Turok Evolution (Xbox)

Turok Evolution (Xbox)

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 10/20/2002 for Xbox  

Turok was often perceived as the Nintendo 64’s most vaunted franchises. Providing players with some of the best console FPS action of the time, Acclaim had built a rather solid following. Though the latter entries into the series began to show their weakness over time, none of them will ever prove to be as horrid as this latest endeavor. A rather ambitious product that received lots of cover from the press, Turok Evolution was supposed to be an innovative product but instead, it turned out to be the product that just might bury the series once and for all.

It’s hard to tell where TE goes wrong because quite frankly, it has so many bad elements that it’s difficult to single one out. The facets that made the original so excellent (the gore, the visuals) aren’t even that impressive anymore and when measured against the competition, they are downright embarrassing. Add to that a poor flying aspect that plays like Panzar Dragoon on Nyquil and you another mediocre offering.

In an effort to return to the series’ roots, TE is a prequel to the rest of the game’s storyline. You’ll assume the role of Tal’Set as you battle against you evil arch-rival Captain Tobias Bruckner in Texas. That’s right, I said Texas. Luckily the game takes a turn for the better as the two engage in a scuffle, resulting in their falling into an alternate universe. The setting seems like it’s straight out of some cheesy B-flick and for the most part, the game plays that way as well.

Turok borrows from the now standard Halo control scheme, a layout that effectively mimics that of a keyboard and mouse. But while the competition offers a control scheme that allows for lightning fast presses, Turok’s scheme dishes up a lag filled and horribly sluggish system that really hurts the on-screen action. There seems to be quite a delay between the moment a button is pressed and the time it actually occurs. This lag time isn’t readily noticeable at first but becomes a real mood-killer in the game’s more hectic and tense situations, especially in those areas where precision sniping is a must.

Perhaps the most damaging portion of TE are the much talked about flying missions. Every few levels or so, you’ll be placed onto the back of a gigantic bird where you can fly around an enclosed environment and wreak havoc from above. There’s a problem though, the engine just isn’t capable of handling the fast paced gameplay. It’s obvious that the engine was developed for the slower-paced on-foot action and not this brand of gameplay. What you’ll during this portion of the game are mountains that warp in, stutters in gameplay that are caused by the game’s necessity to load new parts of the level and an overall sluggish experience. The fun doesn’t end there though, the controls are equally as bad; the reaction time of the game just isn’t fast enough to keep up with your inputs. It’s almost as if the game has a reaction time of a fat person at a health buffet. Due to the lagging controls you’ll find yourself crashing into mountainsides and cavern walls much more than you should be. The flying portions serve more as a distraction from the on-foot action more than anything else and it’s rather unfortunate because right when it appears the game is about to show promise, a flying sequence rears its ugly head. Had the flying sequences been omitted, I’d be inclined to bump this game’s rating up another 10%.
Visually, Turok is a pleasant sight for the eyes. The artists have done an excellent job of rendering the game’s many varied environments and most of the time, with striking results. There are a few minor aspects that stick out like a sore thumb though. For instance, in the same environment you’ll see trees and foliage that sway in the wind, massive amounts of beautifully rendered insects and then… a pond that looks like it was taken from 1996. We’re talking single texture here, un-rendered and horribly out of place. Then there’s the case where objects seem to pop in and out of the plane of view for no apparent reason. Sometimes you’ll see trees flicker and then suddenly disappear while mountains will pop into your field of view out of nowhere. The artists obviously spent a lot of time crafting these environments to look stunning and appealing and it’s a real shame that they had to be hampered by the engine’s inability to handle them.

There’s a large variety of wildlife and creatures in the game, all of which are nicely rendered. Perhaps most impressive though is the way that they animate. Each of them behave and react just as you would probably expect. You can tell from the start that there is a truly complex skeletal system underneath each and every single one of your foes and I feel that Acclaim must be commended for their efforts. There’s a large variety of animation available for each of the game’s creatures and it goes a long way in recreating truly realistic aura.

There had been much talk about a new form of AI branded the Squad Dynamics System or S.D.S. If you ask me it’s much ado about nothing. The AI squadmates are pretty much worthless and serve as nothing more than enemy fodder. AI in a FPS is the make or break point as far as I’m concerned and it this case it breaks the game. Though the game’s enemy AI is fairly competent it’s plagued by far too many problems. In most of the levels you’ll encounter at least a few problems with the AI, most of which are amateur mistakes. You can usually take out two or three enemies in plain sight of another without eliciting so much as a flinch. There are a few instances of brilliance though, shooting a weapon out of an enemy’s hand will cause him to run away and ask for reinforcements if I don’t pick him off in time. However, just like much of this game, for every positive there are just as many negatives. A great example is a sniper level early on in the game; in this level, you’ll be forced to fight your way up a mountainside in order to do battle with a ship. The briefing gives you a warning about snipers that protect the passageway up the mountainside, so you’ll have to do your best to pick them off before they do you in. I understand the need for a sniper level in the game but I don’t understand why the AI is just so braindead. Enemies will form a beeline towards me, toting their sniper rifles in their hand. Sometimes the snipers hiding on the high ground will instinctively run at me and inadvertently commit suicide, ruining the basic structure of the level.
Acclaim has always been known for providing Turok with some amazing weapons and thankfully, this year’s game doesn’t disappoint. In addition to the crossbow and pistol (both of which have sniper variants) you’ll be given a plethora of cool weapons to mess around with. Among them is a cool weapon that fires out a bot that can be remotely controlled to spy on the enemy, explode or release poisonous gas upon command, a rocket launcher that really kicks some serious ass, and best of all, most of them have multiple firing modes. There’s a problem though, although some of the weapons are awesome in theory, they turn out to be pretty under whelming in execution. Most disappointing is the game’s shotgun, a shot from close range won’t even bring down an enemy and often times, it takes two or three shots clean shots to bring down one of medium size. As far as shotguns and first person shooters go, this is one of the weaker ones. The weapons have been and will always be the main attraction of Turok and this year’s game is no different.

Each one of them sounds excellent as well, the audio is definitely one of the game’s stronger characteristics. Acclaim did a great job of utilizing the Xbox’s Dolby Digital capabilities and the end result is pretty damn amazing. The sounds of the jungles are just excellent, they come through the 5 channels with excellent clarity and separation. You’ll really get the feeling of being placed in the middle of a jungle that is filled to the brim with wildlife. The weapon sounds are excellent as well, pumping out some excellent low end bass for the heavier weapons in the game. Each of the weapons have their own distinct effects that become easy to recognize over time. If there’s one thing that’s great about this game it’s the powerhouse sound effects. If you have a nice 5.1 setup then you’ll be in for an audio treat.

There’s just a problem with the game and I can’t seem to put my finger on it, perhaps it’s the mundane single player campaign or the truly sleep-inducing multiplayer, but something is awry in this title and it goes a long way towards damaging the overall product. Though the weapon variety is excellent, the game just isn’t much fun to play anymore. I found myself leaving the title quite often because it generally failed to hold my interest. It’s sad too, because Turok’s failings aren’t a result of the Acclaim guys getting lazy and not trying to push out a quality product, its quite the contrary. It’s more of a result of trying too hard to create something ambitious that it ultimately caves in on itself. In the end, it’s the most ambitious element (the flying aspect) that really digs this game’s grave and the minor hindrances that bury it.
Excellent weapon variety, pretty visuals and crisp clean sound effects can’t save this heavily flawed title.

Rating: 6.3 Flawed

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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