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Moldy Oldies: Turok

On 03/22/2019 at 05:49 PM by SanAndreas

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So today, I downloaded Turok on Switch. It's a gussied up port of the N64 adventure/FPS, with all the good and bad that entails. It honestly probably holds up better than most 5th gen games, running pretty fast and smooth.

I played the original N64 version back in 1997 when it came out. It was made by Acclaim, a company otherwise notorious for bad licensed games and Mortal Kombat ports, until Midway started self-publishing, so I didn't have high hopes for hit. A lot of Nintendo's Dream Team turned out to be busts, and I'd have happy traded them for Namco, Capcom, Square, or Enix.

Made by Iguana Entertainment in Austin, the same studio that did NBA Jam TE on SNES, Turok turned out to be a surprise in both quality and popularity. Cynically, I'd say that Acclaim made a smart move in trying to exploit the relatively empty library of the N64, and I don't know if Turok would have done nearly as well on the PS1 trying to compete with Resident Evil and Tomb Raider. Maybe it would have, given that first-person shooters were the one genre where the PS1 had weaker and fewer offerings than the N64.

Turok was based on a comic series called Turok: Son of Stone that dates back to the early 1950s. For a 90s FPS, it was actually pretty fun. It was fast and smooth, for one, and even PCs weren't consistently running games that smoothly at the time. Part of this was facilitated by Acclaim hiding the N64's notoriously low polygon count and short draw distance with the game's infamous fog, which Nintendo touted as a feature rather than a concession to the shortcomings of the N64's hardware (Nintendo did a LOT of damage control in 1997). Fully polygonal dinosaurs and humans zipped through a sprawling jungle environment, a huge step up from Doom 64 on the same console, which still featured levels and sprite-based enemies with canned animations. The jungle environments were a bit empty, but the game's structure was that of a more open-ended adventure rather than a corridor shooter with discreet level. Blood sprayed on walls when you knifed or shot an enemy, and sometimes the human enemies would make some rather gruesome choking sounds as they died. Turok even sported some rudimentary rag doll physics. I remember turning on the nuclear cannon through the cheat menu and using it to bounce blood-spraying corpses around. Yes, I'm perfectly healthy mentally, my psychiatrist just gave me my certificate that says "Not Insane."

The Turok games were a success for Acclaim and briefly made it a big player in the game market. Turok 2 (which is also coming to Switch) was one of the first games to utilize the 4MB Expansion Pak for the N64, and it increased the draw distance so the game wasn't quite so foggy. Turok 3 was okay, but Turok didn't do so well on PS2 and Gamecube: EGM named its "worst game of the year" awards after 6th gen Turok's villain, Tobias Bruckner.  On the N64, Turok ended up being overshadowed by Nintendo/Rare's Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, which both featured multiplayer split screen modes where Turok was strictly a single-player adventure. Turok also pioneered the dual-stick move/aim mechanic used by modern console FPS's, using the C buttons on the N64 controller to move Turok and the Control Stick to look and aim.

Turok also lived on in another way: The creators of Turok ended up leaving Iguana Entertainment and founding another gaming studio in Austin, Retro Studios - the same Retro studios that developed the Metroid Prime games.

Although badly overshadowed on the Switch by modern FPS's Doom and Wolfenstein II, as well as the upcoming Doom Eternal, Turok is still a fun little blast from the past that runs at 60 FPS. Its controls are pretty wonky for this day and age, and its graphics are dated. Honestly, though, Turok probably holds up a little better now than a port of Goldeneye would have. Between this and the Switch port of Final Fantasy VII, looks like it's going to be 90's Week in my living room.

On another note, this apparently my 50th blog post at Pixlbit, so yay me?




03/22/2019 at 07:35 PM

Can you imagine if they did the recent Doom/Wolfenstein treatment to Turok? That would be awesome. I wanted to like that Xbox Turok Evolution game. Shooting a bow-and-arrow is always my favorite. 

My main memory from Turok is the Cerebral Bore weapon from the all multiplayer Turok Rage Wars. I think about that thing a lot for some reason. I may be insane, but it's probably because my friend Mark and I had such fun hitting each other with it on the N64. 

Super Step Contributing Writer

03/22/2019 at 09:10 PM

Only 50? You're a barrel of restraint! 

Interesting history of Turok; I'd forgotten Iguana morphed into Retro. I only live 5-6 hour from Austin, so maybe I'll visit Retro Studios some time. 

Matt Snee Staff Writer

03/23/2019 at 12:25 PM

I never played the first one, but I played a ton of Turok 2. My roommate at the time loved the single player, but we also did a lot of split screen multiplayer. I loved that "cerebral bore." ha ha. 

Cary Woodham

03/23/2019 at 04:06 PM

I reviewed the first Turok game back in my Dallas Morning News days.

During that time, I was in college at The University of Texas at Austin, and since I got a job working at the newspaper, I decided to major in Journalism.  Yeah, seemed like a good idea at the time.  Anyway, one of my assignments was to interview someone and write a story, so since I lived in Austin at the time, I chose to interview someone at Iguana Entertainment.  The cool thing is that one of the things they said to me was they were working on something really big and they couldn't talk about it.  Makes me wonder if that big thing was Metroid Prime?  It was about the right time for them to start working on it anyway.

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