Second View: Quote of the Week ? ??they're stupid, but there's a shit load of them.?
It's been almost 2 years since we last took control of the dinosaur hunting Turok in Turok 3: Shadows of Oblivion. The interesting part is that after these 2 years not much has seem to change as we see the fifth installment, Turok Evolution, recently released from Acclaim. Big weapons, dumb enemies, and a bloody filled good time is the order of the day here, let's take a deeper look?
In the midst of a heated battle between arch-rivals, Tal'Set and Captain Bruckner, the two warriors are out of nowhere pulled into a vortex and wind up in a different time and place know as the Lost Lands. Here, with you taking on the role of Tal'Set, you start your adventure being sucked right in the middle of a dispute going on within the lands. An adventure that will eventually land you the right to be called Turok. Unfortunately for us, Acclaim Austin obviously didn't put much effort into the game's overall story, and it really turns out to play second fiddle to what this game is really all about ? action, and a butt load of it. There are cutscenes here and there, and little tidbits on the story can be found in brief level descriptions on the long loading screens, but overall don't expect to be pulled into an amazing plot, such as that which was found in Halo (let the comparisons begin). But lets forget about the storyline and discuss how this game plays.
Turok Evolution is split into two very distinct types of gameplay, each competent in their own rights. Though, admittedly, the FPS portion is much more polished that the flying/shooter sections, and thankfully, are more rampant.
While sometimes fun, the flying levels turn out to seem more like a chore than anything, and usually you just can't wait till the section ends so you can get back into the FPS mode. In a way this sort of backfired on Acclaim Austin, as they created the flying mode for gamers to catch a break from the intense FPS gameplay, but instead it just ends up interrupting it. The premise here is simple ? you take to the skies on the back of a flying Quetzalcoatlus (woah, big word) as you follow a set path and blast your enemies with either your .50 guns or missiles. Herein where the problems begin. For whatever reason, Acclaim Austin created a gameplay system complete with some of the most unresponsive controls around, which usually leads to some very aggravating deaths. Though your Quetzal? oh whatever, doesn't always go where you want it, you are given a variety of techniques to help you out, including the ability to roll left or right, speed up, or slowdown (for those just tuning in, I'm not talking about the greatest game ever, Panzer Dragoon Orta). Also, mission objectives do vary. Instead of your standard make it from point A to point B without dying, included are a few boss battles and mission specific objectives, such as destroying the enemy bases or power source. Power-ups such as health, extra rockets and a cool overdrive pick up, which makes your guns extremely powerful for a set amount of time, are there and very helpful, but still, the mode for the most part is a bore and will probably only offer most gamers a brief distraction from the ?real? game.
In getting to the First-Person-Shooter part of the game, I'm happy to announce that it's pulled of pretty well, if at times unoriginal. This go around Acclaim Austin removed the life-based system and replaced it with a one life, infinite continues sort of dealie. Basically meaning you can attempt a level over and over again until you've beaten it. Sometimes this leads to the misfortune of trail and error type gameplay, but this isn't something I'd consider a major flaw. The level designs themselves are adequate and the lengths aren't too short or too long, usually only requiring an average of 15 to 20 minutes to make through (though some can be longer depending on certain circumstances). This might not sound like a long time, but not to worry; each of the 15 chapters is composed of many of these levels, making for a fairly huge game overall.
Of course, this FPS gameplay is all about killing, killing, and more killing. Which brings us to bar none the most impressive part of Evolution -- your incredible arsenal of weaponry. Having always been a staple in the series, this comes as no real surprise. The game simply features some of the most unique, and at the same time devastating, weapons I've ever seen. Besides your standard shotgun, war club, bow and pistol, there are other nifty killing utensils at your disposal -- such as the tek bow (a scope equipped super bow with regular, explosive and poison arrows), rocket launcher, plasma cannon, and flamethrower. Then there are a slew of odd weapons that have never been seen before. One is the spider mine; a nifty device that lets you control a small robotic spider with an on screen camera. It's main use is to allow you to see unexplored rooms and when confronted with enemies it will permit you to either lure the enemy with a voice command, explode killing everyone around it, or even let out highly toxic poison gas. The only real downfall to the weapon is its limited range; go out too far and the screen starts to fade. Another cool toy is the dark matter cube. Chuck one of these into a room with a bunch of baddies and watch as it sucks them into another dimension, right on! Other more useful weapons include the flechette gun, a powerful silenced gun that runs off air and shoots large steel darts, and the gravity disruptor, a interesting device that when activated throws all your foes backwards inflicting a good deal of damage.
