Since its birth, Turok has been firmly caged up on the N64, with only a couple of GameBoy spin-offs and a lacklustre PC port breaking out of this captivity. September 2002 should mark the rebirth of Turok though, as the dinosaur laden action series gets its first outing on the latest generation of consoles in the guise of Turok Evolution. We took a trip down to the wilds of London (a penthouse suite round the back of Kings Cross, to be precise) to chat with Turok's creator and see how the latest installment in the series is shaping up...
Three Of A Kind
A cross-platform Turok has been in the offing for a couple of years now. In fact, since the dawn of the series there have been calls for a PlayStation version but, as designer David Dienstbier explained, "we had an exclusive situation with Nintendo, and also our engine had been developed very specifically for the N64, so porting the game to the PlayStation would have been a bit of a nightmare".
"We were pretty content with our situation during the N64 days, but about a year before Turok 3 was done we made a few fundamental decisions. The first was to release on multiple platforms next time around. The second decision was that we needed to get back to what made Turok Turok, and that [meant getting] back into the jungles, back into this raw, brutal, primal gameplay. It's obviously a very sexy and sophisticated game, but when you see the action and environments it's 100% Turok."
The version of Turok Evolution which David was demonstrating to us was running on the Xbox, but PlayStation 2 and GameCube ports are also in the works. "Right now the other two versions of the game are about three weeks behind this one, so it's a little bit early to tell what tiny differences there will be. But the levels are exactly the same, the enemies are exactly the same, [and] the weapons are exactly the same. We've got memory concerns with PS2 because it's got less memory than the other two systems, so we've got to go and reduce the size of textures and things like that. But we use detail maps on PS2, we use all the reflection maps and things we use on the Xbox, and the environments that we've got up and running on the PS2 now look stunning, better than even we expected."
I Can See Clearly Now The Fog Is Gone
Working with this new generation of consoles has obviously opened up fresh possibilities for Turok, and although David seems particularly chuffed with his Xbox, he told us that "I actually love all three platforms".
From a development point of view it's a slightly different story. "The Xbox and the GameCube are pretty much a dream to work with. The PS2 .. I'm not going to lie and say it's not a challenge. But it's a great machine, it can do so much, and our game looks great on the PlayStation 2. I mean, even we're surprised. We were kinda expecting the results not to be as high as they were, just knowing the differences that we had to work with. But when we got the levels up and running on the PlayStation 2 we were literally just thrilled."
And the good news is that all three consoles have the processing power necessary to show Turok in all its glory, without the fogging that has plagued previous games in the series. "Oh no, the fog's back. Argh, in every Turok game the fog", David joked as he wandered through the mist-shrouded first level. "We decided to have a little fun at our own expense because, as we move up around here, you'll see the fog"... David paused as his character walked out into a huge open area, the fog suddenly dissipating to reveal a herd of dinosaurs grazing and drinking at a pool, while a pteradon flapped by overhead and the sun shone down from a clear blue sky. "The fog is obviously not a problem."
Look At The Monkey
One of the real strengths of Turok Evolution is the engaging and life-like world that you are dropped into. "When we make a world, the most important thing to me is to make a living world, to make a world that has life going on around the player", David explained.
"Look at how much movement there is in the world - plants sway back and forth, the grass moves in the wind, trees are swinging. And if I move through here you can see that I can move all the plants. Why is that important? Well, if there's a guy crawling on his stomach or a raptor stalking through with his head down, you can actually see the movement they create. Flip that around and that means that they can see it when you move. So if I crouch down and I'm moving that stuff around, they'll see it."
The world of Turok is full of life and movement, with a bewildering array of plants and animals to interact with. "Just in the way of indigenous life we've got lemurs, baboons, chimpanzees, little wild boar, gazelles, frogs, fish, snapping turtles. I mean, god, there's stuff everywhere. Parrots, toucans, little quails that flush off the ground. But you know, I'd have to say right now the frog is my favourite. He's a simple little thing, he's so low polygon he looks like a piece of origami, but he's hilarious, and when they move through the environment they look so life-like, they're so convincing."
And then there are the monkeys. "In the original game, the only animal that you couldn't hurt was the little monkey. At first we thought, 'no, everybody likes monkeys, we don't want to hurt the monkey'. And then what happened was, everybody obsessed about being mean to that little monkey! Everybody wanted to kill him. So we decided that, well, you know what, if it's in the game world we should allow the player to do whatever they want. We shouldn't say 'well no, it's mean to kill monkeys in real life, so you can't kill our imaginary digital monkeys either'."
As he stalks around the level taking pot shots at passing wildlife, it's no surprise to learn that David is himself a keen hunter. "I've been hunting my whole life. I'm not hunting every other weekend, but everything that I eat, I hunt", he explained. "I only hunt things that I eat. I never buy red meat at the supermarket or anything like that - I don't like the hormones that cattle's raised on now."
"Look at his ass there, that's so realistic", he suddenly cries out, spotting a family of baboons. One of the apes turns his back on him. Bad move. "Are you mooning me?" The crack of a rifle round echoes through the room and the creature drops to the ground. "You can see these baboons kind of hanging around on the rocks sunning themselves", David continues. "A lot of the enemies in the game are like the baboons. Baboons are actually quite aggressive. They'll usually only attack you in groups - if you kill a baboon who's just hanging out, it'll be ok. But if you walk around the corner and his ten friends are there, you're in for it, because they will come after you."
The other animals don't just wander around waiting to get shot by a passing dinosaur hunter either, they can interact with each other, making the world a more dynamic, believable place. "Velociraptors, being fairly small, don't just see a triceratops and attack it on sight. But they will [attack it], and they'll go after monkeys and other easy sources of prey. You can get them to fight the other creatures in the game."
Of course, the real fun in Turok is doing the killing for yourself, and tomorrow we will take a look at some of the weapons you will get your hands on in Turok Evolution, including a spectacular nuclear device and the return of the infamous Cerebral Bore...