Written for Total Control magazine, Rapide Publishing c.1998
Turok 2: Seeds of Evil
Those damn lizards are at it again, and only one man can stop them. As the son of Fireseed, Joshua is the new dinosaur hunter in this sequel from Acclaim
Platform: Nintendo 64
Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment
Developer: Iguana Entertainment
Style: First person adventure
Rumble pak: Yes
Memory pak: Yes
Expansion pak: Yes
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the simple control interface, you’re away. The opening scene contains some prime examples of all the nicest graphics in the game. Flames, explosions and water effects all look great. There’s not much fighting for the first ten minutes or so, but there are some puzzles to solve. Things soon hot up once you get further in, though.
The original Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was an early hit for the Nintendo 64. It was released about a fortnight after the machine first went on sale in the UK, and despite costing £70, and needing a (then unavailable) £25 memory card to play it, it was very successful. The game had it’s faults and I for one found it frustrating and unrewarding to play, but it was the only first-person shoot-‘em-up available on the N64 for quite a long time.
There have been other first-person shooters on the platform since then, mostly ports of id Software titles from the PC, such as Doom, Quake, Hexen and Quake II. The release of Goldeneye this time last year opened a lot of people’s eyes to the possibilities of the platform, and is widely regarded as being one of the best games anywhere. These titles have gone a long way towards dispelling the N64’s image of being the exclusive domain of Mario, and all things cute, fluffy and safe.
Pick of the crop
Turok 2: Seeds of Evil is also not for the squeamish. It has more weapons than Quake II, more blood than SiN, and more realistic enemy death animations than Half-Life. Turok 2 can compete with any of the latest generation of first-person shooters, both on the N64 and on the PC. So much work has gone into every aspect of the game, it is difficult to know where to begin. I guess I’ll have to stick with tradition and start with a discussion of the graphics. The 3D engine is superb, with multi-coloured dynamic lighting and special effects that use all of the capabilities of the machine. The flames and explosions are truly spectacular, and at first glance are very realistic. If you look closely you may notice that the fires look the same no matter which direction you approach them from, but they still look amazingly good.
The actual 3D level maps are made up of some pretty huge polygons, but the design of the levels and the quality of the texture maps is so good that this is really not a problem. The actual size of the levels is huge. Iguana claims that the playing area covers the scale equivalent of thirty square miles. As you wander around the devastated remains of the Port of Adia, this claim seems quite reasonable.
Design for dying
Unlike many first-person games, such as Quake II, the six huge levels in the quest mode are all very different in look and feel. Each level has a unique set of texture maps and distinctive polygon geometry. The starting Port of Adia level is very architectural, with classical-styled buildings, archways and doors, while the underground Lair of the Blind Ones is very organic, with round tunnels, hanging roots and giant fungi. The final level, on board the Primagen’s Lightship is very high-tech, with metal walls, animated holographic displays and sliding doors. There are different enemies to fight in each area, ranging from Dinosoid soldiers to space-age robots. There are also end of level bosses which are so huge and daunting they will challenge even the most ruthless dinosaur hunters. The lairs of each of the bosses are designed to fit in with the overall feel of the levels which they rule.
In the outdoor levels, the familiar Nintendo fogging effect is very much in evidence, but it does add a certain atmosphere. Seeing one of the realistically animated Dinosoid troops loping towards you out of the mist is pretty scary. On the underground levels and inside the Primagen’s Lightship, the grey fog is replaced with black which is a lot better, giving the impression of shadowy corridors and tunnels.
One feature worthy of mention is the water. No computer game developer has ever got water to look exactly right, and some don’t even seem to try. The water effects in Turok 2 aren’t quite perfect either but they are very good, with ripples and splashes, and light glinting off the surface.
The waterfalls look particularly good, but I get the impression that as with the flames, the developers have gone for a simpler approach that works rather than something flashy which doesn’t. The change in magnification and lighting when you are swimming under water is well handled, and also looks very good. However, mentioning the viewpoint does bring me to one of my few complaints with the game. The angle of vision is very restricted, like wearing blinkers. This is only a problem when you are in a close quarter fight against a large opponent, but unfortunately most of the opponents are pretty big, and only being able to see their kneecaps makes fighting them a pretty hit and miss affair.
