David Dienstbier of Acclaim Studios Austin - Part Two

Interview - Turok's designer reveals how to kill a dinosaur in lots of interesting ways

Heavy Artillery

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David gets to grips with a friendly tyrannosaur

No Turok game would be complete without an array of over-the-top weapons to blow stuff up with, and Turok Evolution is no exception. From simple axes and shotguns to devastating miniguns and a tactical nuclear device, your arsenal is certainly varied.

"Our first minigun was heralded as the greatest minigun ever made", David boasted as the huge gun appeared in his character's hands. "This one's better", he added, shouting over the noise as bullets sprayed forth from the muzzle. "You'll see that you can pretty much rip the bad guys to shreds with this one. They'll literally fly to pieces when you hit them... A lot of heads coming off, a lot of arms and legs coming off."

All of this is nothing compared to the game's heavy artillery though, with our tour starting at the rocket launcher. "One of the things that everybody liked about the Turok rocket launcher was the way that we had these really organic wild patterns to the way the rockets flew. Unfortunately that also made them not all that accurate, [although] they were good up close because they could blow anything up that was near them. So what we did was we kinda got the best of both worlds. If I fire one rocket it's going to fire perfectly to the center point there, and then it's going to have three little baby rockets that we call hornet swarming rockets that actually swarm around it."

Thermonuclear Warfare

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One of the less lethal weapons that you'll wield early on in the game

When the game finishes reloading we're in for a treat though, as David shows off the game's most spectacular and thoroughly over-the-top weapon. "This you may recognise from Turok 2 - it's our nuclear device."

"I'll give you a look at the unfinished but still overly impressive effect that it has. So it flies out there and makes .. see him get blown back?" he cries out, as one of the enemies ahead of him gets thrown across the street and a flaming column punches its way into the air. "Three hundred foot mushroom cloud. Thing of beauty. Thing of beauty", David exclaims, bouncing up and down like a schoolboy with a new toy. "And when it contracts, you'll actually see dust going into the center of it. We're pretty happy with our nuke. We had to have a bigger nuke than everybody else."

Sadly the weapon we were all looking forward to, the new look cerebral bore, wasn't in the version of the game we were shown, but David gave us a full explanation of how it works, complete with sound effects. "The cerebral bore is now back, and it's called the Swarm Bores", he revealed. "Instead of firing one [bore] you fire five - one hits each hip joint, each shoulder joint and the head."

Fly The Friendly Skies

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The Turok series takes to the skies

Another little treat awaiting fans is the addition of fast and furious flying sections. It's something that Acclaim Austin have wanted since the very first game, but with Turok Evolution their dream is finally becoming a reality. Not only will you stalk amongst the jungles and lost cities, but in some stages you will take to the skies on the back of a giant pteradon.

"But how fun is it to fly a dinosaur if it doesn't have homing missiles and machineguns?", David demands to know. We sense that this is a rhetorical question. "Yeeeeessss! Down it goes", he screams in triumph as he opens fire on an enemy flyer. "There's ammunition, weapons upgrades and health pick-ups hanging from the balloons. And here's what happens when you get the overdrive", he adds, swooping in to scoop up a power-up. Holding down the trigger, the screen lights up as a stream of lethal projectiles emerges from his steed. "The machineguns get a bit insane", he explains as the sound dies away. It's a bit of an understatement.

Turok Evolution includes "a combination of Star Fox style forward flight stuff and completely open air 360 degree flight areas", and both look spectacular. Although most of the levels we saw were fairly linear and tightly constrained by canyon walls, some of the areas for you to fly around were absolutely huge, with ships landing troops on the shoreline, puffs of smoke exploding all around you as flak turrets opened up, and towering brachiosaurs acting as mobile weapons platforms. Apparently we can also look forward to vast zeppelins, hundreds of meters long, studded with turrets and disgorging a stream of enemy flyers to knock out of the sky. It all looks rather impressive, and we love the little touches, like the charred bodies falling out of destroyed zeppelins and the way that you replenish your pteradon's health by snapping up donkeys hanging from balloons.

You And Whose Army?

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This is going to hurt you more than it hurts me

Naturally multiplayer support is also included, and according to David, "one of the coolest things we've added to the game is the ability to do flight deathmatch, so you can get in there with all your friends and fly. It's actually really fun, and it's in these really huge areas so you've got a lot of room to maneouvre."

If sparring on giant flying dinosaurs isn't your cup of tea, there's always more traditional ground-based modes on offer, with one to four player split-screen support on all three formats but no online options. "The internet stuff's just a little too early for the consoles for us to spend the kind of time and money that we would have to spend, and we don't want to shove back the release date on this title."

Sadly there's no co-operative support either. "Back when we started the project we talked about co-op mode, but what we wanted to do with the environments and the way we wanted the player to be able to react to it and use it as a tool, if we were to cut that in half - half the amount of detail, half the amount of plants in the environment - so that we could draw it twice, it would lose its effect. It wouldn't work as well as we wanted it to. We didn't want to sacrifice what we thought was one of the most stand-out features of the game just to get co-op in there, even though that is itself a stand-out feature in a game like Halo. So not this time around unfortunately."

It's also uncertain as to whether or not a PC version of the game will ever appear. "It's not really my decision - we don't do PC development in Austin", David explained. "If the company decided they wanted Turok Evolution out on the PC, they could release it as is, and it would probably meet with fairly favourable reviews from a single player standpoint. But the multiplayer in this game is designed for four player split-screen deathmatch. If you go to a PC, as far as the multiplayer experience goes, we can't compete. I suppose it would be possible to allow up to four people per map to play, but it's really not designed to be an online multiplayer game. That means that we would have to make significant changes in order to do it right. But there's actually been a lot of interest in it, specifically in Europe, so... we'll see."

In the meantime though, the console versions of Turok are expected to reach beta status around the end of the month, and the game is still on track for a September release according to David. And judging from what we've seen of it so far, we could be in for a treat. Giant gun-toting dinosaurs, manic flying sections, nuclear weapons and a complex beautifully animated ecosystem to disrupt. What more could you wish for?

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