Review: If PETA cared about prehistoric animals there'd be a huge naked outcry about this game.
There aren't enough minority video game heroes, so it's refreshing to see the Native American-helmed Turok series return on the PlayStation 3. With its debut of a new character named ?Joe? Turok and a more military-focused first-person shooter premise, Touchstone and developer Propaganda Games could have easily ditched all of the indigenous culture references. Fortunately, gaming's favorite hunter still hails from a tribe, and that's not the only sorely missed aspect it brings back to consoles. Dinosaurs are rampant once again and jungle environments in which they exist are as thick as ever. All of these presentation twists don't revolutionize the FPS genre and the game isn't without its faults. However, from start to finish, Turok appropriately plays like a thrilling Disney ride.
It's surprising that there aren't more dinosaur video games considering the whole nerd appeal of both is larger than a T-Rex. Turok inserts that prehistoric creature and its extinct brethren as a neutral enemy to you and the militants you're trying to track down and kill. While eliminating the rogue soldiers and your former war criminal mentor, you'll spill a lot of dino blood, so much that if PETA cared about prehistoric animals there'd be a huge naked outcry about this game. Since the dinosaurs aren't picky about who they eat, you don't always have to be the one gunning down and slashing away at them. The carnivorous types will try to make anyone who crosses their path extinct without prejudice. This sets up a lot of dramatic moments in which you can stay in the weeds and watch them help you control the enemy population.
In addition to seeing giant man-eaters crunch on enemies as if the game's an interactive Jurassic Park, Turok's environment is home to peaceful dinosaurs, too. Crest-skulled Parasaurolophus' won't bother you if you leave them alone (though, sometimes they'll head butt you), while swarming Pteranodons don't come down to Earth to attack you and you sure as hell don't go up high to engage them. You'll also see a distant Apatosaurus from a high cliff, stretching its long neck from the leafy jungle below. As you wade through the jungle terrain, your feet (which aren't invisible in this game) will knock down the plant life that's in your way. Seeing the high grass go from vertical to flat adds to Turok's dynamic visual appeal and because the jungle is part of the game's theme, the grass effect doesn't just happen in one level like other titles. It's all around. The whole atmosphere is fantastic, and besides some occasional graphical glitches, the presentation is top notch.
Graphical flaws (which are worse on the PS3 than 360) like framerate hiccups, occasional clipping of walls and ugly textures close up aren't as much of an issue as some of the gameplay flaws. The biggest is that there's no melee attack button. You always have a knife at your disposal, and it's used quite often as a way to slit the throats of small and medium-sized dinosaurs. But to do that you have to switch to the knife with the D-Pad unless the game throws you into a button-tapping sequence. This makes it impossible to pull off quick knife kills while reloading, when you desperately need to get one last attack in. Dying and having to restart a level only to have the same reload issue be a problem a second time is frustrating.
While guns reload slowly, there's rarely a time when you completely run out of ammo, setting Turok up as a run-and-gun FPS. Little strategy goes into being a dinosaur hunter, expect for a few stealthy knife kills and the fact that you can only carry two guns at a time. Whatever guns you decide to carry, they can be dual-wielded and they accompany the knife and bow that Turok always has in his possession. So, you're pretty well off offensively and the thought process of putting one type of gun down in favor of picking another up is pretty minimal. Anything from the frequently used SMGs to the remote-detonating sticky bomb guns can get you through most levels and make you look badass while doing it. The secondary fire option on each weapon makes you look even cooler when you shoot a raptor with a sticky bomb, switch to the shotgun to use its secondary fire, a flare, near a group of enemies, and then wait until the raptor is attracted to the flare to detonate the sticky bomb.
There are all sorts of entertaining weapon combinations to explore with the AI, which is fun to play with, but sometimes stupid. Enemies will take cover, yes, but they'll also take cover behind the box that you're standing in front of. Squatting down with their backs against a box, you're just looking down your sights at them, wanting to tap them on the shoulder like you're in a Leslie Nielsen comedy, wave to them and let them know they're hiding, but hiding right in front of you. The not-so-smart enemy intelligence is sometimes a plus if you're experiencing that reloading issue or finding the game's difficulty too high all of a sudden. However, I'd rather feel like I'm outmaneuvering capable enemy soldiers than outsmarting dimwitted militants.
Turok's AI is taken out of the equation when you engage in 16-player online matches. Standard modes of Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, CTF, Assault CTF and the objectives-based War Games are spread across seven maps. All five of these game types cast you as either the story mode's Whisky Co. (the good guys) or Wolf Pack (the bad guys), and no, you can't be a dinosaur. There are prehistoric creatures in most of the maps, but they're NPCs, unlike Turok: Rage Wars, the multiplayer-focused N64 Turok game. A co-op mode does exist apart from the single-player-only story mode where you can join a buddy in taking down enemies through just three maps.