I Just Played Turok: Dinosaur Hunter For The First Time

Here’s a thing – I’ve never played a Turok game before. Despite living in a late 90s university hovel with the requisite N64, for some reason it was a cartridge I never put in. And I haven’t caught up since. So seeing Night Dive’s remastering of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter [official site] was out, it made sense to fill that rather large gap in my knowledge. Gosh, Turok’s rather good, isn’t it?

Going back to old FPSs is completely unpredictable. Games I am sure will stand the tests of time will feel clumsy and frustrating, while others I imagine will have dated beyond repair still feel fresh and punchy. Turok, with some significant help from Night Dive, is definitely in the latter category. Despite looking an awful lot like the original, it plays absolutely beautifully on a modern PC, with abundant modern settings to tweak the classic look, widescreen support, and perhaps most importantly, a clean, super-slick delivery of the game without any needless bells and whistles.

So, I genuinely didn’t know anything about Turok, beyond that you shot at dinosaurs and had a cool bow. This wasn’t inaccurate information. What I wasn’t aware of was the quite brilliant way in which the game is laid out.

You start in a sprawling level, being attacked by angry mans and even angrier dinos for absolutely no given reason, trying to find keys for later levels scattered about in its many stretches. What it immediately achieves, that FPS gaming so dreadfully struggles to do in our modern era, is present the sense of huge choice about where to go while rather cunningly funnelling you the right way. It feels almost overwhelmingly free, while really being cunningly constricted – the ideal way to present a linear FPS without ever resorting to, “YOU ARE LEAVING THE MISSION AREA” or requiring you follow the bottoms of other mans.

Soon you reach the main hub of the game, where gateways teleport you to later levels, each unlocked when you’ve found all three keys for that level. But rather splendidly, all three keys aren’t necessarily on the previous level. They’re scattered betwixt, meaning you need to scour and scavenge, back and forth around where you’ve currently unlocked. And that’s possible in a large part due to one of my most missed aspects of the FPS: the map overlay. Gosh, I love those line drawings, neon scratchy outlines with a crude arrow to show you where you are. It is so damning of the non-open-world genre that they’re completely unnecessary now, since even someone with as poor a sense of direction as me doesn’t need a map to walk forward in a straight line.

I love that I’m writing about an eighteen year old game as if it just came out. I think it demonstrates just how much a game as loose and undirected as Turok could succeed today, without needing to be an open world extravaganza. And how nice it would be if there could be more games where you move ridiculously fast, all the time. Serious Sam intermittently keeps that flag flying, but it’s pretty much alone. It feels madly unrealistic, and as a result, gloriously fun to control. I’ve nothing to compare it to, of course, but I’m going to credit System Shock rescuers Night Dive with a lot for having it feel so fluid on a modern machine, never staggering or stumbling over itself. There are even FOV options. Goodness me.

What I really wasn’t expecting were the teleporting enemies, let alone the teleporting dinosaurs, nor weird portals, future-o-guns, and by the time you unlock level 5, Quake 3-like levels on multiple floors. I think I thought it was just dinosaurs and shit, in the jungle. It’s, in fact, utterly bonkers. And there are in those five levels, remarkably few dinosaurs. I think it should more properly be called Turok: Man Hunter But Also Some Dinosaurs Sometimes. Let’s see if Night Dive can fix that, too. I was expecting at least more than one dinosaur type, and no, I don’t count those ridiculous green fireball lobbing weirdos, nor the scampering yellow and red frog-monsters to be dinosaurs. Nor was I expecting for the first boss fight to be, er, some cars.

It’s an extremely odd game. I cannot imagine the minds of the developers as they plotted it out, and everyone was all, “Yeah, sure, let’s go with that!” rather than, “Help, help, I’m working with the crazies.” But I really have enjoyed darting about and shooting in such a primitive way. This isn’t the future of gaming we need to rescue from the past, but there’s so much of those 90s shooters that we really ought to remember and include once again.

I’ve never played Trespasser either.

Turok is out on Steam now for a really very over-priced £12, and that’s discounted from an idiotic £15. For a two-decade old game, no matter how updated, Night Dive are being idiots.

63 Comments

  1. try2bcool69 says:

    The game was $80 US when it was released on the N64, so $15 doesn’t seem that much, relatively speaking.

    • Creeping Death says:

      Weel it’s £15 not $15. So for your comparison it’s about $22 at the current exchange rate.

