, no real noise at all. Except when the occasional dinosaur leaps at you from a place they didn’t exist in a second before. Which brings me to another point – why don’t the dinosaurs make noise when they walk? If Jurassic Park taught us anything, it’s then you’d hear large dinos moving.

There’s not a lot of music in the game, but what’s here is pretty good. I actually like the lack of music in the game for two reasons. The first is the lack of a lot of sound effects, and the second is in make the “Holy crap!” factor rise when a dinosaur comes out of nowhere and you have to jiggle your controller to keep it from eating your neck.

The noises the dinosaurs make are okay. Nothing fancy, but again, I’m glad they make them so that you have some idea where they are.

This is probably the area Turok does best in, but even then when there the game is obviously lacking things and the actors you paid a ton of money aren’t even trying well…the best I can say here is that it’s passable.

Sound Rating: 5/10

4. Control and Gameplay

My god, is this game a train wreck or what? There are so many problems with the controls it’s not even funny. At first I was like “Yay! I can have dual shotguns”> but then the problems started mounting. Switching weapons involves the D pad and it’s a bit annoying. Up is for your bow, which is pretty useless sadly. Down is for your knife, which really is the best weapon in the game. Right and left shuttles you between gun options. You can only carry two guns at a time throughout the game, but you can dual wield depending on the size of the gun. Dual wielding is fun at first, with the triggers on each side of your controller acting as your commands for each gun. There’s a problem though. When you are wielding two guns, you can’t use the functions that are normally there, such as grenade lobbing or the zoom effect. Gernades I can understands. Your hands are full. But to have the ZOOM button be the same as a gun trigger? That’s just stupid.

There’s other control issues, such as the Triangle button is your crouch button, when it should be L3 or R3. Your action button works, but the game only occasionally gives you a hint that you can use the action button. For example, when you need to climb vines, you can’t just walk up to vines and press climb. You have to walk up, then look around until the “climb” command appears on the screen. THEN you can hit the action button. Poorly done.

Gameplay itself is equally troubled. Aiming is awful and amazingly sensitive. There’s also either a distinct lack of collision detection or walking straight up to a raptor and shooting it multiple times in the back of the head does little to no damage. At the same time, if you are wielding the knife you can one-hit KO anything in the game that isn’t a boss as long as you are standing close enough to them.

Other issues including randomly generated dinosaurs that appear from nowhere, or at least where they certainly weren’t a moment ago. When dinosaurs do get the drop on you, which is with alarming frequency after you’ve climbed something, you have to hit a random button to get free, which is a lot like Escape From Bug Island‘s horrible controls, which a friend pointed out. The fact that anyone can say “Playing this game reminds me of playing Escape From Bug Island should tell you how craptastical it is. And you know what? I’d RATHER play EFBI, because it’s so bad that it is hilarious to play. Turok on the other hand is just bad.

More issues. You don’t have a health bar, so it is impossible to tell how close you are to death save for when the edges of the screen start to glow red. Factor in the fact your character is constantly regenerating and you have a total mess.

There’s also “Objective” issues. You are told what your objective is for the next piece of the game, but it’s usually pretty vague and the only way you know you’ve accomplished this is when you get a new object. Because the goals are unclear like “Get out of the area,” and the graphics are muddled, you’re left unsure what to do and so you go through trial and error. Factor in those randomly generated dinosaurs and sparse amounts of ammo and you’re in annoyance city.

Playing Turok is a mess. A total and utter mess. I won’t deny I had fun stabbing things the first few times I did it, but even that got old fast. Checkpoints for saving are sparse which means you have to play a lot longer than you want to simply because you’re desperately looking for someplace to save. And before you ask, no…you can’t see where to save. It just happens.

There is absolutely NOTHING this game gets right in terms of control layout or gameplay mechanics. This is honestly the worse I’ve ever seen the Turok series get, and is one of the worst FPS’ I’ve ever played. Hell, this thing made me long for reviewing Chicago Enforcer. At least that had better controls. Sheesh.

It’s not unplayable, but I wish it were. It would be less painful that way.

Control and Gameplay 3/10

Replayability

Story mode is a once through. It’s linear, it’s awful, and it somehow made killing dinosaurs boring. That should not be possible, but it is in fact so.

Multiplayer mode is interesting. You can have up to 16 people take place in various battles. Not only can you do the usual deathmatch or capture the flag battles, but you still have to contend with dinosaurs on all sides. This makes the game a little more fun. From my experiences on the PS3 network though, there are few, if any, people playing Turok, and so I still have yet to get a large game going. It’s also a lot less fun that I’ve had with other multiplayer games like say, the Halo series. The maps, weapon options, and so on just are lacking to me. It is still better than story mode though.

Again, Turok feels like it’s a generation or two behind the times. Not bad considering the somewhat prehistoric setting we’re in here.

