Turok: Realistic Dinosaurs, Unrealistic computer game

Drat. Raptors again. I can’t hope to win a four-against-one melee, not with only half a clip of ammo left, but I do have my trusty hunting knife…

Such situations regularly occur in Turok, the latest incarnation of the “Turok: Dinosaur Hunter” franchise, released last April on all major game platforms. The new game’s run-and-gun action is a far cry from the first 64-bit Turok game I played during my high school days, and there’s a lot to like about the new Turok.

Breaking from the traditional Turok mythos, the new game takes place in the future and introduces a new hero, Joseph Turok. Formerly a member of the elite special ops group Wolf Pack, Turok is sent on a mission to capture the leader of Wolf Pack on a planet overrun by dinosaurs, giant insects, and other beasties.

For players like me, though, the story is mostly an excuse to go hunting dinosaurs, but Turok is a far cry from earlier shoot ‘em up games like DOOM or Serious Sam. Sure, rocket launchers, flamethrowers, and plasma rifles abound, but charging into caves and military bases with guns blazing is a sure way to get killed.

Turok requires a bit more finesse. Why alert the enemy to your presence with gunfire when you can silently pick off a sentry with a bow & arrow? Why empty your ammunition supply when you can drive some hungry raptors into an enemy installation with a few well placed shots? Strategy is often more important than the power of your weaponry (except, of course, when you’re fighting a Tyrannosaurus and need all the firepower you can get!)

The bestiary you face as you progress through the game is varied. The most common opponents are various flavors of raptor (about the size of Utahraptor), from packs of sparsely-feathered predators to an acid-spitting species that has a bad habit of popping out of caves. Regardless of form, they will be your more frequent traveling companions.

Less common are arboreal predators informally called “Lurkers.” They look like a cross between a raptor and a dog, and they have a bad habit of pouncing from trees onto their intended victims. Yet they would not be a match for the larger, Dilophosaurus-like carnivores encountered later in the game, which would in turn be snacks for the Tyrannosaurus “Mama Scarface” that shows up now and then. Where most games featuring dinosaurs make it impossible to kill a Tyrannosaurus, this game requires that you take one down, lest you be turned into the precursor of a coprolite.

There are some other killer critters, too, namely big honkin’ bugs and soldiers, but I picked up the game for the dinosaurs. Much to my enjoyment, they looked pretty good. Turok will not win any awards for museum-quality reconstructions, but the dinosaurs in the game looked far better than in any of the previous installments of the Turok series. This is best appreciated, albeit in a violent manner, when you use your knife to dispatch dinosaurs like the raptors and every detail of their modeling can be seen. The shower of blood on the screen might not be pretty, but video game dinosaurs have never looked better.

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