And if there’s one area where Touchstone has got the spirit of the series right, it’s in the weaponry. You’ve got your traditional shotguns, SMGs, sniper rifles, rocket launchers and pulse rifles if you want them, but early on the game introduces the knife, the bow and those cool explosive arrows as fundamental tools of the Turok trade. Better still, most weapons have a useful secondary fire option. The shotgun, for example, fires a handy dinosaur-attracting flare, the minigun can be set up as a sentry gun, while the pulse rifle doubles as a plasma grenade launcher. You can also dual-wield smaller weapons.
But here’s the problem: the actual gameplay is sort of schizophrenic. On the one hand, Turok wants to dish out the classic dino-hunting action we expect. On the other, it wants to be a gritty, military sci-fi shooter too. Unfortunately, when it is a gritty, military sci-fi shooter, it’s not a very good one. The pace is all over the place. The various military facilities are bland, poorly textured and uninteresting. Your human enemies are dull, with little to distinguish one troop or unit from the next. Their AI is only rudimentary AI. Annoyingly, what they lack in intelligence they make up for in armour, aim and firepower, meaning that you spend more time than you’d like whittling away at basic troops and recovering health that’s been wrecked by excessive enemy bombardment. The gunplay just doesn’t flow like good gunplay should. After Gears, CoD4 and F.E.A.R. this sort of combat no longer passes muster. In fact, even Sierra’s recent B-game TimeShift does it better.
When the game pours on the dinosaurs – or mixes them in with the gunplay – everything improves. You can enjoy yourself by setting soldiers against dinos or even dinos against dinos, then coming in to mop up what’s left. While the over-large lizards aren’t exactly smart themselves – it’s a pitiful sight to see certain species running around in circles when they’ve yet to pick up your scent – at least they have ferocity on their side, and at various points you will find them circling you or knocking you off balance. At times the game shows the same joy as Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake in delighting you with new and strange monstrosities, including some of the finest giant scorpions of any game in ages. Basically, the more dinos or bigger dinos on screen, the better the game becomes.
Yet even in the dino hunting the game makes basic errors. I like the fact that it can be tough to draw a bead on the toothsome beasties, and it’s only right that there should be moments of surprise and panic when you’re caught unawares. However, the use of quick-time event sequences is almost unforgivable, while the fact that many dinos are best dispatched with the knife makes the whole thing feel slightly ridiculous. The first time you equip the knife and press the right trigger as a raptor attacks is pretty cool, with the game moving quickly to a third-person cut scene as Turok side-steps the monster’s lunge and plunges the knife through its skull. When you’re dispatching five or six of the beasts in a row, it all gets repetitive and silly.