Review | Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (2015)

In 1997, Acclaim published a game for the Nintendo 64 and PC: a game called, Turok by Iguana Entertainment. It was a first person shooter based on the comic book of the same name. Set in a world with roaming dinosaurs, creatures, and evil tribesmen. Your character, Turok, is tasked with the simple job of stopping the world falling into the hands of evil. Evil that have, in their power, a weapon that’s as ancient as themselves. Pretty vague blurb eh?

Despite that Turok was a ground-breaking game, taking the player from corridor shooters such as, DOOM, and throwing them into a vastly more open world. It set a standard which made the series a household name, and changed the way level design worked for years to come.

In 2015, Night Dive Studios released a remaster. Unlike what normally comes to mind when you think of remasters, Night Dive’s work was more of a service, than bodywork. There was no super high rez textures, anti-alias tinkering, or insertion of HDR  sun-rays peering through tree tops. Oh no, this keeps its roots pure, it celebrates the graphical style and standards that the original carried back in the 90’s and, it even kept the controls as simple as the original.

It looks like the exact same game, but with a resolution, and smoothing fix, it feels like I’m back in my living room on my N64 as a child. Element which would need tweaking as to accommodate the changes in screen resolutions have clearly been prioritised;the HUD looks smoother, sharper than it used too; the overall game brightness is tweaked, brighter, with more vivid colours than the game could manage on it’s initial outing; the frame rate is smoothed, balanced throughout. All this combined with the slightly tweaked textures also come together to keep the game fast, flowing, and as easy to pick up and play as before. which helps with the game’s fast paced shoot outs, and the textures look a touch more detailed giving the world a little more character.

I remember Turok on the N64 being creepy because the bad guys would come from the depths of the fog and startle me, it was tense and added a lingering fear that you truly didn’t know where the next enemy was coming from. The reasoning for the fog back then was due to the processing restrictions of the machines, and while it ultimately became a strength of the title, it’s something which wouldn’t have been a problem with modern machines. Interestingly Night Dive, while increasing the draw distance actually pushed back the fog (in both senses of the word) and the game comes with an extended dd. That said, if you do miss the older game’s tighter, more constricted view distance then the option is in the game to facilitate turning it back on.

Now, I’m not going to lie, I was clearly nodded towards the cheat code section in the menu. These days we tend to think of cheat codes as just that, level skip options, god mode, unlimited ammo. While those are core parts of the history of those sections, added as development tools in the earlier games – like debug menus and item rooms. Turok was from a different era… also, as I navigated to the cheat menu – I found it was bare.

I wasn’t given any codes. I stared vacantly at the screen, devoid. After a short while I gave in and headed to a popular search engine with a G in it, and hammered in a quick search.

A short moment later I’d found some codes for the original, ’97 release, and – mostly in jest – I keyed them in on the screen.

Those magic, iconic words of my youth appeared. Words which now seem so long ago, so distant…

BIG HEAD MODE ACTIVATE!

Outstanding! And, now I have all the weapons in the game – what does this red one do? Oh yeah! Nuke gun! I remember that… Glad I turned on invincibility too!

It’s really a wonderful remaster of an old, fun, and important classic. Those who played the game when it launched, over fifteen years ago, will be revelling in this new version. However, as with any older title which is ‘serviced’ rather than entirely revised there’s always a chance of creating a collective of confused, younger gamers who don’t understand the relevance, or design, of older titles. That said, the current “Overwhelmingly Positive” review score on Steam would indicate that this audience possibly doesn’t exist, and with over 500 reviews at time of writing, it’s clear that this is not an isolated incident.

This version has been created as a remaster of a classic, but to me, it feels more personal than that. It feels like a heartfelt throwback to a that age, and time. The world thrives on retro-style things every day, or tries to remake something to fit into today’s society, yet when it comes to video games, everyone’s bleating on about the latest Call of Doody, Mass Reflect, and Poorout 4, and how huge they are and how graphically stunning they are. Not many people sit there and play the games which gave inspiration to those titles, the classics, the games that got us to where we are now. This remaster feels much more an homage to the title as a ‘port’ to modern systems. It’s been built to smooth off the edges, like when we remember back to those titles. I’m so happy to have it brought back to life.

 

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