Monday, January 13, 2014

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

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Released on February 28, 1997, by Acclaim Entertainment, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter features eight levels of first-person shooter action, as the titular character blasts through hundreds of the titular creatures, as well as countless strange beasts and tribal warriors, to ensure the Lost Land stays lost.
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The Personal Story:
In the fall of 1997, I rented Turok: Dinosaur Hunter from "Vidiots," the greatest named video store of all time, so that I could write a review for Nintendojo(here is a link to that original review). In those days, I was only a high-schooler, and not the Curator, so I based my review on two days of gameplay. I did not fully grasp the game, nor understand its ways--the folly of youth. Now, I am the Curator. After countless hours of gameplay, the Lost Land completely conquered, here is a historically accurate assessment of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter.  

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Graphics: Turok: Dinosaur Hunter features above average graphics for a first-generation Nintendo 64 game. Acclaim did extensive motion capture work for character animation, and it pays off well in realism, though the amount of animation routines are small. Weapons look great, and their effects are pleasant to look at, if indeed carnage can be pleasant. Blood sprays are accurately and lovingly rendered. Character models and designs are solid, and textures are, for the most part, only blurry upon close approach. The framerate is fast and smooth, and any seldom-occurring slowdown never affects gameplay. This speed of play and graphical quality come at a cost, though. To keep Turok: Dinosaur Hunter running smoothly with the texture count so high (which keeps blurriness at a minimum), Turok's developers had to severely limit the depth of the player's field of vision. This means the player can see roughly 50 yards in any given direction at any time. While the fog doesn't hamper gameplay (you are never being attacked by something the fog obscures), it isn't exactly pretty to look at. Then again, the fog does heighten the dark, fever dream-like atmosphere of Turok's world.

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Sound: Acclaim originally had big plans for Turok's soundtrack, but they soon found themselves constrained by the burgeoning Nintendo 64's small cartridge space (Cartridge space would grow bigger, and developers would find new methods of data compression as the system aged). This led to Turok: Dinosaur Hunter featuring a more minimalistic score than the developers intended. Each level's soundtrack is generally composed of driving, tribal drums, backed by a lone synth line. Again, this drawback actually adds character to the game, nicely matching Turok's savage, prehistoric setting. Sound effects are great, with each weapon packing a distinct aural punch. Ambient noise is submersive, monsters sound scary, and the game's few spoken lines are well read. The titular character's often-said, victorious cry, "I...AM TUROK!" never loses its near-legendary appeal.

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Gameplay: Now this is a video game. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter contains two hallmarks of a great game. The first is that it is incredibly fun to play. The second is that the more one plays it, the better one plays. Most importantly, these two aspects work together to create a near sublime experience. The controls, tough to get a handle on at first, eventually become second nature. Weapons that at first seem unwieldy become close friends. Levels that seem incomprehensibly massive reveal themselves to be well-designed and easy to navigate. The player begins by tearing their way through the jungle, before traversing some wicked ruins, demonic catacombs, a treetop village, blood-sucking dragonfly infested lava pits, a surprise spaceship, and a technologically advanced fortress. The catacomb level illustrates everything right about this game. In theory, a dark, immense maze full of switches and evil, super-powered shamans should not be fun. In action, the gameplay and layout are so fluid, it is a shame the level has to end. The catacombs also feature one of Turok's four boss battles. Boss fights in Turok are fast, loud, frenetic, and usually involve running and firing as quickly as possible to avoid getting burned, stabbed, beaten, or eaten alive. Finally, every level contains a few well-placed save points, so the player can save their much earned progress to a controller pak.

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Lasting Value: Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is a difficult game. While it is not "Contra" hard, besting all eight levels will take an average player at least fifteen to twenty hours. The game does not feature any multiplayer modes, but the single player mission is still fun enough to play with friends...again and again.

Quite good for so old a game, but the ugly fog hurts.

Music and Sound
Guns and explosions pack a wallop. Ambient sounds bring the player into Turok's world. The intense, yet simple music gets the job done.

Excellent, first-person shooter action. Blasting through foes from one end of each remarkably well-designed level to the next is incredibly satisfying.

Lasting Value
No multiplayer, but the twenty-hour single-player campaign is enough fun to keep Turok: Dinosaur Hunter in anyone's rotation.  


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