Continuing on with the weapons, you'll be happy to know that not only do you have this powerful range of weapons at your disposal, but just about all of them have upgrade abilities as well as secondary uses. The most impressive of which are the rocket launcher; coming complete with 2 different attachments ? the swarm bore and nuke weapon ? and the flechette gun, which has as attachment that turns into to a full-fledged 18 barrel mini-gun; most effective is mowing down a great number of enemies in a relatively short span of time. All of the other weapons also have multiple uses, but I'll leave that for you to check out for yourself. Just let it be known that the weapons are easily the best part of the game and some of the best ever seen in a videogame.
The biggest downfall to the actual gameplay is the enemy A.I., which is by and large pretty darn stupid. Coming back to the Halo comparisons again ? after watching the covenant in action and seeing just how intelligent they are, it makes Turok Evolution's look like a bunch of retards running around with guns. Snipe an enemy in his head and his buddy will just sit there looking at this friend falling to the ground with blood flowing everywhere as if nothing happened. Many enemies get stuck on objects and some even get stuck running around in endless circles. There was obviously a few attempts to make the A.I. do something, as you can see them peeking around corners to try to snipe you and some even roll to the ground to evade gunfire, but for the most part it's useless and looks stupid to boot. In all, it seems like they just gave up and decided to go with quantity over quality ?- they're stupid, but there's a shit load of them. Later in the game you'll find that Acclaim Austin blatantly ripped off Halo by trying to include fellow marines that fight along side you. Sadly, the A.I. here is poor as well, and not the least bit entertaining, although at times they can be sort of helpful.
One thing that really surprised me about Evolution is its quality multiplayer aspects. There's no online or system link play, but what we have here is good ole fashioned, hard-nosed split screen killing action. This mode supports a variety of modes and options, as well as some very cool levels. It's not all gravy though; there are a couple annoying drawbacks. For one, every time you finish a multiplayer match it takes you all the way back to the original title screen in the game instead of the multiplayer menu (what were they thinking?). And also there's a glitch that will sometimes respawn you with the original Turok control set-up instead of the Halo inspired one that you've been using the whole time. But all things considered, these are some fairly minor errors.
The visuals in Turok Evolution can best be described as slightly above average. For the PS2 they're pretty good, but this just doesn't cut it on the mighty Xbox. While the environments are large, fairly interactive and packed to the brim with life (dinosaurs, monkeys, butterflies, etc?), the average textures leave a lot to be desired and there a virtually no cool lighting effects to be found. Things like torches on the walls and the in-game water looks absolutely horrid and very reminiscint of something you'd see on the N64. Character models aren't all that great either, lacking in creativity and detail. The one saving grace concerning the visuals is the special effects, most noticeably the ones pertaining to the weapons. There's some very cool looking stuff, my favorite of which being when you shoot a rocket out of your rocket launcher.
Audio in the game isn't really anything special either. The voice acting and soundtrack are fairly average, but once again, the weapons save it. Evolution sports some very awesome, and memorable, weapon sound effects throughout.
In the end, Turok Evolution is a good game, but it has the misfortune of appearing on the same platform as Halo, a game that single-handedly revolutionized how we look at FPSs on the console front. Contrary to the title of the game, not much has changed, and it simply lacks the creativity and innovation we've come to expect. Personally, I think Turok Evolution could have been a much better title if Acclaim decided to put all their effort on one single platform instead of all three, but alas, that didn't happen and we're stuck with a game that doesn't even begin to take advantage of the Xbox's abilities, most noticeably with it's weak visuals and slow loading times. But like a said, it did turn out to be a fun shooter; it's long, full of action, and definitely worth checking into. But certainly don't expect much of an Evolution.