I don’t have many other complaints about the game, so I’ll get them off my chest now. Having played several levels right through, I found them to be a bit sparsely populated. I know the first Turok game was criticised for being all fighting and not enough puzzles, but I think the sequel may have gone too far in the other direction. A lot of the game consists of hunting around for switches and special objects, many of which are hidden in very obscure places.
There are several areas which, although they look very pretty, contain virtually no action. For all its advanced graphics, Turok 2 is essentially a very simple game. There are no special moves; you can run, jump, swim and climb and that’s pretty much it. Even when riding an armoured Triceratops, the movement is fairly simple. In order to make the gameplay more involving, I would have expected to see more complex action-based puzzles. Tomb Raider III has gone down this route, and although it lacks the technical sophistication of Turok 2, it could prove to be the more challenging game.
Run like hell
One aspect of Turok 2 which is definitely a challenge is the enemy AI. The enemies are one of the highlights of the game, superbly animated, intelligently programmed and very threatening. Iguana has used an animation technique which gives the monsters smooth skins which bulge and wrinkle as they move in a very lifelike manner. Even close up they look truly superb, especially in the high-resolution mode.
The controlling AI program is also a bit of a masterpiece. Enemies have a cone of vision and range of hearing, which makes it possible to sneak up on them if you are careful. As long as they remain unaware of you, you can get a sniper shot in which can kill them instantly. Both the Tek Bow and the Plasma Rifle have sniper scopes that have a huge magnification, allowing killing shots to be made at extreme range. If an enemy does spot you, they will attack in a variety of ways. Some will charge straight up and hack you to bits, while others might fire ranged weapons from cover. They are capable of dodging your attacks, and watching a Dinosoid soldier trying to outrun a guided missile is highly entertaining.
Ewww! Sick, dude!
There are thirty different enemies which all have unique strengths and weaknesses. Some weapons will be totally ineffective against some enemies, but lethal against others. Since there are over twenty weapons to choose from, selecting the right one for the job gives the game a strong tactical element. Some of the weapons, and I’m thinking of the Cerebral Bore here, have effects which are extremely gory. The game has options for different coloured blood, or no blood, but watching a decapitated victim lying twitching on the floor with an expanding pool of very realistic-looking blood spurting from his neck is pretty strong stuff. It is possible to target specific body locations, so you can kill an opponent quickly with a head shot, or literally disarm them by aiming for their arm. When hit, opponents will flinch realistically, but with many of them, a wound just makes them angry.
Turok 2 is not the perfect game, and doesn’t quite reach the dizzy heights occupied by Goldeneye, but it is a superb example of its genre, extremely playable and big enough to provide a lasting challenge for any die-hard gamer. With the enhanced graphics made possible by the forthcoming memory expansion, it should prove to be one of the most popular games on the Nintendo 64. I am also keen to see the PC version, which is not a simple port, but is specially written to run on high-end machines with 3D graphics accelerators. All in all, this is a damn fine game. Cliff
Thanks for the memory
Later this month Nintendo will be releasing the Expansion Pak, which fits into the trapdoor slot on top of the console and upgrades the N64’s memory from four megabytes to eight. This allows games developers to make more complex games with better graphics. Turok 2 is one of the first games to be written for this gadget, and using it allows the game to run in high-resolution mode. Other games that make use of this extra memory are two driving games, Top Gear Overdrive from Kemco and GT World Tour from Midway. Two other Acclaim titles are in the starting line-up, NFL Club Quarterback 99 and of course South Park which uses the same graphics engine as Turok 2. Also in there is Rogue Squadron, developed by LucasArts and published by Nintendo. There are also plans for a larger memory plug-in, which adds eight megabytes to the on-board RAM.
I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of the Nintendo 64’s split screen multiplayer mode. Unless you are lucky enough to own an enormously large television, the tiny viewing area is almost useless. With many games the graphics in multiplayer mode are pretty crap as well. I know there are a few notable exceptions to this, but sadly Turok 2 isn’t one of them. I will admit that I didn’t get a chance to check out the multiplayer game with the expansion pak, but without it the graphics were pretty lame, and the restricted field of view was even more noticeable than in full-screen mode. The five levels specially designed for deathmatch games run smoothly enough, but only at the expense of the texture maps which look so good in single player mode. Oh well, I guess you can’t have everything.
A specially written version of Turok 2 is due for release on the PC, featuring 16 player deathmatches and accelerator-only graphics
There’s more chance of Lucifer skating to work than of Turok 2 appearing on the PlayStation.
Game name: Turok 2