Turok 2: Seeds of Evil review
Fun Dino-Hunting, but Watch Your Step
A bit easy to get lost
Jumping is a massive pain
First person games on home consoles weren't exactly unheard of before 3D got its foot firmly in the door, but it wasn't all that common, and something about scrolling sprites instead of lush polygons tended to put a downer on the experience.
The Nintendo 64 has been home to a fair few FPS games, and this is one of Acclaims efforts. The second game of a trilogy, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil follows on from the first game, although ditching the indian Tal Set for a more advanced looking Joshua Fireseed. The defeat of the previous game's main baddie has caused another evil creature to stir to life, the Primagen. This alien being has been locked in its crashed spaceship for some time, and now seeks to wreck havoc upon the world.
Alright, that's not going to be winning any awards. There's a sense of effort, but at the end of it all I got is that good guy (Joshua) aims to defeat bad guy (Primagen) by collecting keys and killing generics. Snooze. Speaking of which, anyone got a clue as to why this alien is commanding dinosaur baddies? Eh, I suppose it makes as much sense as the ogres, oversized insects and machine baddies.
Visually, the game is stunning for a N64 game, and doesn't do too badly these days either. The environments look great with a lot of detail and variation. Other characters - mainly the generic enemies that come for your blood - are also well designed. They are animated fairly smoothly too. Quite a feat that appears to push the hardware a lot.
However, this brilliance does come with a drawback. The fog. A classic trick to prevent too much load on a graphics processor is to induce fog to mask elements merely popping up. Unfortunately the fog in Turok 2 is quite excessive. Sometimes it can even lead to enemies spotting Joshua before he sees them.
I can't say the game does well in the sounds department. The background music tends to be quite fitting but it's also quite forgettable as well. I tended to find myself not even realising it was there much of the time. The sounds effects do a stellar job of conveying the onscreen action, but it's not enough for me to consider this part exceptional. Sound is functional, and it never steps beyond that.
Like most FPS games the main goal is to kill bad guys. Thankfully, in Turok 2 almost anything that moves is basically a bad guy. Thereare some NPcs in cutscenes or cages but you can't really kill them anywhere and you kinda know not to shoot them anyway. Joshua can get ahold of a vast amount of weapon for this purpose. There are the basic weapons, like the bow and handgun that are slow and weak but offer plenty of ammo back. Then there are the more advanced weapons, like the Shredder. One weapon inparticular deserves a special mention - the cerebal bore. This weapon locks onto an enemy and fires a bore, which attaches to the targets head, drills out brain fluid and then explodes. Not only useful for an instant kill but visually impressive too. The developers even saw sense and made sure it didn't work against the dimwitted enemies of level three. In addition to this, many weapons have upgraded variants that can be obtained. The tekbow fires exploding arrows and the mag fires pistol bullets in 3 round bursts.
With all these weapons one might think changing through them would be cumbersome, but it's not. The default weapon selection system causes a ring of weapon icons to appear by pressing one of two buttons. Tilting the analogue stick to a weapon changes to that weapon. Let go and you're back in the action again. It's fast and works well. Interestingly Turok 2 does offer the traditionally method where one button press cycles forward a weapon and another cycles back one, but that really is cumbersome so no player would want to bother with it.
The enemies you face are no joke though. Earlier on you'll face slow and/or weak enemies, like this humanoid T-Rex hybrids that fire slow plasma bolts at range and slash up close. The endurance and offence levels of these creatures are pretty weak thus the low level weapons are fine. Later on the enemies become tougher and faster, requiring more powerful strikes to take them down. Enemies are also fairly intelligent. They will attack in groups, snipe from ledges and cover and even launch surprise attacks.
Joshua's health will naturally be depleted under such duress, as it will if he falls victim to certain traps and hazards. Health pickups are in the form of generic health plus icons, colour-coded based on what they refill. Turok 2 also offers tokens. Yellow tokens add 1 life force and red tokens add 10, with 100 lifeforce equalling an extra life. Not a bad system, and it does encourage exploring, although I wish the life counter didn't cap at nine. I found myself collecting tokens unavoidably and not being able to benefit from them.