      So $22 for a game that was $80 when it came out 18 years ago. A little silly. But then it was overpriced at release anyway.

      • welverin says:

        $15 is the launch discount price, $20 is the regular price.

        Though the fact it was $80 doesn’t justify the price now, especially when you consider that price was because of Nintendo’s stubborn insistence on using cartridges for the N64.

      • try2bcool69 says:

        The normal US price is $20, and it’s on sale for $16, I have no idea what that is in your silly, “unit of weight” money. ;P
        Still a lot less than the $80 I paid for it in 1997. (it almost caused a divorce, actually)

        • ButteringSundays says:

          You mean the currency your people used before they ran off to an island to burn witches and made their own Monopoly money and form the GOP?

          *slow clap*

          • mrbright01 says:

            Yeah, that currency we started to use after we got sick of paying taxes to a government we had no say in and gave it the boot, so we could make a big country and… *sigh* yes, and make the GOP. Okay, you got us on that one.

          • n0m0n says:

            mrbright01, living here as of a couple of years I don’t really see how much has changed since the revolution. Most people still seem sick of paying taxes to a government they have (mostly) no say in.

    • TimePointFive says:

      $118.44 after inflation adjustment

    • secuda says:

      Concedering you got a boxed game with manual and physical game back in the day, as well as bare minimum of changes (to call it a remaster) in the actually game its rather expensive imo, since you can get Doom games from gog for fraction of that cost.

      • RT says:

        Yeah, well you can get Doom games from GOG at the fraction of the price… but they put a fraction of effort in those releases too. It’s just Dosbox and nothing else and how pathetic is that, especially with a game like Doom which has a plethora of fanmade source ports? A lot of effort went into the Turok rerelease (not calling it a remaster because… well, the publisher ain’t doing this either) and it plays really damn well.
        Far better than it could ever play on a N64, I can tell you that for nothing.

  2. Baf says:

    The one thing that I remember really standing out about Turok when it was new was the beveling. Outdoors areas had a lot of cliffs, platforms, and hills made of terraced bits, and each drop-off ended in a neat little 45-degree angle to let you know it was a natural terrain feature and not part of a building.

  3. ansionnach says:

    Never played Turok either or have had that much interest in it… although I expected it to be not unlike John’s pre-conception. Sounds like they just lobbed in a whole lot of things that would be fun to shoot!

    I’m not really a fan of modern FPS games. While there are some terrible ones from the 90s, there are plenty of excellent ones as well, like Quake III: Arena, Dark Forces and Duke Nukem 3D.

  4. KDR_11k says:

    It’s the weird idea of mandatory items being hidden in secrets that put me off the two Turok games. I got both of them for free from magazine cover discs maaaany years ago.

    • Baines says:

      Two? There were at least six Turok games. 1, 2, 3 and Rage Wars were all on the N64. (Rage Wars I think was the series shot at a multiplayer focused game, with only a token single-player effort.) The next console generation got Evolution, and the console generation after that got the 2008 “Turok”.

      • Distec says:

        Nothing after Seeds of Evil counts, shhh……

      • KDR_11k says:

        Right, I should’ve said “first two” since I have never even seen a screenshot of those later games. Did they still have those horrible keys?

  5. Baines says:

    In case you didn’t realize, Turok was based on a comic book. Specifically, it was based on a 1990s reboot of a 1950s comic book character. (Valiant Comics rebooted Turok in the early 1990s, in true 90s comic book style. Valiant was sold to Acclaim a few years later, who themselves rebooted Valiant’s reboot of Turok.)

  6. ResonanceCascade says:

    “I’ve never played Trespasser either.”

    You’re missing out! Kind of.

    • ansionnach says:

      Only things I remember about Trespasser was that it reviewed poorly and if you looked down… you could see yourself.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        You could see both of “yourselfs.”

      • Sin Vega says:

        It’s well worth a watch of by far the best and most informative, pleasant Let’s Play of a dreadful game ever: link to youtube.com

        Watching that will give you everything the game has to offer without having to suffer through it. And it was kind of an important game.

        • LionsPhil says:

          I knew/hoped that would be Research Indicates. I really must watch the rest of that some time.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          It’s dreadfulness can be excused i’d say, it tried some impressive stunts back then and that has to count for something.

        • Premium User Badge

          Dorga says:

          Don’t listen John, Trespasser is the best.

