Turok was originally a Nintendo 64 game. I feel that’s something that’s important to remember before playing the game, because those expecting some revamped and modernised shooter might be left underwhelmed by the fact that it still plays the same way it did when it released in 1997. Of course, that’s not a bad thing – especially for fans of old-school shooters (myself included). It also helps that developer Nightdive Studios have made some neat improvements to the game too, with the remastered release coming with improved visuals, controls, and a wealth of customisable options. Add to that the fact that you can play it on the go on the Nintendo Switch and I think it’s easy to see that it’s the most definitive way to experience Iguana Entertainment’s classic shooter.
Turok puts you in the role of Tal’Set, a Native American warrior who protects Earth from a world known as the Lost Land. This Lost Land is full of things like dinosaurs, aliens, and futuristic technology, so it’s a pretty dangerous place. Of course, it’s one you have to venture through when a villain known as the Campaigner looks to obtain a powerful weapon known as the Chronoscepter and use it to bring harm to Earth and all of the other worlds that are out there to rule over. It’s your typical sci-fi tale, but it’s one that mixes together dinosaurs and aliens with action-packed shooting, so it’s alright by me.
Gameplay-wise, Turok plays like a 90s old-school shooter – this means fast-paced action where you always seem to be sprinting, no iron sights or snap-aiming, no regenerating health, and huge maze-like levels full of unnatural corridors and the occasional platforming section. If that sounds like your jam you’re going to have a blast, and in fairness the action always remains on point and fun throughout. It’s enjoyable to shoot away at the onslaught of dinosaur enemies that come your way across each of the game’s environments, whilst the fact that the developers have improved the draw distance and got rid of the fog that plagued the game all those years back just makes the whole thing all the more satisfying to play.
Still, whilst I appreciate the old-school nature of the game, there are some elements of its design that pained me. The biggest issue for me was the constantly respawning enemies, which is something I’m glad we don’t see too much of in modern first-person shooters. The levels of Turok are pretty big and there’re plenty of different routes to take, but it’s less fun to explore when you know some enemies could just come right back into a previously cleared area. Sure, it’s fun to take them out again, but it does make you wonder if there’s any point in clearing them all out to begin with.
Then there’s the lack of save points, though that’s something that’s not as bad now as it was back in the day. If I need to stop playing I can just put my Nintendo Switch into sleep mode, and I actually had to a few times. Still, you’d have thought that one of the obvious improvements to make to the game would’ve been to have all checkpoints save the game or at least let players do it manually, so it’s a shame to see that’s not an option.
They’re minimal issues in the grand scheme of things and they’re easy to forget when you’re using all sorts of crazy weapons to kill your foes – we don’t want accurately represented military gear all the time, right? Whilst you’ve got a few traditional weapons like the Knife, Tek Bow, and Shotgun, you’ll also use the likes of the Quad Rocket Launcher, the Fusion Cannon, the Particle Accelerator and even the all-powerful Chronoscepter. Some of these weapons have additional ammo that’s more powerful too, so they can pack even more of a punch; oddly though, there’s no way to swap between ammo and just have to use the more powerful stuff first, which is a bit of a shame if you wanted to preserve it for tougher foes. Either way, I loved the weapons of the game and using them never stopped being satisfying when wiping out my enemies (and watching their grisly death animations).
Given that you’re playing with modernised twin-stick controls now, Turok controls a lot better than it ever did on the Nintendo 64. That’s not to say it’s perfect though, with some of the platforming segments that depend on jumping standing out in particular as some of the game’s weakest moments. There’s a real demand for precision in some areas and with jumping itself not feeling as responsive or as tight as I’d like, it made for plenty of frustrating moments where I’d find myself having to re-attempt sections over and over to find success. Fortunately, platforming isn’t a common enough occurrence in the game for it to become a real problem, but its often infuriating presence will certainly be felt from time to time throughout the game’s story.
One thing that Nightdive Studios deserve some praise for is the amount of options they give the player to customise. Between fine-tuning the controls, changing the visual settings, and even toggling some gameplay options, there’s a whole lot there to ensure you’re having the Turok experience that best suits you. Want a piece of advice, though? Turn off the head bobbing that comes with turning in-game – it’s bloody nauseating.
Turok is as fun to play now as it was all those years ago, though it’s definitely a title that will be better appreciated by those who enjoyed the series initially or who just appreciate a good old-school shooter. It does have some flaws that returning gamers may find frustrating mind, with those respawning enemies and clumsy platforming sections making for some pretty annoying moments throughout.
Still, there’s definitely a lot more good than bad in the game and it was great to be able to re-visit a shooting classic in this new revamped state – especially with the badass arsenal at your disposal and the sheer size of the levels you’ll use them across. It’s definitely not going to light up some gamer’s eyes as much as a new Call of Duty or Battlefield might, but those who appreciate some old-school first-person shooting action will get a lot of joy out of Turok’s return to a Nintendo console.
Developer: Nightdive Studios, Iguana Entertainment
Publisher: Nightdive Studios
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC