Review: Turok 3 – Shadow of Oblivion (N64)

In this review, we collect the life force in the N64 game Turok 3 – Shadow of Oblivion. We find out how well this FPS game plays.

This game was released in 2000 and is the third main iteration of this franchise.

Previously, we reviewed the original Turok – Dinosaur Hunter on the N64. That game got a great score. We also gave the PC version a play and found it to be a pretty solid game as well. We also tried Turok 2: Seeds of Evil. That game got quite a great score. We also played the Game Boy Color version. That game didn’t play quite as well, but still got a pretty solid score as well. We also gave the PC version a play and found it to be quite a great game to play as well.

With such a great track record, we decided to skip over and play Turok: Evolution on the Playstation 2. To our shock, that game basically wound up being a flop for us. So, we decided to walk things back a bit and give this game a play to see where things began going sideways for this series.

The game picks up where things left off with the previous game. Joshua Fireseed begins having dreams of a child. Images of Oblivion forces also appear in the dreams to kill him. One day, Danielle confronts him about what is bothering him. Joshua finally opens up and explains his vision as “the child is the key”. He admits he does not really understand it, but that this is the vision. That evening, Oblivion forces open up a portal in the house. Joshua fends off some, but in the process, Danielle and Joseph are awoken by the battle. When they run out to investigate, Joshua is shot by one of the surviving Oblivion. Joshua tells Danielle and Joseph to flee. He then sets a grenade. Danielle and Joseph leave and the grenade detonates, destroying the house in the process.

Meanwhile, Danielle and Joseph flee in a truck, realizing that they are the two remaining members of the Fireseed left. In their initial shock and grief, they are attacked by more Oblivion. Adon, a character introduced in the previous game, intervenes and teleports everyone to safety. She introduces the council to them and explains that someone now must carry the burden of light. This is where the player must decide who they want to play as. After the decision, the player will be transported to a futuristic city under martial law. It is being attacked by Oblivion through the breach. The initial objective is to seal the breach and cut the attack off at its source while evading police in the process.

As mentioned, your game will vary depending on which character you chose. If you play as Danielle, you’ll take on side levels that involve more jumping and scaling buildings. She is able to jump higher than Joseph and her added agility makes her suited for the task. If, however, you choose Joseph, then your side missions will involve stealth and crawling into openings Danielle wouldn’t be able to fit in. You also get night vision goggles specifically tailored to your stealth missions.

While your game will vary depending on which character you choose, large portions of the game will also remain the same. It’s just a question of what type of side mission you want to play throughout the game.

You’ll also be given a maximum of 100 health and a tomahawk at the beginning. This hatchet is basically your weapon of last resort should you run completely out of ammo. While you may not think you’ll use it that much, it does, however, help you conserve ammo when you destroy breakables. Typically, breakable objects are just wooden boxes that contain ammo and health. Towards the beginning of the game, destroying a breakable is mandatory as it contains a key necessary to advance further into the game.

In addition to this, you’ll also be given a bow and arrow. While a bit limited in range, the practical benefit is the fact that it is possible to retrieve your arrows after – thus helping you not only conserve ammo, but also allowing you to re-use ammo as well.

You’ll be able to find other weapons throughout the game. This includes a pistol, a shotgun, an assault rifle, and a grenade launcher. To make things even more interesting, you’ll also be able to obtain weapons upgrades. A pistol upgrade will give you the mag 60. The bow upgrade will give you a tech bow (explosive arrows). A shotgun can be upgraded to a firestorm (bullets will also be covered in flaming napalm). You’ll be able to find several upgrades as well throughout the game, but those are some examples.

While there is a standard compliment of weapons, there is also a unique weapon new to this game. In this game, you can obtain a vampire gun. There is no ammo, but if you get close to an enemy, you can fire it and it will pull health from enemies into your own total. Unfortunately, the limited range makes it almost completely useless. What’s worse is that missing means that you take damage as well. So, unfortunately, this gun, while an interesting concept, doesn’t really do much for you in this game.

Like the two previous games, it is possible to obtain an ultimate weapon. Like the previous games, you get to collect the various parts throughout the game and assemble it. In this case, the ultimate weapon in this game is the PSG (Personal Singularity Generator). This gun, believe it or not, contains unlimited ammo. When fired, it emits what amounts to be a miniature black hole. You have to run and resist it once fired, but it sucks enemies into it (even warping polygons in the area in the process!) and kills off anything it traps. The pitfall of this weapon is that it takes a while to recharge.

This is where the game makes a borderline fatal mistake. In order to beat the game in any real practical sense, you need to assemble every part. Miss one part and the game becomes impractical to complete. This is because defeating the final boss borderline requires you to obtain this weapon. While it is possible to damage it without it, it winds up being extremely difficult and time consuming to do. What’s worse is that, unlike all the other previous games, this game doesn’t really provide you with any hints as to where the parts are located. While some parts are easy to find, others are tucked away in small easy to miss corners of different levels. There is no non-cheat way to retrace your steps either. Use a cheat code and the game will tell you you cheated at the end.