    • vahnn says:

      Still the only game I’ve ever played that has you look down at a tattoo on your tits to determine your health status.

    • Elliot Lannigan says:

      I feel like John would absolutely love Trespasser. It’s the polar opposite of today’s strictly linear shooters…I mean, it’s not a true open world and you have to move in a certain direction eventually but it feels like you can do whatever the hell you want, even if that is stacking up boxes or knocking trucks over cliffs for an hour…all while having an audience of potently deadly (as opposed to the rather wimpy foes found in other dino games) dinosaurs. I played it maybe 6 years after it came out but it was still the strongest sense of place I’d ever experienced in a video game….in fact I’m still not sure many games come close to the immersion and sense of agency that Trespasser offered.

    • Nucas says:

      trespasser’s reach exceeded its grasp, but the developers didn’t give a shit. they really did their best. the game is a bit of a mess but it was the most ambitious title i’d ever seen when i played it and it changed what i thought games could be.

    • bill says:

      I played Trespasser for the first times 3-4 years back and I mostly enjoyed it.

      If you play it now you can get the benefit of some mods/tweaks that give you a huge view distance etc.

      In many ways it was ahead of its time… it’s almost like a recently-trendy survival game in places.

      I say give it a go… but ignore “the arm” as much as possible. Point it straight up when running so you don’t catch the ground. Point it straight ahead when shooting and don’t move it.

      I remember Turok being a bit disappointingly meh.. but I did play it a long long time ago. It also had a view distance of about 3 feet.

  7. Elliot Lannigan says:

    “…requiring you follow the bottoms of other mans”

    Stop being so good at this. It’s totally unfair to all the other games journalists.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      After the second ‘mans’ I started to suspect illiteracy rather than playfulness.

      • All is Well says:

        I think we’re all familiar enough with John to know he was just being cheeky.

  8. GWOP says:

    On a tangent, Jim Sterling recently played Turok for the first time as well, and was similarly entertained.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      That doesn’t really sound like a tangent, that almost literally couldn’t be more directly related!

      Who had the idea first than ay, ayyyyy?

  9. ffordesoon says:

    “And how nice it would be if there could be more games where you move ridiculously fast, all the time.”

    That’s what stuck out to me when I watched Jim Sterling play it. Frankly, if there’s one thing I’d like to see both new first-person shooters take away from this rerelease, it’s that moving like a tweaker on rollerskates is fun.

    Walking simulators should take note as well, given that the fashion in that genre seems to be forcing the player to wade through congealed molasses in order to facilitate contemplation. Which it doesn’t. It just makes me angry that I’m being forced to move so slowly.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Yes, both new first-person shooters. All two of them.

      O mighty Horace, deliver unto your followers an edit button once more!

      • caff says:

        How about an edit button that works for the first minute after you post? That at least would give you the chance to edit your terrible, awful mistakes!

  10. Premium User Badge

    Stompywitch says:

    I didn’t like the first one much, but 2 was fantastic. Would buy that redone.

    Turok 3 was probably the best – the closest the N64 came to Half-Life, in my memories – but that never got a PC release.

    Actually, I’d buy them all of they got rereleased. Rage Wars was a lot of fun, even if nobody would play it with me because I was too good (And it wasn’t Goldeneye).

    • epeternally says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one! The first one was okay but mostly a novelty, but Turok 2 is up there with some of the classic first person shooters for me. It’s a hell of a lot more refined and just plays really damn nicely.

      • Jalan says:

        Seeds of Evil is the definitive Turok title (which is not to speak ill of the rest). It’s a sequel that improves upon its predecessor, which is exactly what one should expect from a sequel.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Rage Wars was great. I still have a save with all the characters unlocked lying around somewhere.

    • Chizu says:

      Well Turok 2 is definitely coming to steam. Night Dive are also very much looking into the other games, I believe a fair bit of work on this first turok was done from teh n64 version and not just the pc version too, so its within their wheelhouse to release 3 even though theres no pc version currently, certainly.

  11. guygodbois00 says:

    Well, I can tell you righta way, you are ahead of me.

  12. Alistair Hutton says:

    I do not recognise this Turok as the fog is not 3 feet from your nose.

    • Allenomura says:

      It would be once you’ve toggled the Extended Draw Distance option, in the menu. :)

  13. dethtoll says:

    Had Turok 1 and 2 back in the day. Got ’em both as early Christmas presents, actually.

