Review: Turok: Evolution (Playstation 2)

In this review, we battle some scaled critters in the Playstation 2 game Turok Evolution. We find out how well this FPS game plays.

This game was released in 2002. It is the fifth game in the series of you include spinoff games.

We have some familiarity with this series already. We first tried the game Turok – Dinosaur Hunter on the N64. That game wound up getting a great score. We then tried the PC version of the same game. That game got a pretty solid score as well. Next up is Turok 2 – Seeds of Evil. The N64 version got quite the great score. So, we tried the Game Boy Color version. That game got a pretty solid score. Lastly, we played the PC version of this game and that one also got quite the great score. So, we decided to skip ahead a little to see what the next generation consoles had to offer for this series.

This game takes place before the events of the original Turok. Rather than playing as Joshua Fireseed, though, you play the character Tal’Set who is apparently the first Son of Stone. In the midst of a fight with Captain Buckner, a wormhole sucks both of them into the Lost Land. The Lost Land itself is basically a repository of everything the wormholes suck from other places and time. time has no meaning here and the place is a very dangerous place as warlords fight each other to control it.

Unfortunately for Tal’Set, the wormhole drops him several feet down, nearly killing him. Some villagers find him and take him in. After spending days to heal him, Tal’Set is informed that he must seek the Seer who will tell him about his destiny. Standing in his way are an alien race known as the Sleg. This reptilian force seeks to wipe out all humans in the Lost Land among other things. Upon arrival, the Seer tells him that he must follow through on what he demands of him. Tal’Set, however, refuses. When he goes to leave, the Seer tells him that the Sleg are already invading the villages. Tal’Set then reluctantly agrees and leaves to go rescue the villagers.

Like other games in the series, you start in the middle of the jungle. At your disposal are a cudgel and bow and arrow. The cudgel is certainly useful for taking down small melee enemies early on while the bow and arrow is certainly good enough to last you until you find the next more powerful weapon.

Other weapons you’ll obtain include the flechette gun, shotgun, grenades, missile launchers, and miniguns.

Also found are various ammo pickups. Unlike the first two games, this game does not permit you to pick up ammunition unless you found the corresponding weapon. This unnecessary limitation struck me as odd having played the first two games and never encountering this limitation before. The only time I was unable to collect ammo of any kind was when I already reached maximum capacity. Still, this game bizarrely throws this limitation into the gameplay seemingly for no real reason.

Also found on the pathways are various health pickups. There is the small med kit and large medkit. Small medkits restore 20 health while large health kits restore 50. This certainly represents a severely reduced and scaled back variation of the health systems found in the first two games where you could pick up loads of health ranging from 2 to 250. Some health items will cap out at 100 while other health items could push yo all the way to 255. So, this feature winds up being hugely scaled back for seemingly no real reason.

Like previous games, enemies do drop items that can help you. Unfortunately, because the different items you can pick up are much more limited, you’ll likely not get very many of them. As such, the difficulty can vary quite severely at times, forcing you to depend on luck. Sometimes, you can mow down a small horde of enemies only to get maybe an ammo pickup or two. Other times, you can kill off three enemies and get 60 health for your trouble. The limited nature of item pickups really shows the limitation of having only 2 different kinds of health pickups verses the near half a dozen presented in previous games.

One feature notably stripped out are the bonus wildlife. In previous games, you could come across a small deer or wild boar. Shooting it will allow you to get some added health. Unfortunately, any random wildlife you kill off will only reduce your ammo, so the actual concept of hunting has been pretty much removed entirely from the game.

Also stripped out of the game are bonus stages that you can randomly come across. In previous games, random wormholes would open up and allow you to play a bonus level. This bonus level is largely about navigating obstacles – many of which would only cause you to fall back to the beginning of the area. This feature made sense because the Lost Land is highly unstable anyway. One can only imagine that this game intended on having this, but because it was stripped out, that only served to increase the difficulty of the game.

In addition to this, if you are expecting the cool key system from previous Turok games, you are completely out of luck. Rather than have various keys you can collect so you can bring back to the hub and tackle different levels in an open-ended order, you are stuck with a linear Chapter system. This system was stripped out in Turok 3, so it is hardly the fault of this game. However, the linear nature does give this game a much more generic feel to it.

Another feature that has been removed from this game is the ability to select difficulty. Previously, you could select either easy, medium, or hard. In this game, there is one difficulty, and it is seemingly hard. I could only get about a third the way through the game, so as such, you can pretty much guess that difficulty is going to be one of my complaints already.

A feature returning in this game is climbing. You can climb various vines and ladders just like previous games. In this game, this feature has been expanded to include overhead climbing areas. Just jump up to them and continue walking to traverse large gaps. This can include large ropes or overhanging vines. It’s one of the few instances where something is actually added to the series and it’s only found in limited supply.

Another feature, though not necessarily new, does take Turok into another direction. This, of course, is flying missions. Some people didn’t like it and said that this isn’t at all what Turok is about. This, however, is a bit of a “yes” and “no” situation, however. For those who played Turok 2 – Seeds of Evil, you might recall the second level which features a riding mount. This mount not only stomped and crushed enemies to death by merely running them over, but also features a machine gun and twin massive grenade launchers. Also, the Game Boy Advance actually features mounting one as well. So, really, a flying pterodactyl isn’t that far off from what previous games had to offer.

Unfortunately, these missions soak up whole chapters and can be, at times, tedious to play because I couldn’t help but wonder if the developers were going for a feature similar to what is found in some Star Wars game. I also wonder if the idea of flying on a pterodactyl was something that is supposed to add to the cool factor of the game. I can see both sides here, really, but when the game is already irritating me with lots of issues, these levels only offer some minor relief at best.

