One of my first FPS games.
- Duke 64
- Wolfenstein? On the Super Nintendo?
- Turok the Dinosaur Hunter
And it was a treat. Full 3D levels and enemies, fluid animations, unique weapons wielding apocalyptic power.
I heavily abused cheats in my youth. Turok had level skips, all weapons with infinite ammo, god mode–the usual. Then you had a disco mode that turned the game into a wild rave party which complemented the banger soundtrack and also the 90’s ass special–big head mode and small body mode.
The levels were huge sprawling affairs with multiple paths. Most of these pathways loop back to the portal at the beginning of the level, which would then take you back to the hub level.
The goal was to explore every level and collect keys used to gain access to other levels in the game. This was too complicated for me as a child even though it shouldn’t have been. We’re talking basic collectathon mechanics here. I played Super Mario 64! I knew how to progress through a game, but I hadn’t gained the needed level literacy needed to properly traverse video game levels.
So I’d pop on the cheats, kill everything that moves, and look at shit. Without knowing how to properly explore levels, I always thought Turok was a poorly designed game.
This feeling grew up with me. Every time I’d go back to that original Nintendo 64 release I’d experience actual nausea due to the poor framerate, the forced vision bobbing, the poor draw distance, the tiny FOV. For the time this game displayed impressive technology but it does not stand the test of time in the slightest.
In 2015 a team named Nightdive Studios did a modern port of Turok the Dinosaur Hunter, and it does what any good port should: elevate the game to modern expectations without altering the content. At first I didn’t really see that–I just kept thinking Turok was a dumb game. Even though I bought the port as soon as I became aware of it. I’d play and think ‘wow this game doesn’t really have a point to it. It’s just early 3D garbage.’
It took John Linneman from Digital Foundry to really change my opinion on that. Because of him, I not only dove down another crusty 90’s FPS hole, but I went back to Turok with open eyes. And I saw greatness. So much, that I actually beat the fucking thing.
Yes that’s right. In 2019 I finally beat Turok the Dinosaur Hunter, a game I’ve played off and on for nearly 20 years.
It was a smooth playthrough. I only had to re-enter levels twice to find keys I’d missed–the level design isn’t that difficult to parse once you make a fair attempt exploring the level. The designers played Mario–they knew how to lead players down different pathways by placing “coins” (gold diamonds that are apparently called ‘Life Force’) all over the place. They stick out plainly against the colors of each level, so they’re hard to miss as long as you’re looking for them. They’ll even lead players to secrets.
The secrets are pretty great. You often find them by accident. They’ll be hidden behind false walls usually, and you’ll get some great weapons by finding them. Most of these weapons are available in later levels, but like any FPS gaining them early can create a major advantage.
Each level contains a piece of a super weapon that is extremely well hidden. I found most of these pieces, but wasn’t able to complete the super weapon by the time I’d finished the game. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it during my cheating days. I can’t remember it. Maybe I’ll stop being lazy, and I’ll boot up the game to check it out.
It’s a laser cannon that creates massive blue explosions that’ll kill enemies in one shot but has a pretty small blast radius. A pretty good super weapon with a great sound and look, but not nearly as effective as DOOM’s BFG.
Since beating Turok and writing the bulk of this review I’ve played other classic 90s FPS and retro throwbacks like DUSK, AMID EVIL, and Ion Fury. I realized my problem with Turok: I typically prefer levels that are based off real locations, and I especially prefer interior locations with tight corridors that require frantic movement of the player if they wish to survive. Turok’s levels are w i d e. Even those that are interior. You have so much space to just circle strafe and jump around that the game seems way easier than anything the build engine facilitated, or the Quake engine especially. Enemies appear in small quantities too, due to the restraints of the engine, so it never felt like I was up against an army of bad guys.
The later levels do get quite difficult though. More deadly traps, and extra deadly enemies. The bosses are also quite fun. In my mind they are a highlight of the game, which generally isn’t the case with shooters in general, especially those from the 90s. Usually, you just kind of circle strafe around a boss and shoot it until it dies. It’s simple to a fault, and that’s not a bad thing. Turok felt different in this respect. You still circle strafe and shoot them until they’re dead, but they tend to move around the level in unexpected ways no other enemy can move. The last boss is especially challenging with this jump and punch attack that is difficult to dodge. Most bosses I had to fight a second time, but it was never too difficult that I wanted to give up.
I almost didn’t beat Ion Fury because that last boss fight was crazy enough to lag the fuck out multiple times.
But this is Turok, and I liked Turok. It’s hard to think of anything else to say. I think Turok is an excellent game to go back to. Just make sure to play the port, which is now available on every modern console as well as Steam. It’s completely unlike shooters from the time as this weird cross between FPS and Platformer.
Atmosphere. Geometry. Guns. Dinosaurs.
Turok the Dinosaur Hunter IS video games.
Ranking of Childhoods
- Street Fighter II Turbo Hyper Fighting
- Super Street Fighter
- Quake II (PC)
- Return to Castle Wolfenstein
- Tony Hawk Pro Skater (N64)
Turok the Dinosaur Hunter
- Metroid Fusion
- Tetris 2
- Street Fighter II The World Warrior
- Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
- Street Fighter II Alpha
Anyway, I’m going to review Ion Fury now, since I beat it. See ya.