Turok Deserves Another Chance


The Turok franchise has been a mixed bag, and somewhat of an unsung or at least lesser-known name among shooter fans. This likely owes to its pseudo-exclusivity to the N64 for the first four installments, with only mediocre (or worse) PC ports for the first two games. This coupled with the poorly-received Turok: Evolution for the sixth-generation consoles and the gritty, boring reboot in 2008 has effectively killed the franchise.

I for one enjoy those latter games for what they are, though I will never deny their roughness and inferiority, and the 2008 reboot especially deserves most of the flak it gets – it is a fairly middling product, but I’m a sucker for competent combat mechanics, especially when I get to fight dinosaurs.

Turok reboot
Turok 2008 – the mediocrity that put the franchise in a coma

The series has been on my mind again recently due to Night Dive Studio’s release of their remaster of Turok 2: Seeds of Evil. Like their remaster of the first title, Dinosaur Hunter, in 2015, this updated version of the N64 classic ups the resolution to 1080p, allows for widescreen play and adds a host of graphical and audio options not available on the original versions or their ports. Most notable with both titles is the increase (though not removal) of view distance by dialing back the concealing fog.

While it existed partially to conceal foes from the player’s pinpoint accurate, hitscan weapons, the fog also attempted to allow the N64 to squeeze as much performance out of its hardware as possible, to mixed results. The remasters run buttery smooth on modern rigs and operating systems, and the difference is night and day to someone who has played the old games on the console. The core gameplay holds up beautifully; from the faster pace and more target-rich environments of the first game to the slightly more methodical but much bloodier and more difficult Seeds of Evil, there’s a lot to love here for FPS fans, whether you have nostalgia for the series like me or just want to check out a series you missed.

The platforming is perhaps the weakest aspect, and can be downright frustrating occasionally in the first game given the lack of quicksaving, but this doesn’t happen often enough to be a real issue, and is rectified by the quicksaving and superior climbing and jumping controls in the second game.

Playing through both of these games has caused me to revisit my fondness for the series, and try to work through why I enjoy even the lesser entries in the franchise. The 2008 generic space marine slog of a reboot nonetheless had some fun combat based around the bow and knife, and some cool creature designs, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the reason the rest of the series, for me, stands out – the setting itself.

The core concept of Turok comes from the comic series of the same name, in which a bloodline of Native American warriors inherits the titular mantle, each successive Turok becoming an inter-dimensional warrior and protector of the universe from all sorts of cosmic horrors and their armies of humans, humanoids, aliens, dinosaurs and combinations of these and more. It’s a fantastic premise and setting for a video game – a dimension-hopping brave fighting practically anything designers can dream up who is just as good with a plasma rifle or shotgun as he is with a bow and blade.

This, most assuredly, is what makes me like even the black sheep of the series, Evolution. Early levels have you fighting humanoid dinosaur soldiers in the jungles while avoiding the jaws of hungry Utahraptors. Others have you dogfighting airships and planes from the back of a gun-toting pterosaur, or sneaking into a massive enemy fortress. Later levels feature all-out war against paratroopers, snipers and Ankylosaur tanks in a city suspended above a chasm alongside allied soldiers, then escaping as the city falls around you into the canyon below. Evolution alone uses Lost Land and the possibilities of the property beautifully, and this isn’t even counting the more cosmic, universal threats fought in the older games.

Turok deserves another shot at a proper reboot. Forget the burly space marines and the faceless, radio-distorted mercenary goons. Give me humanoid dinosaurs with guns who paradrop from planes with giant balloons for chutes like Evolution. Give me regular dinosaurs with mounted cannons that enemies run in fear from like Seeds of Evil. When I finish skulking in the jungle playing cat and mouse with raptors with my bow, toss me an absurdly large gun and give me something to shoot with it that will surprise me, make me marvel at an artist and animator’s hard work as I blow it into bloody chunks.

The sheer lack of constraints when it comes to the creative potential of this series is a gamer’s dream, and it’s a shame that the IP is in what seems to be permanent stasis. In the meantime, you can show your support and interest by checking out the remasters of the first two games, both available on Steam.

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