Previously exclusive to Nintendo platforms, the Turok series is branching out to the PlayStation 2 with the latest installment, Turok: Evolution. The newest entry in the Turok series brings back more of the rollicking first-person reptile blasting that you'll remember from the previous games, and it adds a couple of minor new elements to the standard formula as well. If you've played previous Turok games, you'll basically know what to expect from Evolution. It's more of the same, but the rehash is executed well enough that it should prove entertaining to fans of the series.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2002/playstation2/turok/0001.jpgThe tekbow features multiple kinds of arrows and a zooming capability.
Evolution is sort of a prequel to the Turok series. It casts you in the role of Tal'Set, a Native American warrior fighting against the incursions of the United States Army. While Tal'Set is fighting his archrival, Captain Bruckner, on a cliff, a mysterious energy swells up and pulls him into a strange realm called the Lost Land. Tal'Set is rescued by the indigenous people of this primitive world, and from the seer Tarkeen he learns that he is Turok, the legendary Son of Stone sent to battle the villainous reptilian Sleg and their master, Lord Tyrannus. Tal'Set reluctantly accepts this charge and sets out to do battle with the Sleg, Tyrannus, and even the not-quite-dead Captain Bruckner. As in past games, the storyline in Turok: Evolution is passable, but nobody really plays first-person shooters for their stories, anyway, and the plot here serves mainly as an excuse to frag some dinosaurs.
The original Turok game's subtitle, "Dinosaur Hunter," may be consistent with the license's comic-book roots, but in Evolution, you won't be battling as many of the massive beasts as you might hope. Most of the game's dinosaurs serve as backdrop elements only, although you'll occasionally have to defend yourself against a couple of raptors or a tyrannosaur. The bulk of the fighting in Evolution is directed at the Sleg, a warlike humanoid-reptilian race with a perplexing command of technology. The upright lizards have overrun the Lost Land, and you'll spend most of the game's 15 chapters engaging in standard run-and-gun shooter combat against them. Periodically, you'll have to engage in some extremely basic forms of puzzle solving, such as finding two switches to open a gate, but for the most part, your single objective is to kill everything that moves and reach the end of the level.
Enemy AI is a bit inconsistent in Turok: Evolution. At times, you'll find the Sleg warriors hiding behind cover, rolling out of the way of your shots, falling back to a defensible position--in short, making your life difficult. Other times, though, you'll see silliness like an enemy dinosaur stuck on a piece of the background, making it a pathetically easy kill. We even saw a so-called sniper running around and around in a circle, ad nauseam... until we mercifully removed his head. Generally, the enemies are pretty deadly, but occasionally they can be more droll than dangerous.
The shooter levels in Turok: Evolution really don't do anything new for the genre. You do have access to an impressive arsenal, ranging from the primitive club and bow and arrow to the more-futuristic plasma cannon, remote-controlled spider mines, and tekbow, which is a high-tech version of the classic bow and arrow. Evolution tries to incorporate stealth into a few of its levels, but it often comes off as contrived, as the nature of the guns-blazing gameplay and controls make it very difficult to avoid being spotted by enemies. Fortunately, Evolution does feature one major new addition to the Turok series: flying stages. Several times in the game, Tal'Set takes to the back of a pterodactyl armed with, well, .50-caliber machine guns and guided missiles. As silly as that scenario sounds, the flying stages are actually pretty fun and don't feel at all like a last-minute addition to the game. They provide a nice dose of variety when the shooting levels begin to border on monotony.
Of course, no first-person shooter released today would be complete without a multiplayer mode, and Turok: Evolution comes with a fully featured one, albeit it only supports two players--the GameCube and Xbox versions of Evolution support up to four. At any rate, the game gives you complete control over multiplayer variables like power-ups, available weapons, and one-hit kills. A generous selection of maps is available, and 10 gameplay variations are included. In addition to the standard deathmatch, there's a kill-the-man-with-the-ball game called "monkey tag," a sniper match that allows only headshots, and "one flag," which is a twist on capture the flag. There's even a multiplayer mode involving pterodactyl combat. In all, Evolution's multiplayer activities should keep you busy for a while after you've finished the single-player game.
Even before you've hit the multiplayer segment of Turok: Evolution, you can get your money's worth from the single-player campaign. Each of the 15 chapters in the game is pretty lengthy, with multiple sub-levels in each one, and the pterodactyl-piloting stages are interspersed between the on-foot levels evenly enough that you've always got another one coming up fairly soon.
From an aesthetic standpoint, Turok: Evolution does its job well. Of course, that job is depicting overgrown, armored lizards armed with laser rifles, but Turok fans have come to expect this. The environments comprise a good mix of lush tropical settings and futuristic industrial locations that span the Lost Land. Visually, Evolution looks like the same sort of techno-jungle that we've seen in previous Turok games, this time with a stark graphical upgrade. In terms of sound, there isn't much of it worth noting. Everything from the weapon blasts to the gravelly enemy voices to the unobtrusive tribal music is quite serviceable but not really outstanding. Your allies' communications in the flying stages can be unintelligible sometimes, unfortunately.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2002/playstation2/turok/0002.jpgThe Sleg's corridors are cramped and daunting at times, especially when full of enemies.
These days, you'll more than likely find a big third-party title showing up on all three major consoles simultaneously. Turok: Evolution is a perfect example of this, and it presents a question for owners of multiple systems: Which version is best? Unfortunately for Sony, the PS2 version of Turok really doesn't have any advantages over the GameCube and Xbox editions. The graphics are less detailed, lacking some of the more advanced lighting and shading effects found in the other two games. The difference in visuals isn't tremendous, but when all three versions are compared side by side, it's definitely noticeable. More damning are the frame rate problems you'll often experience in the PS2 version. This can sometimes adversely affect your aiming, and it gets in the way of the gameplay. Lastly, the sound in the PS2 version is quite a bit muddier than in the other two games. These problems are not severe, and if you own only a PS2, you shouldn't use them as an excuse to skip the game if you're otherwise interested in it, but if you also own a GameCube or an Xbox, you'd be better off selecting the version of Turok: Evolution for one of those platforms.
Your level of interest in Turok: Evolution will be very much contingent on your interest in past Turok games. Aside from a few minor issues, this latest installment is pretty solid all around, but it doesn't bring many new ideas to the table. In the end, Turok: Evolution is a bread-and-butter console shooter that will let you blast enemies to your heart's content, but not a whole lot else. If that's good enough for you, then go for it.