Having put it off for years, we’re on a bit of an N64 spree right now, mainly because we’re hitting the 20th anniversaries for a batch of our favourite games from this lovely games console. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is actually 21 years old – it was one of the first games out on the N64 and came with the bizarre price tag of £70 (?!). We still remember feeling bad about that as Mrs. Wapojif (as in, Mr. Wapojif’s mother) forked out for it in the Comet store in Chorley.
That was in 1997. Being a moronic kid with a love for shooting games and dinosaurs, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was just about the most exciting concept ever for our feeble brains. It launched in March of ’97 shortly after the Nintendo 64 became available in England and, for the time, was a highly graphically impressive first person shooter, despite the glaring issues which strike you today. Let’s take a look!
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
Just to clarify, the game had a re-release on Steam recently and that’s the above trailer you’ve (possibly) just watched. Anyway, as the player you are Turok. He’s like Tarzan, but doesn’t do the Tarzan wail thing. He also has access to some pretty insane weaponry which, in FPS lore, he’s able to use instantaneously without first checking an instruction manual.
You have to protect the worlds of Earth and No Land, where an evil overlord called the Campaigner is hellbent on messing things up. Into this you step, with all sorts of aliens and dinosaurs about the place to wipe out. There are also human beings as well, but who likes those things? You can just wipe them out.
Okay, the game! The first thing that struck us was the control system – we remember even now, all these years on, the confusion involved. Basically, the game employed the yellow C buttons to move forward, backward, or wherever. You then had to time this with the analogue stick to direct Turok – putting it simply, it took some getting used to and was utterly baffling at first. We actually think it works well but, being so young at the time, it was like being hit with a stick.
Once you get used to the controls, you head on out into enormous levels that can be confusing as anything. You run, you gun, and you come across some interesting dinosaur dudes who you shoot. In terms of how well it’s aged, it’s far from a classic. This isn’t Half-Life 2, but it’s reasonably engaging on a basic level. Turok remains interesting, however, simply due to the technical issues it laboured under. Let’s take a look.
A common issue with N64 games was the distance fog employed by many developers. Fogging was used because the processing power of the era couldn’t render objects in the distance – unless you had a genius studio like Nintendo and Rare did a fine job, you stuck fog in as a solution.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is probably the most famous example of this. It’s arguably now most famous for its fogging issues, which caused a bit of consternation at the time and now stands as a reminder of how primitive stuff was 20+ years back. Fogging was a pretty new phenomenon for gamers, though, because whether you had a SNES or Mega Drive, it didn’t really exist until the 32 bit+ generation of consoles arrived.
For Turok, it’s a curious happenstance that it’s the type of environment that would be heavily foggy, being set in a jungle, so you kind of feel like there’s a viable excuse in there for why there is fog. However, other N64 games weren’t quite so lucky. Whether it’s Aero Gauge (which made the idiotic claim on its marketing material “This will be game of the year” – 10% in N64 Magazine), Body Harvest, or others, the fog remains a peculiar part of the N64’s history.