Reviewed For: Xbox 360
Also available for: Playstation 3
From: Propaganda Games/Touchstone
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, language)
Outside of perhaps "Tomb Raider," no series went from must-play to must-avoid quite like "Turok: Dinosaur Hunter," which needed only five years to unload whatever goodwill it had accumulated when it first debuted.
Now, much as "Tomb Raider" did last year, the series has rebooted and found refuge in the arms of a new developer. The result: A shockingly good rebound, and very arguably the best "Turok" game released for its time.
The basics remain the same. It's still a first-person shooter, and the original hook — you're fighting dinosaurs as well as enemy soldiers, often simultaneously as they also fight each other — remains the hook today. The diverse means of fighting said enemies — be it by gun, grenade, bow or knife — also remains intact.
What hasn't returned, for the most part, are the technical limitations and awful design decisions that undermined and in some cases ruined previous games.
"Turok" isn't a picture of perfection, with sometimes-stupid A.I. getting in your way and an occasional tendency to populate levels with ambush scenarios that lead to cheap deaths. But it almost completely neutralizes those problems by dousing everything else, from controls to level design to the way the weapons feel in your hand, with several coats of polish. Taking on a battlefield full of dinosaurs and soldiers is a blast, thanks to some smart skirmish orchestration, but the little things — stealth attacks, fighting off a charging raptor with a perfectly timed swipe of the knife — are every bit as satisfying.
Perhaps expectedly, "Turok" also raises the presentational bar for the series. The story is surprisingly engaging — a much-needed series first. Outside of some occasional weirdness with the character models, it looks awfully good as well. The outdoor levels are refreshingly and gorgeously rich with color.
"Turok's" attention to detail transfers over to the online stage without incident. The mode list — deathmatch, capture the flag, objective-based team battles — are pretty familiar, but the wealth of options the game gives you within that space offers plenty of room for customization. Should you wish to cooperate rather than compete, four-player co-op also is available.
But the real hook of online play is (surprise!) the presence of A.I.-controlled dinosaurs in the midst. Having a live (and very dangerous) enemy that neither side can control gives the matches an unpredictable wild card that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the single-player campaign. It also sets "Turok" apart from the bounty of other first-rate shooters already proliferating on both systems.
(c) 2008, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.