Turok goes places Doom's never even dreamed of.

Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment
Developer: Iguana Entertainment
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Almost everything about Turok is airtight, gameplay, graphics, level design, enemies, weapons, effects -- you name it, the game does it well. Gameplay is based on the first-person perspective, made famous by Id Software's Doom, but the level of free 3D movement -- jumping, swimming, climbing, crawling, and running -- coupled with clever level design that makes use of the character's abilities, take Turok to places Doom's never been.

Movement and Control
Distinguishing itself from other Doom clones, Turok breaks from the genre's confines by layering platform-style gaming onto standard run-and-shoot tactics. His environment is generally open jungle, freeing him from the restrictions of narrow, dark corridors and dungeons. Turok moves smoothly, climbs realistically, and is able to jump great distances, especially after you learn his awkward diagonal jump. And he swims gorgeously -- the underwater motion physics are immersive and believable. The designers may have erred on allowing Turok to hold his breath for too long underwater, but it benefits gameplayers because this ability promotes exploration, and the subtle crevices Turok can swim into, or the depths he can swim down to, are awesome.

For some, the analog configuration is a little suspect. The joystick controls weapon movement (along three axes), the four C buttons control player movement, the Z trigger shoots, and the right shoulder button is for jumping; this also can re-configured for left-handed players. Many people may not initially like this set-up, but like anything, it works naturally once you're accustomed to it. Actual movement is very precise -- strafing is excellent -- and even on narrow mesas or slim log paths, it's generally easy to know where your standing, especially if you look down. Many gamers's biggest complaint, however, is that Turok has no feet, especially annoying when jumping. Still, there's a learning curve to this skill, and most people learn Turok's control quickly.

Level Design
Puzzles and mazes are abundant and intelligent, never impossible; they work into the design of the game and follow an inherent logic, either built into the regular courses, or by way of aqua transports or hovering blue portals. Many require the use of the map, styled after LucasArts's Dark Forces, which overlaps onto the screen while you're playing (accessed by pressing the left shoulder button). As one example of the game's elegant design, on level four, Turok must find his way out of a deep multi-room cavern (which holds a piece of the Chronoscepter) and finds a free-standing column of water, full of spirit power-ups. By using the map, he can jump out of the water onto a ledge (which couldn't be seen or accessed before) that leads to the level's exit. There are too many more examples of design ingenuity to mention them all.

In general, the freer, more open jungle levels are the most enjoyable and interesting.

What's most refreshing about Turok is that while the gameplay is firmly based on Doom-style movement and play, the luscious and tropical detail of the jungle textures and clean polygonal environments create an entirely different mood and headset than any other first-person shoot-'em-up. The transparency effects of many elements, especially water, are exquisite. Transparency (used to mask higher or lower sections of a level)), fogging and straight darkness are used throughout to keep polygons at a controllable level, and they are generally built into the design to a noticeable degree without being a nuisance. One exception, however, is when you need to look into the distance, and you're unable to, you must resort to the map as a default. Creatures and humanoid opponents move fluidly, each following a recognizable movement pattern, and are highly detailed texture-mapped, polygonal creations. Everywhere you go there is detail, seemingly random plants, trees, rivers, totem poles, ancient halls; it's this visual stuff that keeps immersing you fully into the Lost Land of Turok.

The game is full of little touches. In some areas, Purlins break through stones walls (not shown on the maps) to attack; unmapped secret tunnels lead to weapon power-ups; boulders randomly fall onto cliff trails; treetops occasionally hold power-ups; caverns, lakes and rivers are full of fish, Leapers, and secret passages; well-placed antelope and boor, harmless to Turok, can be shot for extra life points when he's in a jam (why didn't Nintendo censor this, having stripped Cruis'n's roadkill out?); and in another nice touch, gamers can accumulate 100 Spiritual points -- distinct from Health points -- to achieve an extra life. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire's missions pale in comparison to the level of detail and complexity found in Turok.

Enemies and Weapons
There are loads of enemies in Turok. They range from poachers and gunman to tribal dart blowers, tribal high priests, demons, and more. Enemies found later in the game require bigger or more particular weapons, and are much more interesting. The dinosaurs, like raptors, dimetrodons, or enemy-mounted triceratops, or the killer plants, Subterraneans, or the giant robots are far more fun to watch and kill. Occasionally, when they are more than, say, three Leapers in the room, or when you fire off too many grenades, the screen hits slowdown, but it's so rare that it's a minor quibble.

And the weapons are simply over the top. It's as if a military professional was hired to have himself a big wet dream, and this is what he came up with (no pun intended). The Quad Rocket Launcher and Fusion Cannon are radical, the grenade launcher and Alien Infantry weapon are sheer pleasure, and surprisingly, the Tek Arrows are dangerous and effective. The Chronoscepter is cool, too, but it's actually not our favorite.

In the end, Turok is a fully envisioned game, a serious contender with the best of the Doom genre on any platform. Turok surprises, challenges and pleases, and is full of deep, long-lasting gameplay. The folks at Epic Megagames have their work cut out for them.