    They’re great fun, each with their own atmosphere, though Turok 2 is easily the better one. Can’t wait for Kaiser and co. to fix that one up.

    • naetharu says:

      Totally agree with you here. The first game was fun and a nice example of more mature games on a Nintendo system, but the second (Seeds of Evil I think?) was just wonderful. It was bigger, faster and more varied with some really OTT weapons. A total classic of its time and well worth a play even today.

  14. poisonborz says:

    More and more do I feel like that to make great games, devs should ignore the consolified past decade and should rather study 90s games just like how modern NASA guys dissected ’60s Saturn rockets with awe.

  15. April March says:

    So, what I need to know is: is this the game that came out on the Nintendo 64 as, er, Turok 64?

    • Jalan says:

      It was released as Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. Amazingly not every game had the “64” bit tacked onto it, much to the chagrin of every person who owned the N64 I’d imagine.

      • Chizu says:

        I always hated the “64” thing. I was actually glad when Starfox64 got renamed here.
        “Starfox in Lylat Wars” sounds so much better than “Starfox in Starfox64”

      • April March says:

        Now I’m genuinely confused as to whether this is the game I played once on the Nintendo 64, or if it was another game, and that one was called Turok 64.

  16. Uninspired Cup says:

    Was following this but the price was a definite put-off. The articles lavish praise almost made me cave it, but yea, holding off until it’s about £6.

    • Jalan says:

      One of the Night Dive guys mentioned that the pricing is the way it is due to the fact that so many parties are involved with the licensing rights.

      Not to say there won’t be a juicier discount at some point but for it to happen I’d guess that they’d need to clear it with everyone who gets a cut of the end profits.

    • naetharu says:

      Yep, I’m with you there. Had it been a full-blow re-make with modern graphical wizardry and fancy physics then I could understand the price, but £15 for what amounts to a pretty simple (albeit good quality) port of a game that has already earned its proper money seems too much.

      By comparison I could spend that some £15 on a brand new copy of Helldivers…which I think is exactly what I am going to do.

      For pocket-money price this is worth a look but £15 is just silly for something of this age and with such a simple port.

  17. nanotramp says:

    I picked this up as soon as it was released. It’s every bit as good as I remember it being.

    I always prefered Turok to Goldeneye and it seems to have aged a hell of a lot better then Bond.

    • Ravey says:

      Sure, in the sense that it plays like any other FPS, whereas GoldenEye was unique and innovative.

  18. animator_pinball_fan says:

    Picked it up the day it was released on N64! But somehow I hesitate on Steam. I do remember it being more fun than Doom on my 3DO, but still I’m not sure I want to hear those “uhhhhuuuggghhh” sounds again.

  19. NephilimNexus says:

    I played this turd back on the N64. Sorry, but I’m immune to “nostalgia glasses” – no desire to repeat that horrible experience ever again.

  20. dodawoxo says:

    I cannot stand all the work collecting the thousands of magic floating diamonds.

    Feels like playing Mario Bross.

  21. one2fwee says:

    So i heard people say this is a mixture of the “best of the n64 with the best of the pc” versions of the game.
    What do they mean by this – what was better about the N64 original compared to the PC version, what was not ported well originally?

    And on their page they mention changes to the level design? Such as what?

    On another note, from seeing videos, i actually think it looks worse than the original because the new foliage doesn’t mesh, the new draw distance ends suddenly instead of gradually fading out and most importantly the new lighting, while technically “better” makes everything look like the lighting has been turned off and it’s all at fullbright levels. The thing is with these updates is unless you redo everything or do it very carefully, you can end up making it worse because while some assets might be technically “better”, the whole thing no longer meshes together and stick out like a sore thumb.

    • RT says:

      Well, apparently a lot of things. A recent update, for example, brought over the sounds from N64 version, because they were superior. Also, if you don’t want the new effects, you can always turn them off in the options menu.

  22. illuminerdi says:

    Just FYI, Trespasser is the anti-Turok. In trespasser you have few guns, each with only a single clip of ammunition, and the dinosaurs will murder you. You also move fairly slowly and have to deal with the amusingly awful hand mechanics that makes Surgeon Simulator 2013 seem easy.

    I loved it, but it’s so far from Turok it might as well be at the complete opposite end of the gaming spectrum.