Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

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Turok: Dinosaur Hunter game Steam banner

ConsoleNintendo 64, PC/Mac/Linux, Xbox One
DeveloperIguana Entertainment, Night Dive Studios (remastered)
PublisherAcclaim Entertainment
GenreFirst-person shooter, platformer
Release Year1997, 2015 (remastered)
Game Number1
Purchase (PC)Purchase from Humble Store.
Purchase (N64)Purchase from eBay.

…God. 20 years. Where the fuck did all that time go? I remember when I first laid my eyes on Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, I shat my pants. Not only I hadn’t seen a game like that at the time, it was horrifying for a little kid.

Ah, yes, the Turok series. Ancient memories forgotten by time and modern technology. Well, that is, until Night Dive Studios revived the original Nintendo 64 classic for Steam.

And that is what brings us here. We’re going to talk about one of the most iconic first-person shooters on the N64 and see if it stood the test of time.

 

The Hero of the Lost Lands

Turok, Son of Stone comic

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is a video game adaptation of the comic book series of the same name that appeared around the 1950s. In this setting, the name Turok means “Son of Stone.” Whoever possesses the title must protect the Lost Lands, a strange realm across time and space where races and creatures of all shapes and sizes seem to end up at.

The first video game is the story of Tal’Set Tan’Celle’Nyo, a warrior of the Saquin tribe and the first known Turok of the game series. He must battle a powerful cyborg overlord known as the Campaigner, who is seeking to assemble a mighty weapon known as the Chronoscepter in order to take over the Lost Lands. Tal’Set must find the Chronoscepter pieces and defeat the Campaigner’s army of mercenaries and monsters.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter raptor
My childhood terrors in this one image.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is a first-person shooter where you kill all sorts of colorful enemies: human mercenaries, ancient tribal warriors, cyborg dinosaurs, alien gorillas and god knows whatever horrors turned up at the Lost Lands. And you’re a Native American warrior of the 1800s granted superhuman abilities, slaying them all with modern-day weaponry.

It was definitely a bizarre game, but also quite creative. As far as first-person shooters go, I appreciate this level of creativity. It’s like a dark science fiction/fantasy world with horror elements and lots of gore. It’s not very often you see games like these, which is what helped the Turok series stand out in the N64 library.

The Nintendo 64 was certainly a weird platform for first-person shooters too. I mean, how do you play FPS games with a controller that looks like THIS?

Nintendo 64 controller

Heh. You use those yellow buttons to move the character and the control stick to move the camera. That D-pad does nothing. You use the Z button on the back of the controller to shoot stuff. The A and B buttons were just for changing weapons.

It was an experimental time, people. It may be awkward, but people managed… somehow. That controller may be great with Super Mario 64, but… heh…

For the record, I’m playing the Steam edition of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter with an Xbox One controller. Compared to the N64 controller, using something more conventional like an Xbox controller is much better for a first-person shooter. I would dare say the controls are buttery smooth. It also certainly helped that the frame rate for the remaster is better.

 

Exploring the Lost Lands

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter gameplay

So anyways, Turok is a FPS where you navigate through eight levels of labyrinths and bizarre scenery in search of level keys. At the end of the first level, you will find a portal hub that leads to the other seven levels. But to get to those levels, you need the right number of level keys.

For the most part, finding the level keys is an easy task. They’re usually in the main path along the level. However, there are others that require you to look for easy-to-miss spots, which is an easier task if you use the map feature.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Turok "drinking" from a key

Also, whenever Turok picks up the key and holds it above his head, I always thought he was “drinking” from it. I’m not crazy, am I? I mean, does he really need to tilt his head that much to just look at the damn key?

Yeah, nothing like a hard day’s work of almost getting killed by a battalion of soldiers and raptors! Now I must go drink some mystic water from these weird stone tablets that are left out in the open!

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Remastered gameplay

But for those trickier keys, you must do a lot of exploring around these levels. And these maps can be huge. At worst, you’re tearing your hair out looking for that last motherfucking key…

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On the upside, you can appreciate the surreal environments of the Lost Lands. You’d be exploring jungles with many cliffs, ancient cities, enormous temples with numerous passages and prehistoric-looking areas with floating platforms. The endless clouds that float across the sky and the bottomless heights make it seem like you’re in a strange, truly alien world where gruesome creatures await to target their next prey.

Of course, the graphics have considerably dated, considering this is a game that came out in 1997. And while the remastered version did improve on the visuals overall, you can still tell it’s a 3D game from 1997. Not a bad thing if you like that old school look, but just something to consider if you’re expecting a remastered game released in 2015 to look like a PS4 game.

The soundtrack by Darren Mitchell is pretty good, though it can get pretty monotonous to listen to at times. One example is that the first and second levels use the same track, and you could be listening to it for a long time depending on how much time you spend on them.

Yeah. You know a game feels longer if you listen to the same short track for hours on end.

But as soon as level 3 swings by, that’s when the tracks get really good.

Fast drums, metallic clangs, dinosaurs calling out in the distance, a synthesizer that adds an extra layer of badass to the tracks, and low-pitched piano. It’s like mixing techno music with tribal music. And the result is one of the most badass video game soundtracks of all time.