Replayability Rating: 4/10

6. Balance

There really isn’t any balance. The AI is exceptionally dumb, meaning there’s only one time you should EVER have trouble with the dinos. That’s when randomly generated ones leap out at you. That’s really sad when the only way the game can offer you a challenge in non boss mode is when it forces an automatic tackle on you.

On the flip side there are the boss battles, which are honestly some of the worst I have ever encountered in gaming. Like most boss battles there is a “trick” or something special you have to do to win. Unlike most games, there isn’t even a hint of what you have to do here. It’s just a massive crapshoot of trial and error. Most of the time, it is error. Also, that trial I talked about? It’s more “Blind fucking luck and having the perception to catch whatever you did, however slight.” Factor in those rarely occurring checkpoints, and this game manages to be either exceptionally easy, or just utterly stupid.

I hate randomly occurring battles. I hate it in my RPG’s and I certain hate it here. It’s just a way to pad the game out so the stupid will believe they are getting their money’s worth here. Not with Turok. The eight hours you will invest into this will be one of the most boring FPS’ you will ever encounter.

I realize Turok is Propaganda’s first game as a group, but I swear to Cthulhu, it feels like this was everyone’s first game EVER.

Balance Rating: 2/10

7. Originality

Yet another Turok game. Yet another plot rife with cliches that were done better in B movies. Yet another first person shooter offering absolutely nothing new or innovative to an already overcrowded genre that tends to only appeal to the lowest common denominator.

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that this game does that hasn’t been beaten to death repeatedly by other games. Oh, and done better to boot.

Originality Rating: 1/10

8. Addictiveness

I’ll admit the start of the game had me intrigued. I liked the idea of the bow and knife in addition to the guns. I liked the dual wield and the first time a dinosaur surprised me or the first time I got a one hit kill, I thought it was cool. The rest of the game? Oh man, I was playing it simply as an act of masochism. This was one of those games that was so bad, I felt I had to keep playing just so I could have the honour of being the only reviewer that is actually matching their score to the comments they wrote down. Other sites have bashed this game and then turned around to give it a 6.5 or 7. With yours truly? Oh no chuckles. This game is awful and I have NO problem giving it the low low score it deserves.

The game is fun for the first 30 minutes. Everything after that is pretty torturous, be it story mode or multiplayer.

Addictiveness Rating: 3/10

9. Appeal Factor

The stereotypical FPS fan will basically sit down and play every FPS under the sun and give it a thumb’s up. To say they are not discerning is an understatement. Yet with Turok? I have now talked to three different hardcore FPS gamers and they too agree that this game is lousy on nearly every level imaginable. That’s alarming and amusing at the same time.

Still, the thought of stabbing a T-Rex or some strange eel/octopus hybrid with a knife and doing more damaging to them than you would with a flamethrower or two shotguns have it’s “So bad it’s hilarious” aspects to it. I still feel that Turok managed to make killing dinosaurs boring and monotonous, but hey, I’m sure that the game will appeal to a portion of the FPS gamers out there, but even then the reaction from those that I know that heart this genre so very much have echoed my own thoughts. Everyone else will most likely run away screaming after even trying the demo.

Appeal Factor: 5/10

10. Miscellaneous

Here’s the thing. The game isn’t Nightmare of Druaga bad. It’s also not Wrestlemania XXI bad. You can actually PLAY Turok. It’s just very broken and has a lot of graphical, sound, and balance issues. Which means there is no reason why one should want to play it, aside from dino stabbing. This game was basically a list of “Everything Alex hates about FPS’ rolled into one buggy game.” I really wanted to like this game, but multiplayer is a mess, story mode is a mess, the graphics are a mess, the sound is…okay, but still messy in some points. I loved the original Turok, but damned if this thing didn’t make me think fondly of mediocre fare like Dementarium: The Ward. And that is SAD. This game offers nothing besides a sink hole of sixty dollars.

Miscellaneous Rating: 2/10

The Scores
Story: 2
Graphics: 4
Sound: 5
Control and Gameplay: 3
Replayability: 4
Balance: 2
Originality: 1
Addictiveness: 3
Appeal Factor: 5
Miscellaneous: 2
Total Score: 31/100
FINAL SCORE: 3.0 (BAD)

Short Attention Span Summary
Do not buy this game. This thing is currently the front runner for my worst game of 2008. You want a game where an Indian fights aliens? Get Prey It’s not very good, but it’s better than this. You want a game involving dinosaurs and space? Get Dino Crisis 3. That game is awful, but it’s still better than Turok. This game has so many issues the only people I can see defending it are the creators, big time fan boys who speak with emotion rather than critical thinking, or reviewers who received swag, ad space and money from Touchstone. This game sucks.