The Dinosaur Safari commences with a look at the first outing for our beloved Dinosaur Hunter, including a cliff notes version of who Turok is and why he is so great!
Played on: PC (Steam Release), N64
Also on: Xbox One, Switch
Developer: Iguana Entertainment, Nightdive Studios LLC (Remaster)
I AM TITULAR CHARCTER!
Date posted: November 17, 2020
The year is 1995. It was the best of times, and the worst of times, but mostly the best of times, as it seems everyone was in their prime! Nintendo was still doing good with it’s SNES, not only having the seminal Donkey Kong Country on the way, but also a whole new brand new system- something called an Ultra 64 or something. Sony, who just broke up with Nintendo over their ill-fated CD add on, also was sitting pretty, as they pretty much blew Sega out of the water with the mention of one word- 299. I am, of course, speaking of the price point for the game-changing Playstation, one of the greatest pieces of console gaming of all time! (but that’s a story for another day….) And Sega was…. ugh…. um…. well, the Saturn IS pretty underrated…. but yeah….. It was all downhill for them, before doing a sweet jump (The Dreamcast) before calling it quits and porting Sonic to anything with 1’s and 0’s.
So what the hell am I getting at? Well, I’m just setting the stage at one of the best console launches ever conceived- I am, of course, talking about the launch of the almighty Virtual Boy! That’s right- Turok on the Virtual Boy!
Oh. I read my info wrong. What I meant to say was the launch of the almighty N64! With it brought on the new age of games, with the seminal Super Mario 64 leading the pack, along with other noteworthy titles, namely Pilotwings 64 (because that was it)
Ok, so it didn’t launch ON the date of the N64… but close enough! In fact, it DID launch with the N64…in Europe….. but I’m calling it! It was going to come out in 96, but some bugs got in the way, and it was pushed back. Good thing too, as this was the last hurrah of Acclaim, who had been in dire straights after running out of that sweet, sweet Mortal Kombat money, and needed a hit- or else.
So let’s get right into the history of Turok before I talk about the game. I mean, did you even know Turok was based on a comic book character? Yeah, I didn’t either for the longest time- I thought it just some video game character who went around chasing dinosaurs and shooting guys in the neck- had no idea! So what comic book storyline did they adapt? Well… uh… yeah. That’s where things get complicated….
Let’s go back to the beginning with the OG Turok, published way back in the 60’s, which followed the stories of Turok and Andar, two Mandan tribesmen who must fight their way though the Lost Valley (no, not the Valley before time!) fighting Dinosaurs and what not. Nothing to crazy- just some pulp stories about two guys trying to find their way home. The games don’t really take too much away from, though the Turok in this Dinosaur Hunter, does bear a resemblance to the original Son of Stone.
The next series is where things get crazy, and where the first game seems to take a lot of influence from. I, of course, am talking about the Valiant Comics Turok, released in 1992. Here, the crazy world of the Lost Lands is introduced- its a world where all kinds of crazy s—t goes down! Psychotic gods, Aliens, Mutants, eldetric abominations- and of course, dinosaurs- exist in this world of never ending calamity! This is where Turok and his companions (which included some other Valiant comic heroes from time to time) must do battle with the Mothergod and her minions… who you are actually probably familiar with if you played the game- their the friggin bosses in it! That’s right- The Campaigner, the T-rex, and the Mantis are all from the comics (and so was that hunter guy too. Maybe. They don’t pay me enough to research these things! )But what happen to Mothergod? She’s not in the game! Eh. Who knows! Who cares!
Lastly, the other comics come out after the first game- these comics are the ones published by Acclaim themselves, and change a lot of rules in the Turok universe and set the stage for Turok 2 and 3…. and that’s it (Turok Evolution is a prequel to Dinosaur Hunter) I’ll go more into this series when I get to Turok 2: The Quest to find that last damn shaft in the lair of the blind ones WHERE THE F—K IS IT AHHHHHHH!
So basically, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is based the most off the 1992 comics run, with it’s bosses being based off of villains that appeared after a huge crossover event with the Mothergod, a character that appears no where in the games and is probably not even mentioned and was pretty much replaced by the campaigner. You’re up to speed, right? RIGHT?
You play as Tal’set, a Turok from a longline of Dinosaur Hunters from the Fireseed bloodline,who must travel thought the Lost Lands on your way to stop the Campaigner, who wants to use the chronoscepter (the games secret weapon) to mess time a little bit, and make sure New Coke never becomes a thing…. or, he just wants to take over the universe of something (You never know with these bad guys anymore- could be ANYTHING!). On your way, you’ll fight warriors bent on your destruction, dinosaurs of all types, strange creatures like leapers and huge, lumbering ape like creatures called the Purrlin (you know? Those green guys who keep stomping the ground?) among other things.
Don’t worry- you have QUITE the arsenal! This is an area where the games really shines, as you not only have your mainstays like a pistol and a shotgun, but you have so much more as well! Grenade launchers! Explosive arrows! Pulse Rifles! Rocket Launchers! Turok is definitely packing heat, and he’ll need every bullet and rocket to get though the dangerous jungles, caves, canyons, and other diverse terrain on his way to end the Campaigner’s…. well…. campaign! Who does he think he is? Trump?
Along the way, you must search though the quite expansive levels finding keys to open even more strange lands, as well as pieces of the chronoscepter, which can be used to pretty much annihilate anything in your way- including the final boss! You use the keys in a main hub, which acts as a… well… hub for the levels. Yeah.