 

The Perks and Struggles of the Turok

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Remastered enemy respawn

So guess what? Enemies respawn in this game. A lot. Even some of the more difficult enemies that take a lot of bullets to kill. But since you can find ammo everywhere,  this is usually not much of an issue. But if you play on hard difficulty, you might be better off just running past most enemies.

Also consider that games of this era don’t have limb damage. In a game like Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, shooting a guy in the head inflicts the same amount of damage as shooting him in the leg. It’s pretty much the old-fashioned DOOM style of first-person shooter gameplay. However, the sequel Turok 2: Seeds of Evil added this feature later.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Remastered gameplay

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is also a first-person 3D platformer. Yep. That’s a lot of platforming.

To be fair, it’s not awful per say, but it definitely takes some getting used to because you have no choice anyway. Oddly enough, I think the map is actually pretty helpful here since you can watch your position on the map for more precise landing.

Still, when you’re jumping across many small landing spots over a giant chasm, it’s one of the most stressful things you could do in this game. Gathering enough Life Forces to create an extra life can take a while depending on the level.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Remastered gameplay

There are also a lot of secrets to find that can give you a bunch of extra Life Force triangles and powerful weapons pretty early in the game. This may require finding hidden climbable walls and switches to unlock specific doors.

Also a lot of opportunities to access a bonus area. Occasionally in the levels, you will find random blue portals that take you to a room filled with platforming challenges, deadly traps and enemies. Your rewards for completing these brief segments could be more Life Force triangles, ammo, and even a massive amount of health. Completely optional, but can make your life easier.

And holy shit, don’t get me started on this game’s weapon variety! Sure, you got your melee weapon, pistols, rifles, shotguns and explosives. The usual first-person shooter staples. But you also get a bow with exploding arrows, laser weapons, rocket launchers, and a portable nuke. I am dead serious. The Fusion Cannon shoots a small ball of red energy that suddenly erupts into a nuclear explosion!

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Remastered Fusion Cannon

Yeah, that’s some crazy overpowered shit. But also very awesome to use.

And let’s not forget the Chronoscepter weapon. This weapon is different from the others, as you are required to find the 8 Chronoscepter Pieces to assemble it before you can use it.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Remastered Chronoscepter Piece

And this is where exploration is key. Aside from the level keys, you may find secret areas leading you to a Chronoscepter Piece.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Remastered the Campaigner and the Chronoscepter

Unfortunately, if you played through Turok: Dinosaur Hunter legitimately, you can only use the Chronoscepter against the game’s final boss, the Campaigner. The weapon itself is awesome; it fires a powerful laser and erupts into an explosion, doing a massive amount of damage. However, it only has three shots, with no way to restore them. Pretty much its main purpose is to make the final boss significantly easier, as it’s the only powerful weapon that is effective against him.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Remastered giant praying mantis boss

The bosses are really cool too. You got a powerful mercenary with alien technology, a giant acid-spewing praying mantis, a cyborg T-rex that breathes fire and shoots lasers, and the Campaigner himself. The fights themselves are frantic, though the boss’s HP tends to drop very slowly, making it easier to use up all of your ammunition. Luckily, all of these fights respawn ammo for you.

And finally, let’s talk about the cheat codes. If there’s anything notable about the Turok series, it’s that the games are usually up front in encouraging you to experiment with cheat codes. Right from the main menu of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, you can access a cheats menu where you would have to enter a code to unlock.

If you’re playing the remastered version of Turok, you have to use the N64 cheats. So in this case, this Big Cheat would help:

NTHGTHDGDCRTDTRK

As expected, you can unlock stuff like level warps, All Weapons (including the Chronoscepter), Unlimited Ammo, and Invincibility. But you can also change enemy models and environments.

And this can make things so wonderfully hilarious! You should try both the Big Head Mode and the Tiny Enemies Mode. Not only does it change the appearances of enemies, but it even changes their voices. Yes, even the bosses. And it’s glorious.

And that’s about it. Does Turok: Dinosaur Hunter still hold up?

Surprisingly, yes. If you want to play a first-person shooter that is similar to the original DOOM, this is a really good choice. While the graphics certainly haven’t aged well (even with the help of the remastered version), you still have a competent and challenging first-person shooter that is honestly more fun to play than many first-person shooters today! No, seriously. Compared to most FPS games with a linear path to follow, Turok: Dinosaur managed to survive based on its more open-ended level design and wonderful weapon variety.

This game is a key example of “good graphics don’t make a good game.” And no, I’m not saying Turok’s graphics are bad. Just dated. My point is that Turok held up from its solid gameplay. So if you want to try more first-person shooters but haven’t played Turok: Dinosaur Hunter yet, I heavily recommend getting the remastered version on PC or Xbox One.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

$19.99
8.7

GAMEPLAY

9.0/10

GRAPHICS

8.0/10

SOUNDTRACK

9.0/10

Pros

  • A creative setting with surreal environments, as a sharp contrast to many first-person shooters.
  • On the remastered version, higher frame rate and smooth controls compared to the N64 version.
  • A badass soundtrack that mixes techno and tribal beats.
  • Solid DOOM-style gameplay with great weapon variety.
  • The cheat codes are actually really fun to play with.

Cons

  • Due to being a 1997 3D game, the graphics didn't age well. Regardless, the visuals are still fantastic due to the creative setting and enemies.
  • Enemies tend to respawn a lot and can quickly get annoying.
  • Jumps can be tedious, especially in areas where there is nothing but small platforms.
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