In all, there are 5 PSG parts spread across the four chapters of this game.

While you venture forth into the various levels, you’ll be required to achieve various objectives. This can include replacing fuses, destroying refinery parts, or even flooding an entire area with water. This is definitely something that has carried over from the previous game. In this game, though, it’s generally more varied than locating items and installing them at different terminal locations. Like the previous game, your objectives will also involve taking down various bosses as you go along.

Like the previous games, you can collect health. You have the small medical hit worth 10 health. There is also a larger medical pouch that replenishes 20 health. On a rare occasion, you’ll also stumble across a large red and white health box. This item is the full health that restores all of your normal health. Finally, there is the blue and white health box. This restores 100 health, but will exceed your maximum health threshold for a maximum of 100 additional health.

One way where this game deviates from the previous game is the use of life force. You’ll likely notice that this game does not use a free life system like other games. Instead, if you die, you’ll restart at the last checkpoint with half health and ammo. Monsters will also respawn in the process and life force you collected will reappear on the course (deducted from your previous total as well). So, the question is, what do the life force do in the first place? If you collect 100 life force, you’ll actually increase your total health by 10. Supposedly, you can increase your maximum health by up to 50, but I could only bring the total to 140 with about 70 life force. I’ve never done it, but it’s supposed to be possible.

One thing I do like about this game is the fact that it retain a lot of what made the previous game work so well. The health pickups and weapon upgrades, for instance, are largely carry-overs from the previous game with some tweaks. The modification of the life force system also gets a thumbs up from me because I thought it is rather innovative while still keeping that collectible system around.

I also thought the two character system is interesting. It really gives the game that added boost of replay value because if you choose the other character, you get to experience different parts of the game you wouldn’t otherwise see. So, it gives players a reason to play this multiple times.

Unfortunately, this game does suffer from a number of flaws.

For one, this game is significantly shorter than the previous game. I’m not even sure which is larger, the original Turok game or this one. Either way, you could spend two days playing it and have time to spare after you finish it. The level key system is scrapped and there is no way to really retrace your footsteps if you miss something critical. In terms of level design, this game represents a pretty significant step back.

Compounding the problem is the PSG system. Because there is no way of retracing your footsteps, it’s very easy to miss a part as you play this game. What’s worse is that there is no real practical way to know if you missed a part until you reach the final boss. At that point, it is far too late to figure out where you went wrong. Because the game doesn’t tell you if you missed a part and that it’s almost impossible to beat the game without this weapon, this game winds up being a deeply flawed game.

Another difference this game has is the fact that there are no bonus areas to speak of. The first Turok game has the warp to a bonus area. Unfortunately, this game does not have it. So, a feature that has been stripped out.

One final complaint I’ll make about this game is that this game suffers from fairly weak writing. You have what I think of as unnecessary drama. Plus, this game basically kills off the main character from the previous two games just for the sake of creating that drama. As such, it really flings this series into an entirely different direction to the point where it fixes what isn’t really broken.

Generally speaking, this game represents a significant step back in the franchise. The writing leaves a lot to be desired and the PSG weapon system is fatally flawed. The level system also represents a step back in the process. Still, the two character system adds some interesting variety to the game. The adjustment to the life force tweak is risky, but winds up working quite well. Also, the carry over’s from the previous game work quite well. Still, considering the strength the previous parts of the series had, this game ends up disappointing.

The graphics are OK. The PSG effect is pretty impressive. The settings are OK, but a lot of the textures used are a lot more muddied down from the previous game. The special effects also took a surprising step back. Previously, for example, you have warps that have been fully modelled with cool chrome effects. In this game, it just looks like a semi-transparent animated GIF slapped into the scene. Animation sequences and models seem a bit worse this time around as well. The only real improvement is draw distance, but that’s about it. The only thing this game can really compete against is lower grade Playstation games which is disappointing.

Audio is another major disappointment in this game. While this game does contain some decent voice acting from time to time, the sound effects are a bit of a let down. Considering how great the sound track was on the previous two games, this game features some seriously disappointing music. Nothing is really memorable and, at best, provides some decent atmospheric sound. Beyond that, it is largely forgettable.

Overall, we wanted to know where this franchise went sideways. It seems that this game is it. While there are some interesting ideas such as the duel quest tree between the two characters as well as the life force system tweak, it’s hard to find very many redeeming qualities in this game. The PSG requirement combined with the level system represents a huge flaw in the game that winds up killing the enjoyment in a lot of ways. The shorter gameplay and lack of bonus areas represents a significant step back in this franchise.

The graphics are a pretty sizable step back and the audio is largely forgettable. While it may be an interesting way to kill a few hours, this game winds up being a disappointment – especially in light of the first two games.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game on easy after. Took four attempts to do that with the previous attempts missing a PSG piece (all of them different misses, go figure).

General gameplay: 15/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 60%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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