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Amazingly, ‘Turok: Dinosaur Hunter’ Still Holds Up

The shooter that time forgot got a new release on Steam, and it’s great.
Image: Night Dive Studios.

The first thing I noticed when I started playing Turok: Dinosaur Hunter this week, a first-person shooter I haven't touched since it was released on the Nintendo 64 in 1996, is the swaying.

As you run around the level, shooting arrows at dinosaurs and filling shirtless bad dudes with shotgun shells, there's a little bit of a delay and a tilt when you move from side to side. It gives movement a sense of physical momentum, unlike the smooth, robotic gliding of older first person shooters like Doom.

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It's a weirdly specific feature that feels a little ahead of its time, which is what playing the cleaned up version of Turok Night Dive Studios released earlier feels like overall. The new version, which you can buy from Steam for $20, runs at a much higher resolution and lifts the game's infamous fog, designed to hide the fact that it couldn't render objects in the distance. Otherwise, it's the same game, and it's great.

It got reviews that said as much at the time, but Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and the Turok name are mostly ignored these days. One reason is that, as is often the case, publishers kept making Turok games until players hated them. In 1998, the original publisher Acclaim released Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, which is better than the first game. But then came a series of diminishing returns: Turok: Rage Wars, Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion, and Turok: Evolution. In 2008, after Acclaim went out of business, developer Disney Interactive Studios Tried to reboot the series with Turok and failed. I played that game. It was bad.

The other reason Turok isn't on your mind in 2015 is that it originally came out at a weird time. Games were entering the 3D, polygonal era in a big way back then, but were coming out alongside huge games like Duke Nukem 3D, which still had two dimensional enemies. Early polygonal games, like Turok, with those jagged edges on everything, didn't age as well, but the higher resolution of this new release allowed me to see what a great game it was.

It nails a lot of things that every first person shooter has to do very well, namely, making shooting things feel good. If you hit a raptor with a shotgun, he'll go flying back. Shoot a guy with your bow and arrow, and blood will come spurting out of his neck as he falls to the ground with a theatrical animation.

More notable, however, are the game's environments, which are much more in Doom's labyrinthian style than Call of Duty's linear hallways. There are big, open spaces, ruins with secret rooms, and claustrophobic caverns. Each area leads into the next naturally and folds back on itself, so you end up in places that you've visited before, only they're a little different now.

I remember it being incredibly confusing in 1996, but it seems so brilliant now.

If you played Turok: Dinosaur Hunter back in the day, this new Steam release is by far the best version of the game. If you didn't, and consider yourself a fan of first-person shooters, I still recommend checking it out. It's an odd, fun piece of the genre's history, and there's nothing quite like it out there today.