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Turok: Evolution

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Acclaim
Publisher:  Acclaim
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  FPS
ESRB:  Mature
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  10-23-02

The original Turok: Dinosaur Hunter wasn't exactly revolutionary, but it was a landmark title in the console FPS genre. In addition to almost single-handedly reviving a struggling Acclaim, it helped to establish (along with Goldeneye) the N64 as the FPS console of choice during the last hardware generation. Over time the series faltered a bit, staying consistently good but never approaching the quality and impact of the original. Now Acclaim is attempting to evolve the series and keep up with the big boys (Halo, Red Faction II, etc.) with the latest game in the series, Turok: Evolution. Turok: Evolution marks the first time the Turok series has appeared on multiple platforms; unfortunately, beyond that the series has really evolved very little.

In a way, that's a good thing as the series has actually returned to its roots. This game is a prequel to the entire series, as it lays out Tal'Set's origins as a Dinosaur Hunter. While fighting Captain Tobias Buckner in 1886, both fall into a rift between the two worlds and end up in the Lost Lands. Tal'Set journeys to find Buckner and extract his revenge, but his new enemies (and allies) have other plans for him. Not terribly deep or revolutionary, but it keeps the story moving and is pretty standard for the genre.

In this attempt to recover the series' past, Turok: Evolution plays pretty simply compared to the more modern FPS games of today. Tal'Set's objectives range from destroying every enemy in the area to finding key items, and usually in order to accomplish this several platforms and other heights must be scaled…thus like the original. Jumping is much easier to pull off here than in the original game though, so the added platform elements not found in most FPS games is a welcome addition. Surprisingly, despite this return to the series' roots the original "Turok" control scheme (in the original N64 version the four C buttons controlled movement) isn't offered in the GameCube version. It's understandable given the oddly shaped and placed face buttons, but still a bit disappointing. Mission objectives are very straightforward and will rarely (if ever) test the player's trigger finger and not their mind. The main quest is extremely linear - perform objective A, move on to B, continue until the end of the level is reached.

Brand new to the series this time around is a flying mode, in which Tal'Set hops onto the back of a big bird equipped with various weapons. This mode is fairly simple, with a couple primary weapons and intuitive flying controls. In comparison to other flying games it's pretty simplistic, but as a mere part of this game it fits in pretty well. I'd rather the levels not be there at all though, as they break up the flow of the game and feel of the world. Plus, it's obvious the Turok engine wasn't originally designed for flying, as the mode is much less impressive both graphically and control-wise. Overall they're OK though, and shouldn't totally turn off dedicated FPS fans.

In addition to the engine shortcomings, Turok: Evolution feels like an unfinished game in several other areas. The most obvious example is in the enemy A.I. Sometimes it works as advertised, with enemies ducking for cover, establishing formations, alerting allies, attacking from the flank, etc. Other times, the enemies act very dumbly. For example, in sniper mode they often don't even move after getting shot. They just stand there waiting to get shot again and again until they're eventually killed. Killing enemies around other enemies usually doesn't alert those surrounding ones, so from a hidden position the player can easily pick off numerous enemies in a group one by one. When it works it's on the same level as Halo, but it only works about half the time.

Another new element in this Turok is destructible environments, and again it feels somewhat unfinished. Firing on various trees can send them sprawling towards foes, and large dinosaurs can also knock them over. Many objects enemies use to hide behind can also be destroyed, forcing them out into the open. Unfortunately these elements show up infrequently and aren't easily distinguished, so when they're encountered the player often doesn't realize they can use them until it's useless to do so. They also aren't necessary in the least, as no objectives require destroying certain environment objects to progress further. For example, something like blowing down a certain tree to scale and reach another ledge would've been nice.

The graphics are good, but it's obvious that Turok: Evolution was developed primarily with the PS2 version in mind and then ported over to the GameCube. The GameCube version doesn't feature any of the nice lighting effects present in the Xbox version, but it does seem to run a bit faster and closer to 60fps. The textures are identical to the PS2 version's, but the GCN version doesn’t have any of the horrible draw-in and framerate issues that the PS2 version does. There's a ton of foliage to be found, all of it swaying realistically in the wind and reacting to animals that walk through it. The dinosaur models are nicely detailed, and come the closest yet a game has to rivaling Jurassic Park (the movie). Blood spatters quite nicely, although it's a bit disappointing that dead dinos and blood eventually disappear from the world. Like the A.I., the graphics are solid but also feel a bit unfinished.

Sound is probably the only area that feels finished, and it's fantastic. The GameCube version makes great use of DLP II surround sound to really put the player "inside" the jungle, but the music suffers compared to the Xbox version (probably due to the smaller disk size). Each weapon has its own unique sound, and each enemy sounds as realistic as one would expect. The music is tense and pulsing, and really immerses the player into the world of Turok. A rocking soundtrack makes a big difference in any FPS, and Turok's perfectly fits both the theme and pace of the game. Excellent stuff.

Highs:

  • Tried and true gameplay that will appease fans of the genre.
  • Awesome sound effects and an outstanding music score.
  • The GameCube version features the fastest framerate of the three and a farther draw distance than the PS2 version.

Lows:

  • The A.I. is spotty at best, and as a result the game is a bit easier than it should be.
  • The flying levels are solid, but I'd prefer they weren't in the game at all. If I wanted to play a mediocre flight game, I'd break out Savage Skies.

Final Verdict:

Turok: Evolution is what it is: a solid and above average FPS that will provide hours of enjoyment for fans of the genre. A few more months in development finishing up the A.I. and graphics could've turned it into something special though.

It's especially worth picking up for GameCube-only owners, as good FPS games are few and far between on the system and Metroid Prime isn't out yet. That's why this version gets the same score as the Xbox version, despite inferior graphics and sound (I'm pretty sure the 'Cube could've handled what the Xbox version does).

Overall Score: 7.3

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