Where to begin? The huge arsenal of weapons at your disposal, most of them actually fun to use? Maybe talk about the enemy variety, or maybe the sense of exploration that made it stand out as not another Doom clone? Maybe I should talk about it’s strange, almost alien-like atmosphere which is only multiplied by it’s excellent tribal-esque music and SFX that actually make it feel like some crazy jungle where dinosaurs and monsters want you dead?
Let’s talk about the environments in Turok- as they are (or were at some point) massive! While the game is only 8 levels long, each of them take a while to traverse, as each has it’s own different areas and forks in the road, giving way to a sense of exploration you really don’t see anymore, as everything today is “open world”. Turok is not open world, but instead, mazelike, but it’s a fun maze, full of surprises around every corner- each dead end gives way to something worth while, it seems, and not a whole lot of nothing, like a more poorly thought out game would. Of course, this does give way to some frustrations (See CONS) but it’s sense of exploration for a game from this era is really remarkable- in my eyes, anyway.
It’s simply not a Turok game without an impressive amount of weapons and things that have one purpose- TO KILL! You have your typical assortment- A pistol, a shotgun, machine gun, etc, but Turok goes one step beyond, giving the player things like a plasma rifle, a grenade launcher, a rocket launcher, and more! Indeed, it feels like the devs really wanted to one up everyone else by handing you an arsenal for a small army- and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
So what do you use these weapons aganist? Well, dinosaurs… but not just raptors and the like. You also got a few passive ones (along with deer and such) you can hunt to get health and ammo. There’s also ones equipped with lasers and mounted with rocket launchers! You also have a few mercenary enemies and tribesman, and the gorilla-like Purrlin, who with try to smash you to pieces! There’s also some alien like bug men, and leapers, who usually appear in cave areas. Along with an epic boss fight now and then (including a giant mantis and a cybernetic T-Rex) Turok has you covered when it comes to things to kill!
Like I said above, the sound and music are great, and give off a good atmosphere. Going to repeat myself and say that it does indeed feel like a jungle with dinosaurs and other threats trying to kill you at every turn! Some tracks also have an almost otherworldly tone to them that I think just adds on to the atmosphere. The sound design pretty much tells you that you ain’t in Kansas anymore, boy!
Oh, and no need to dig out your old N64, as Turok was recently re-released (along with Turok 2) on Steam, and is pretty much a remaster of the game! Higher Resolutions! Mod Support! Mouse and Keyboard support! You can save anywhere! Truly, Night Dive have made an excellent port of this N64 classic! Suck it, purists! (Though, in all honestly, the N64 version is playable. Well…. except for maybe one teeny tiny detail…..)
I am going to say it, and your’re not going to like me for it…. Ready?
The N64 controller sucks for First Person Shooter games- there is just no way around this! Playing the Turok games on an actual N64 feels like a perverse handicap because of this grey monstrosity…. FPS games NEED a keyboard and mouse, or, at the very least, some decent sticks, of which neither is present on the N64! Don’t get me wrong, the N64 controller has it’s strengths, and some other FPS DO make good use of the controller.. but the Turok games (especially 3…. we’ll get to THAT when we get to THAT!) on an actual N64 with a N64 feels like.. I don’t know… using a flight stick to drive a car? Does that make sense? I mean, you can play and beat these games on a N64….. but good luck on higher difficulties- you’ll need it! You N64 fanboys can breathe easy, as this is the only hindrance in playing the game on the OG N64… but god, the remaster is SO much better! (See Portlandia and the section in PROS) Again, the N64 is an acceptable version, but that’s it- only acceptable. Not exceptional…..
Now to deal with the biggest flaw of both Turok and Turok 2…. the backtracking! So many times will you go though a level, find the portal to the hub world….and realize you’re missing a key, or a chronoscepter piece, or maybe a part of your brain realizes you passed by an area you just passed right on by…. This is the fatal flaw of the games enormous levels. You might want to look up some maps, because boy howdy, you WILL get lost in this game. I mean, there’s a reason they call it the LOST lands after all!
Finally, the graphics may not to be to everyone’s liking- this was, indeed, an early title in the N64’s lifespan. The PC version (the Nightdive version- not the old 1997 one) makes the game look a lot better, but you might notice how strange the levels really look without the fog and what not. It feels like an acquired taste, and for the time of it’s release, it looked fine, but now…. eh. You might not like what you see, at least in it’s entirety.
There is an obvious winner here. Also, there’s an older PC port- it’s not worth it (unless there’s some kind of mods or something for it, but probably not.
N64– The OG, and the one everyone remembers and the one everybody owned. Like I mentioned before, it’s the worst controlling (Thanks, N64 controller!) but is still playable, after you get used to it. This makes the game harder on the N64 compared to it’s PC counterparts- but again, it’s playable enough. Also has the most fog, and of course, smaller resolution, but it’s still Turok!
PC (original release)– It’s….not worth it. It seems to run fine…if you can jump though all the hoops to get it working on modern hardware. You’re best sticking to the Nightdive remaster.
PC (Nightdive Remaster)– Now here is what it’s all about! Fog eliminated (I think you can turn it back on, if you want). All the textures are upscaled, and no longer look blurry! Everything runs at a nice framerate! It even has mod support, so you can continue the hunt far after the main game is over! This is by and far the best way to play this classic FPS!
After 23 odd years, I think Turok holds up! In the age where every FPS game was slowly advancing towards realism and away from over the top action, Turok still stands as a testment to game design you really don’t see anymore. With it’s large open levels, hordes of enemies, and atmosphere that can be best described as “John Carter but with more violence, it’s easy to see why Turok is still a beloved game to this day, even with all it’s backtracking and sometimes questionable level design. I, of course, recommend this one!
Agree? Disagree? Good! Leave a comment about how terrible my taste is in the comments below!