New jobs can be awkward.
Just ask Joseph Turok. He's the new guy on a space-age special ops team that's been tasked with bringing in Turok's old mentor—a nasty, heartless guy by the name of Kane. Problem is, most of the folks in the squad don't seem to like Turok much. Maybe it's because they weren't hugged enough as children. Maybe it's because they suspect that Turok is secretly planning to betray them all. Maybe it's because of Turok's Mohawk haircut.
But Turok's on-the-job hazing takes a back seat when a missile strikes their spaceship, sending the craft and its crew hurtling toward a lush, forbidding planet teaming with Kane's minions, gigantic scorpions and a wide array of meat-eating dinosaurs. Most of Turok's new squad is quickly devoured. And, oddly, the ones who survive seem to be the fellows who hate him the most—particularly a guy named Slade who blames Turok for the death of his brother.
Yeah, if Turok gets off this planet alive, he's going to have one serious talk with the HR director.
Turok, the game, is the latest in a long line of Turok shooters (and before that, comic books), featuring the Native American dinosaur hunter. It's being presented as a reboot of the franchise, sending a futuristic Turok into the fray with an ever-growing collection of weaponry that includes machine guns, grenades, flamethrowers and high-tech gizmos. About the only weapon Turok doesn't use is a tactical nuke.
But Turok's signature calling cards are his quiet kills, done with either a military knife or, from a distance, a composite bow. As a consequence, stealth is a major part of gameplay: Turok hides behind crates, spirits through shadows and weaves through tall grass to sneak up on his victims and, if he's lucky, dispatch them before anyone's the wiser.
Stealth will take you only so far, of course, when it comes to first-person shooters. Eventually, you just have to take out your biggest gun and start firing at the world's collection of ravenous dinos and Kane's faceless army.
The latter entity is the real enemy here. And these slavish-yet-sneaky soldiers come armed with their own nasty weapons (which Turok can pilfer and use), helicopters and spider-like jungle tanks.
When you have so many villains packing heat and so many dinosaurs packing teeth, it's wise to assume Turok contains some serious bloodshed. And you'd be right—mostly.
Though Turok mows down scores, perhaps hundreds of men, the kills are surprisingly bloodless. Soldiers die like characters from a 1950s Western, their blood apparently obscured by all the body armor they wear.
Dinosaurs, meanwhile, die horribly gory deaths. Blood oozes, spatters and pools. Pieces of dino meat fly through the air. A cutscene features Turok stabbing a dinosaur in its eyeball and placing a grenade in its lifeless mouth, turning the creature's head into a firecracker. Game designers even offer tips on how to make the kills as gruesome as possible.
"What's a meat fountain?" reads a hint on a load screen. "Try hitting a dinosaur with a well-placed grenade."
Characters swear up a storm, too, frequently using the s-word as well as milder expletives. They misuse God's and Jesus' names. And they make crude references to critical (human) body parts.
Of spiritual note: We learn that Kane has somehow speeded up evolution on the planet (intended to explain all the rampaging dinosaurs).
"'Oooh, ahhh,' that's how it always starts," says Dr. Ian Malcom in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. "Then later there's running and screaming."
I loved dinosaurs as a child. Truth be told, I still do. Which means I'd make a terrible real-life Turok: I'd still be ooohing and ahhhing over the creatures—perhaps making mental notes on how to set up a wildlife refuge—when the nearest T-Rex gobbled me up.
So it's hard for me to feel too sympathetic toward anything that makes a game, literally, of killing these creatures as graphically as possible. The fact that it's a Disney company that publishes Turok only adds cluttered irony to the mix. What's not cluttered is the fact that the sole point of this game is to kill or be killed: Any other plot, circumstance or mitigating environment is just M-rated filler.