For all that's good on paper, though, the novelty of stabbing dinos is little more than that, and the satisfaction of a knife-kill is often spoilt by the game's clumsy timing, right-trigger prompts coming half a second before or after you expect them, leaving you to wait for a limp knife-flapping animation to finish before you can try again, and of course leaving you open to mauling. The cut-away third-person kill routines often spin you around too, and environments are densely detailed but repetitive in a way that often robs you of your bearings. Meanwhile the analogue aiming can be cumbersome, with dead-zone and turn acceleration issues that leave you struggling to pin down erratic enemies.

The biggest problem, though, is checkpointing, which is either bad or cynical depending on your point of view. Too often you're forced back a good five minutes or further through tough encounters, and just as often because the game threw someone in behind you or denied you a knife kill due to its own inconsistent timing. This kind of death is particularly stinging when the game is in the grip of one of its less imaginative bits, which are all too frequent. An early example - a slow elevator ascent under fire from multiple enemies, complete with having to get off halfway up to restart the lift mechanism as enemies rush out of nearby blast-doors on cue - is typical of this: bad design compounding dull design, over and over again. And while having the screen blur to illustrate your health (it clears up again if you can stay out of trouble) seems like a sensible alternative to hit-points, not being able to see when you're trying to locate the enemy that you hadn't spotted obviously just exacerbates the problem.

3
Stealthing enemies gets a lot easier when you've had to replay the same sequence a dozen times.

It also takes itself much too seriously. When Gears of War brought us chainsaw bayonets, flapping piranha bats and ketchup geyser jugulars, it was almost knowingly absurd. Turok is a similar game in one sense: the Nazi stormtroopers, the hard-men stereotypes and "I don't trust you, man" banter straight out of Aliens, and - for goodness sake - running up to prehistoric eight-foot predators with razor-sharp teeth and claws, jumping on their backs and riding them around to stab them in the head. It didn't occur to anybody that this was, you know, rather funny? Playing it straight feels like a huge misjudgement. Where are the one-liners; the "I like to keep this handy for close encounters"? It's not silly enough about how silly it's being, and as a result when the absurdity gives way to inadequacy, you're not in the mood to laugh it off.

It's not just the checkpointing (although god damn, chaps!), or the lack of signposting in repetitive environments, or the boss fights that end when you succeed by chance or get booted back to the checkpoint before the preceding raptor/goon-hunt. The problem throughout is that the quality is so inconsistent. At times you're stalking happily through an atmospheric, competent shooter with some novel elements (like Rambo taking out state troopers with poo-sticks), but within seconds you're flinging the pad down in disgust as the difficulty spikes, or the controls jam up, or someone spawns behind you, or an explosive barrel gets thrown off a cliff onto your head. You die too often on account of things that aren't your fault, and succeed too often on account of things you barely meant or understood.

4
Having secured this vantage point, the enemy comes at you in waves by chopper. Snipey snipe snipe!

If you fancy a break, you can head online with deathmatch, team deathmatch, a couple of CTF variants or a small number of four-player co-op maps, and there are some nice touches here, making good use of AI dinosaurs and knifing. A huge number of the Xbox 360's Achievements are given over to online play (including the infamous team-killing Grab Bag Achievement, which still seems to be in place at the time of writing), and we had no trouble finding or playing games. Gears and Call of Duty 4 are more satisfying and nuanced, but you can't fault Propaganda for neglecting the multiplayer side of Turok.

Overall though, you can't really give it too much credit either. Turok is at its best when you slow down and make use of your surroundings and arsenal. The reason it loses so many points is that it can be at its absolute worst ten seconds later, and that while its lows are paralysingly dreadful, its peaks are never much more than competent, or fleeting novelties spoilt by cliché, repetition or sloppiness.

6 /10

About the author

Tom Bramwell

Tom Bramwell

Contributor

Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.

More articles by Tom Bramwell

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