A feature that continues is the alternative firing function. Pistols can utilize a sniper scope and you can get alternative arrows for your tech bow. Unfortunately, selecting between your weapons is particularly bad.

In previous games, you could either scroll through a ring which offers a quick graphic of what weapon you are selecting. This made advancing between weapons a bit more bearable. In the second game, you had a massive ring system where you could choose between one of two rings. Simply select the icon and you were good to go. This game basically looked at all that innovation, crumpled it up and threw it in the garbage. Instead, your only visual cue is the bullet icon which doesn’t vary that often. As a result, you had to whip out each individual weapon to see what you had selected before moving to the next weapon.

As such, you can easily die in tight situations where you run out of ammo on one weapon. You can scramble to select your next weapon, but you’ll probably scroll through useless bows and you cudgel as you try and find, say, a shotgun.

On a related note, as you advance through the levels, weapons will randomly disappear from your inventory. Others have speculated that this might be a glitch or an oversight, but when you are running out of ammo, the sudden disappearance of a pistol will likely make you ask, “Wait, what? Why?”

In fact, I’ve seen instances where weapons will temporarily disappear only to suddenly pop up in a later level. The flame thrower, for instance, disappeared on me shortly after collecting it. Thinking it was lost forever, I compensated with alternative strategies only to have it randomly reappear in my inventory a number of levels later.

One thing this game does have are breakables. This is seemingly the only other practical use you have with your cudgel. Smash through wooden crates and you might obtain new health items or even some ammo. Definitely an invaluable thing to find part way through the game.

Another feature that is missing is the breath meter. In previous games, you could dive into the water and swim around for a bit. As your breath runs low, a meter will appear to tell you to get to the surface. In some games, it is an audio warning. Unfortunately, all warning is removed in this game and you’ll simply lose health after a bit. To make matters worse, you only have a couple seconds of breath before you start to run low. As such, you can only travel a small distance from one air hole to another before your health starts to drop.

If you happen to die, you’ll simply restart at the beginning of the level. Each chapter is divided into levels. As such, the free life and life force system that made gameplay that much more interesting in previous games is also completely stripped out.

On a final note, you will encounter the occasional puzzle. This can include multi-switch doors or a key finding mission. Unfortunately, it is nothing like what you have encountered in previous games have you played games in the past, so there’s nothing much you can expect here.

For me, this game is stunning in all the wrong ways. Having played the first two games and being blown away by how great FPS games in the series can be, I found myself dumbfounded as to how things could possibly be so bad in this game. Knowing how feature after feature after feature being stripped out completely, all that is left behind is a shell of what the series used to be. You still get the varied environments including the famous jungle and dinosaur themes. Unfortunately, very little else remains intact.

What is left behind is something much more akin to earlier Medal of Honor games. Considering how innovative previous games were, Medal of Honor was a borderline barely out of beta-testing featureless mess by comparison. Moving to this, of course, is going to be a massive step back for the series.

Additionally, the difficulty leaves a lot to be desired. Not only is hard seemingly the only difficulty, but the game seemed unfair at times. Enemies aim is almost dead on half the time, so fleeing to find a previously left behind health pack winds up being something much riskier then it should be. The amount of damage you take from enemy weapons fire is also quite severe. This game also adds fall damage which takes a lot away from you.

Another major setback is the writing of this game. While there are certainly cringeworthy moments in previous Turok games, this game really falls flat. It only offers some of the simplest lines of dialogue from time to time. Characters are also quite flat for the most part and, as such, wind up being largely forgettable.

This game does offer some promising concepts like blowing out search lights and some minor puzzles early on, this game ends up being more or less a repetitive slog. Having been impressed by the series up to this point, this is a huge disappointment.

Overall, this game is basically a Turok game with at least 80% of all the features that made the first few games great stripped out. From there, the difficulty is ramped up quite severely to push newer gamers out of this series on top of it all. When the levels are at their best, they are reasonable experiences. Unfortunately, most levels wind up being irritating and repetitive hall fights. Whether or not you are a Turok fan, I can’t recommend this game. In fact, if you are a fan of Turok, you might have an even greater reason not to play this game because it’ll make you wonder just what happened to Acclaim since the second game.

Graphically, one thing you have to keep in mind is that this game was released fairly early into the Playstation 2 life span. As such, it is comparable to games like Super Monkey Ball, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, and the original Burnout game. So, really, the game is hit and miss. Some levels like what is found in the first two chapters is quite visually pleasing. Other levels like what is found in Chapter 4 make this game look blurry and muddy. While I can say it is passable, it doesn’t make it much beyond that.

The audio is also very hit and miss. The sound effects offer a small amount of variety. Unfortunately, the voice acting just doesn’t do this game justice for the most part. It is especially true for enemy Sleg forces as I’ve heard better, higher quality lines from Duke Nukem 3D. The music, meanwhile, is largely forgettable. Turok 3 strips out all the cool music and replaces it with bland and generic tracks. This game largely continues with this tradition and seems to say “bland and boring is best, so lets stick with that!” As such, it just doesn’t make the grade.

Overall, I never thought I’d find myself disliking a Turok game after what I’ve played to date. This game successfully makes me hate playing a Turok game. The writing is horrendous. Many of the features that made previous games great have been stripped out completely. The difficulty is annoying and through the roof. The weapon system is both bugged and extremely clunky to use. The graphics are passable, but quite hit and miss and the audio doesn’t do this game justice. So, a game I suggest avoiding.

Furthest point in game: Died on the Reactor Core level of Chapter 5.

General gameplay: 12/25
Replay value: 3/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 46%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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