There are six worlds to explore, and they are massive indeed. Each world has a certain theme, like the ruins of the first world or the swampland of the third world. Sprawling corridors, chasms, chambers, rooms... the list goes on. Exploration is encouraged too, as you can often find tokens or extra ammo by detouring off the set path.
One such detour is the Oblivion portals. Step into one of these and you are sent to a dark set of chambers. Mysterious creatures that refer to themselves as Oblivion attack you. Defeat them all for part of a special weapon. Anyone who is aware of the third instalment of the series may notice that this is a reference to that third instalment too. It's a nice sidequest with a tasty reward.
Some areas even offer some rather interesting twists to the gamneplay. The beginning of the second world gets a mention here as the only place that has a dinosaur that isn't trying to kill you. Rather, jump atop the large dinosaur there and you get to ride him through the first part, armed with a rapid fire gun and a rocket launcher. You can even trample enemies here. This section is simply awesome.
It can be a little easy to get lost though. There's generally no indictors to point you in the proper direction. Rather, you're left to find the path by yourself, which can lead to a little frustration when you end up circling around. It doesn't help when you have to revisit the worlds later on to find the keys for the final battle. There is a map on offer, that is toggled on and off with the L button, but it's not really too useful. It brings up an outline of the areas, like a blueprint without the blue. The issue is that it slowly builds up as you visit areas and it doesn't take varying heights of elevation into account.
Objectives are handed to the player too, which must be completed before leaving the level and entering the next one. Try to go through the exit portal without completing every objective and you'll simply be sent back to the start of that level. The objectives themselves are pretty straightforward, involving stuff like rescuing hostages and blowing up structures. Typically the problem comes with not performing the task itself but finding out where the task is located. It does feel a little shallow and tack-on, but it does prevent a straight run to the exit.
During his travels Joshua can pick up special abilities. The Leap of Faith allows him to jump from special pads across great distances, for example. Earning these abilities involves collecting a coloured feather and taking it to its specific altar. Some of these abilities are only active by their relevant pads, while others are always active.
OK, it's time we have a look at the game's big problem. Anyone ever thought that jumping in a first person game could be easy? No, because not being able to see your own feet was always going to be a problem. Acclaim didn't listen, and thusly Turok 2 brings a horrible jumping system into play.
The system is certainly responsive enough. Tap R and Joshua jumps. The problem is just how difficult it is to judge the distance. It's way too easy to fall short or even overshoot platforms. Problematic enough in the first three stages, where missing means climbing back up, the latter three stages make it infuriating by presenting sudden death for missing jumps onto small platforms. Needless to say, most of your lost lives are going to be because of mistimed jumps.
The save system in Turok 2 is a solid one. Acclaim naturally thought that offering a save anywhere system would be rather cheap, so instead each world has a number of save portals dotted throughout, as well as one in the hub area that connects the different worlds. Step into one of these to save your game, simple. As an added bonus players also have the option of refilling on their health and/or ammo while here, although this is limited to once in each world, and not at all in the hub area.
So that's the single player. Turok 2 doesn't stop there though, as it offers a full multiplayer experience as well. Alas, this does not fare too well.
There are a lot of characters on offer, with slightly varying characteristics. The amount of starting health is the main one, although some characters also possess a self regeneration ability too. Weapon usage is limited to eight available weapons too.
Unfortunately the gameplay just isn't that interesting, and it's because of the stages. There are a lot of levels on offer, but they're all just so boring. A mishmash of passageways and chamber that lends themselves poorly to multiplayer combat due to obstructing layouts. A lot of fights tend to occur in narrow corridors simply because of a lack of decent open chambers, which is quite restrictive on tactical combat. Put simply, you don't get much in the way of taking cover or sniping spots, and I can't help but think that these levels were cobbled together quickly just so they could have a multiplayer option.
For gamers that like to screw around in their games Turok 2 offers a full cheat menu, whereby the options are opened by entering codes. The usual cheats like infinite health and all weapons are there, but you also get the more bizarre ones like Sketch Mode (the game's visuals are changed so everything looks like black & white sketches - completely unplayable but looks cool) or putting faces on the tokens you collect.
Overall Turok 2 is a solid FPS game. Jumping is a massive pain but otherwise the single player is great. Just don't expect the multiplayer to be awesome because the level design ruins it.
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