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Turok Dinosaur Hunter Review

Publisher - Acclaim
Developer - Iguana
Platform - N64
Type - 3D Shooter
Score - 8/10

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was originally scheduled to be released in December. At that time, it would have been a guaranteed hit. As the first first-person shooter for the Nintendo 64, out months before any competition, it would be a required choice of all fans of this type of game. Well, Acclaim decided to delay the release a little bit to touch the game up. So here it is, the beginning of March, and Turok has finally hit the shelves. Success is much less certain, since Goldeneye and Doom 64 are both breathing down Turok's neck with release dates later this month. So the question is: Was it worth the wait?

In Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, you take on the role of Turok, protector of the boundary between the Earth and the Lost Land, a place beyond time infested with dinosaurs, aliens, and evil forces intent on breaking down the barrier between the Lost Land and the Earth. You are fighting against The Campaigner, who is attempting to assemble the pieces of an ancient weapon that he will be able to use to conquer the Earth. Your goal is to assemble the pieces of the weapon to keep it out of his hands and then to defeat him in battle. This works out to mean that your goal is to shoot anything that moves while collecting progressively larger weapons, like any other game in this genre.

This game certainly succeeds in giving you both a wide range of weapons and a worthy variety of opponents. You start with the traditional weapons of your people, a big knife and a Tek bow capable of shooting explosive tipped arrows. You rapidly accumulate more powerful weapons, starting with conventional weapons like a shotgun and assault rifles and moving into weapons that can do real damage, like the pulse rifle and quad rocket launcher. There are 14 weapons in all, and the big ones are capable of doing massive property damage in addition to shredding anything that moves.

Your opponents also range in power, starting with humans packing pistols and raptors which can be brought down in with 2 shotgun shells, and ranging up through triceratops armed with rocket launchers, aliens, and cyborgs with impressive quantities of firepower. The big ones can shrug off grenades and aren't even damaged by your shotgun. Nasty.

The game ranges over 8 levels, ranging from the jungle through villages to the Lost Land itself and the alien world. Each level has its own personality, with its own style to its layout and the types of landscape encountered and its own group of opponents. Although 8 levels may sound a little small, rest assured that these levels are huge. There is plenty of territory to explore. The first level leads to an area that allows you to go to any of the following levels. But you can't just jump from the first level to the last. Not only would you likely be woefully under equipped, but you need to collect the appropriate keys to get from each level to the next.

The game takes you through tight corridor complexes, large open areas, and through underwater passages. Swimming can get claustrophobic, especially if you start running out of air and can't figure the way out, but the open spaces are the place for full blown paranoia. Fog limits the distance you can see, so you never know which way the dinosaurs lie or how many of them there might be. The game also creates panic attacks through its tendency to replace creatures that you have killed. Sometimes after you kill something, a new copy will materialize. This is a great way to make you waste ammo and keep you moving. I don't know how many times I've backed into a completely new area while trying to escape from the things that keep coming back behind me. Dealing with all the dinos can be tough. Fortunately, the game gives you regular opportunities to save to a controller pack. Like most console games, you can't save anywhere you want, but you do get opportunities to save during levels, not just at the ends of them. Generally, when you have a chance to save, it's a warning that something unpleasant is just around the corner.

When I first heard about the controls, I was a little surprised. Using the joystick to look and the C buttons to move qualifies as a little exceptional, but as I thought about it, I realized it has some definite advantages. This arrangement lets you look while you move, and lets you turn while you strafe. For people who haven't played games with that freedom before, it may seem unnecessary, but I find that games like Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire that do not give that kind of control are restrictive. The controls take a little practice, but you get used to it fairly quickly, and I predict that the controls used by Turok will be a model for other games in the future.

Aside from the layout, the controls work very well. The game gives you tight, responsive control over Turok, so you move when you want to move, and stop when you want to stop. This doesn't mean that you will never miss a jump, but that getting jumps right is a matter of practice and judgment rather than luck.

This is one of the best looking games to come out for the Nintendo 64. Although the game isn't as bright and happy looking as Super Mario 64, the overall graphics quality is higher. Waverace 64 is still the game that I most want to look at just to look at, but Turok is very close. The textures are very good, but what really makes this game a pleasure to look at is the transparencies. Not only is the fogging well done, but there tend to be layers of mist over the ground and in the air, and there are wisps of things blowing in the wind that make the game look like it's a real and complex world. The special effects are very well done as well. Not only do the big guns do lots of damage, but they look great too. The game also looks good in small ways too, ranging from the real-time lighting on your weapons to the slight distortions that appear when passing through the surface of water. And the solar lens flare is another effect that doesn't call attention to itself but is worth checking out anyway.

The character animations are excellent. Everything in the game is fully 3D, and the big payoff is in the realism of the characters. Whether running, attacking, dying, or just standing still, everything just looks great. This brings up one drawback of the game. Turok has an ESRB rating of Mature (Ages 17+) for animated blood and gore and animated violence, and it earns its rating. When things die, they don't just die. They bleed, they scream, and they thrash around. The game does give you the option of turning the blood off, but it doesn't really help. The creatures still act out their deaths, and they are still unpleasant. While the level of violence in a video game is a matter of taste, Turok will clearly be too much for some people.

The sound is excellent. The sound effects are all in your face, appropriate to what's happening, and high quality. The background music is also a key part of the game. The music is based principally on percussion and sound effects, with occasional melodies, so it supports the action without calling attention to itself. Like Super Mario 64, the music responds to where you are and what's happening to great effect. When you're just exploring the jungle, the music encourages you onward, but when you're entering a mysterious tunnel complex, the music enhances your trepidation.

In all, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter delivers everything I look for in a video game. Turok looks great, sounds great, and plays great. It immerses you in a large, interesting, and varied world. Acclaim is evidently very proud of Turok, based on the manual, which has brief section on the development experience and describes some of the technical accomplishments of Turok. They should be proud. Turok is the game that demonstrates that third party manufacturers can indeed produce great games for the Nintendo 64. I have no criticisms of Turok, but I have one reservation. The level of gore in this game is not appropriate for everyone.

The delay in the release on Turok raised the possibility that it might be endangered by Doom. Now that Turok has raised the standards for first-person shooters, it is up to Doom to respond. If it does, the Nintendo 64 may well turn into the premier platform for first-person shooters.