Budget Shooter Theater was not going well. After playing the amazing Doom, I tried to play through the dreadful PC version of James Bond 007: Nightfire. That did not go well. In the only time I ever bothered to, I rage-quitted and moved onto the next game. The Decision Wheel gave me Turok: Dinosaur Hunter.
As opposed to other games on that list — which include future entries like Serious Sam and and Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam, this was one chosen by me because I wanted to pad the Wheel with options until there were enough people requesting stuff that it wasn’t necessary. I also was itching to try this game for a while, so now felt like a good time as any.
The version I played is the recent remaster on Steam, co-developed and published by Nightdive Studios. Nightdive’s been hard at work re-releasing older DOS and Windows 95-era games and making them work in modern machines (or at least putting a DOSBox wrapper with it). Most notably is reviving the long-dormant System Shock franchise, and even trying their best to bring No One Lives Forever back from the dead, among other notable revivals. Naturally it makes sense to bring back Turok.
The Turok game franchise is mostly known as a console series, where the main games were on Nintendo 64. However, the first Turok as well as its sequel Seeds of Evil did get PC releases, but rather than reverse engineer the game to work on modern machines like System Shock 2 or Aliens vs. Predator Classic 2000, the game’s assets — models, maps, sounds, and music — were ported to a proprietary engine known as the “KEX” engine. The engine is the same engine that handled the Doom 64 source port known as Doom 64 EX and would basically be the engine framework for Nightdive’s games going forward. As a result, this remaster is a mix of old and new: It’s like the console game, but not an exact port of the PC game. This might piss off some purists, but not me.
This game is also significant because around 1997-98, there still wasn’t a first-person shooter that console-focused gamers could call their own. There have been attempts (Zero Tolerance on the Genesis, Disruptor on the PlayStation, even the famed Powerslave/Exhumed for the Sega Saturn), but none of them were big hits, forcing people to settle with warmed over PC ports of Doom and Quake to satiate their shooter fix.
But Turok, along with GoldenEye 007 released in the same year, were the one-two punch that showed to the console gaming audience that “YES, you can make a great first-person shooter on home consoles that’s not another port of Doom!”
Fun fact: Turok is actually based on a licensed property going back to the 1960s. The only reason these games exist is because Acclaim, the original publisher of these games, bought Valiant Comics in the mid ’90s, who had their own run of Turok around that time. It’s also why it’s $20 on Steam, because Turok is still owned by an existing company, Random House. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it was a headache for Nightdive to get this released commercially.
So the two games that redefined how first-person shooters were handled on home consoles? Both of them were based on licensed properties. Granted, it really wasn’t until Halo and later, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare did the modern console FPS become what it is now, but we have to give credit to Turok and GoldenEye for jump-starting it.
Notice I haven’t talked about the story. If there is one, it’s one of those “relegated to the manual” kind of stories. What I can figure out is Turok shoots dinosaurs, finds keys, and stops evil people with Hummers and laser weapons from taking over his land. This was before we started getting more story-driven action games like Half-Life, so I can forgive it for its bare-bones plot to hunt dinosaurs.
The game itself is nothing super special. Enemies are fairly dumb, boss fights are goofy if not particularly outstanding, and having to make constant leaps of faith over death pits are a bit of an annoyance. Even having random points in the levels where you save rather than a dedicated “save anywhere” option may seem baffling for some shooter veterans.
It does have a Hexen-esque exploration system, which lead to fairly confusing areas (especially when finding keys to make progress), which is probably the most interesting thing about it at the time. A fair share of the elements of this game are a good indication of ’90s shooter tropes, and I can tolerate it because of its nostalgia; but it’s definitely harder to go back to unless you remember it fondly. I bet this version is more playable than the N64 original.
It’s definitely worth playing nowadays, though go into it knowing it’s a shooter from 1997, and much like a lot of ’90s things, hasn’t aged well. It’s also on the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch if that’s your more preferred way of playing it. In a sense, playing it on a Switch brings it back full circle: from a Nintendo system, to PC, back to Nintendo again. It fits.
The first part was recorded shortly after bailing out of 007: Nightfire. Later streams were done following the new year, and were the first ones I decided to do completely solo as opposed to having a co-host tag along with me. Watch as I babble on about inane junk, sometimes the same thing more than once!
PART ONE (originally streamed on December 23, 2016):
PART TWO (originally streamed on January 7, 2017):
PART THREE (originally streamed on January 14, 2017):
Budget Shooter Theater
iswas a stream series where I tried to play and finish as many first person shooters, third person shooters, and light gun rail shooters as I could, with occasional guests. It lasted for about 7 games spread throughout various Twitch streams from 2016-2017. While I abandoned this idea in mid-2017, the articles are still up for posterity.