The Nintendo 64 was a beast, there’s no denying that. The games on that console were diverse, interesting, and inventive. GoldenEye 007 stands out as the best FPS of that era, and certainly the best on that platform. However, standing in its wide casting shadow rests another gem, Turok. Turok has quite a bit of interesting history under its belt. This is a game that was going to be the make or break point for Acclaim (now bankrupt) at the time. Suffering from cashflow problems, Acclaim put all of their efforts into ensuring that Turok stood out. This included delaying the game from ’96 to ’97 to squash bugs, and pushing the N64’s graphical capabilities to the limit. When Turok finally hit the world, it hit hard and fast.
Turok received almost critical widespread acclaim upon release, with most criticisms aimed at gameplay stuttering and, at times, wonky controls. Night Dive Studios know a good thing when they see one, because they’re not only releasing a remastered version of Turok, but its immediate successor too. Players take on the role of the titular Turok, also known as Tal’Set. Tal’Set is a time traveling Native American that’s given the responsibility of protecting the veil between Earth and the timeless, primitive, Lost Land. The Lost Land is occupied by a wide range of beasts, ranging from Dinosaurs right up to Alien lifeforms, overseen by an evil lord known only as the Campaigner. The Campaigner is seeking out a powerful weapon known as the Chronoscepter, a weapon that has the capability of bringing down the aforementioned veil.
The kicker, however, is that this weapon has been split into several pieces to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. Tal’Set aims to find these pieces before the Campaigner, and so sets off on an action-packed adventure that would go down in time as one of the best FPS’ of the 90’s. The story is as straightforward as can be, but still pretty damn interesting nevertheless. Though with that being said, the real treasure in all of this is the gameplay. The aim of the game is immediately apparent, being that you need to locate several keys in order to proceed to later levels, which can be accessed via a central hub. Turok will need a total of three keys per level, several of which can be picked up on the first level. It’s important to keep in mind that this is a twenty year old game, so there’s far less emphasis on open exploration, in favor of a more linear and structured route.
Puzzles are plentiful, especially when it comes to platforming. If there’s any Destiny fans out there that enjoyed the Vault of Glass jumping puzzle, you’ll feel right at home here. The game demands precision platforming, with many pathways suspended above large death-drops and health-sponging traps. Enemies of all shapes and sizes are littered throughout the entire experience, and although you’re typically tasked with getting from A to B, the journey is far from simplistic. Warriors, dinosaurs, genetically enhanced creatures, and towering boss battles will do all that they can to hinder your progression. There’s no denying that Turok boasts an impressive pool of diverse and well designed enemies, if indeed the AI is somewhat lacking by today’s standard. Mercifully, there is plenty of weapons to obtain within, which certainly helps to turn the odds in your favor.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re taking on a huge T-Rex, or a group of heavily armed, pissed off, tribesmen, each foe comes with their own move-sets and behavioral patterns. Turok will have access to a hunting knife, a pistol, a shotgun, bow and arrows, and much more. Weaponry can be unlocked by simply picking up ammo and guns from around the environment, however, early access to specific weapons can usually be found in secret areas, so it pays off to study your surroundings as much as you can. With that in mind, it’s worth pointing out that the level design is far from impressive. Though, again, this is merely a product of the game’s age. Much of Turok plays out in exactly the same format; begin here, shoot this, kill that, collect an item, make it to the end. That may sound basic, but the value of entertainment within is tremendous. That may be the nostalgia talking, but there wasn’t a single moment when playing this game that I wasn’t having a blast.
Turok offers a tutorial-esque section for newcomers to take to. It’s well worth diving into first, if for anything to simply bond with the dated movement and gameplay functionalities. Speaking of the visuals, Turok isn’t an impressive looking game. There’s no doubt whatsoever that Night Dive has done some remarkable work, and the results are certainly noticeable. However, age has not done this game any favors. Turok looks dated, bland, and at times, ugly. I’m not going to judge the game too harshly because of that, after all, this is two decades old. Judging the game simply on its improvements, on the other hand, I have to commend the developers for their efforts. Turok, next to the original, looks sharper and more refined. It’s not going to blow you away, but if (like me) you were here for the first release, you’ll appreciate the differences on display.
One thing I will absolutely not overlook is the price tag. The game costs £15.99/$19.99, which is a staggering amount to pay for a remaster that lasts no longer than a handful of hours. Group this with the fact that Turok 2 also costs the same to pick up, and it certainly raises an eyebrow. If you ask me, the game is worth two thirds of the overall price. It would nice to see a bundle for the cost of £25/$30, but whether or not that happens remains to be seen. If you enjoy the likes of Doom and Quake, you’ll thoroughly enjoy what’s on offer. The gameplay is chaotic throughout, and the puzzles help to break up the pace at just the right time. Throw in the decent variety of weapons, enemies, and boss encounters, and you’ve got a formula that’s everyone’s old-school FPS dream. It helps, of course, that the performance problems found in the original release are now gone. Turok has never looked, or played, better than this.
Turok boasts an impressive variety of enemies, weaponry, and puzzles. This version of Turok doesn’t come without its problems, but many of these issues are merely a product of its age. The price-tag is set too high in my opinion, but if you enjoy chaotic old-school FPS gameplay, it’s easy to overlook. Night Dive’s remastered work is remarkable, the game looks much better and performs much better throughout.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.