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Switch Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion Remastered Review

Fulfilling its promise to complete the Turok series, this final entry may be the most appealing to FPS fans with a taste for brisk action, violent, bloody bullet decapitations, and stealth kills by way of bow and arrow.
 

Official Review

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Turok first appeared in 1954 in Dell Comics, an American publisher notable for World War II-themed fiction and Warner Brothers licenses. Back then, Turok, dubbed Son of Stone, was indeed a dinosaur hunter, using wit and muscle to overcome a clashing of the species. In 1992, Valiant Comics rebooted Turok with more of a sci-fi lean, which is where the original Nintendo 64 games drew inspiration for their characteristic blend of futuristic elements. For American publisher Acclaim, 1997's Turok on the Nintendo 64 was a certified hit. Even with its terrible draw distance, concealed by a prominent fog effect that limited your vision to mere meters, it was undeniably well-made, highly atmospheric, and full of clever implementations.

Fast forward to the end of the Nintendo 64's life and the mainline series came to a conclusion in 2000's Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion. Nightdive Studios, now the go-to for classic FPS restorations, has finally closed the circle four years after its Turok 2 remaster.

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This finale takes place directly after the events of its predecessor, where the universe was all but destroyed by Oblivion, a vengeful cosmic god who looks a bit like a multi-eyed version of Resident Evil's Nemesis. Picking up with Oblivion clawing his way out of a warp atop a skyscraper, the player has the option of starting as either Joshua or Danielle Fireseed, with the overarching goal of vanquishing Oblivion and protecting a dreamed-of child who is the last of the Fireseed line.

Turok 3 is a good example of an FPS series inching toward the modern mould. The original was slower and heavier, with an emphasis on scaling and exploration, while here it is pacy and generally more action-oriented, littered with ammo and heavy weaponry, and bloody as hell. Heads pop and spatter walls, limbs can be vaporised by well-placed shotgun rounds, and there are giblets galore. Combat isn't overly complex or challenging, as long as you employ some decent avoidance strategies, but it feels good to burst the bad guys up close or rattle through them with the assault rifle. The bow upgrades, too, offer a stealth alternative, allowing you to pick off marks at distance with an arrow. Halfway through, by which point you'll have the awesomness of the grappling hook, your weapon wheel will be absolutely stacked with heavy-duty armaments to put to use.

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There's something wonderful about this era of first-person shooters, where experimentation with the polygon was starting to flourish, that Turok 3 really serves to highlight. It's beautifully streamlined, the controls taking all of 60 seconds to lock in. Doors auto open without need for a button press, crouching is automatically engaged, you accumulate ammo but never need to reload, and the entire thing skates along at a breakneck pace. Additionally, it has proper stage design, the kind that requires you to actually look around, scale your environment, and figure out a path for progress. The original Turok took a leaf out of Tomb Raider's book, and, while there aren't really any puzzles here, per se, there is a smart assembly, and often verticality, to each stage, that requires active thought and exploration. The scenery often obscures your next waypoint, giving you just enough mental exercise to keep you engaged and never frustrated, and before you know it you're climbing the twisted appendages of shattered high-rises and making leaps of faith to your next destination.

Your choice of Fireseed sibling can traverse all sorts of apparatus, including hanging wreckages and twisted iron meshes, and are fairly nimble to boot. And this helps, as there are hidden areas scattered throughout that require both lateral thinking and practical tightrope walking to reap special items, ammo, and health bonuses. Additionally, and should you elect to keep them on, the gyro controls work really well in both handheld and docked mode, allowing you to look around freely, and auto-aim is engaged by default, making it easier to tag enemies within a certain range of your crosshair. The game isn't too tough on defaults, providing a moderate but satisfying challenge that will take around two hours to complete for experts and four to five for first-timers. The campaign is extended if you decide to search out all the secrets or attain all the achievements listed in the pause menu, one of which is a 'Speedrunner' challenge to finish it in under an hour and 20 minutes.

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Set pieces are plentiful and well-conceived, with great use of your night vision goggles to see your way through sewers and ducts, and avoid the infra-red security beams of a locked-down museum. One highlight has you leaping the carriage roofs of a runaway train as it careers down a tunnel, dispatching Oblivion's hell-spawn as they crawl toward you. Elsewhere, you race against a timer to shut down several scattered silos before they launch a set of missiles.

Turok 3 is a demonstration of the 3D structural capabilities of the Nintendo 64, something that tends to be forgotten when people assess the deficiencies of its graphical fogging. Here, where the game is polished to a gleaming shine, is sharp as a tack, and, thanks to Nightdive's quality work, looks genuinely great for its age, it's apparent how adept Nintendo's console was at 3D worldbuilding. The character models in cutscenes aren't particularly impressive, and the voice recordings are somewhat crackly, but it's so engrossing by 20 minutes in that any dated elements are quickly forgotten. The music has a cinematic, action-epic feel, is rather '90s, and is particularly well done.

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There aren't too many memorable boss battles, sadly. The monsters look pretty cool, but the combat routines aren't Nintendo-smart, if that makes sense. And, although there's plenty of climbing to be done and some big, stomping mutants to take out, it feels less prehistoric than one may expect. Only the lost lands of Chapter Four resemble Turok's origins, where you have an opportunity to put your grappling hook to good use.

These, however, are mere quibbles compared to the glaringly absent multiplayer mode — one which was present in the N64 original. Turok 3 is inarguably solidly produced, and brilliantly restored by Nightdive, and a ton of fun while it lasts. But it's short-lived for its $30 price tag, and you'll most likely smash through it in an afternoon. Why the multiplayer was left out, after all the effort that was put in, is quite bewildering, as it would have extended the game's life by a considerable margin.

Conclusion

Nightdive Studios' killstreak continues with yet another superbly executed restoration. Fulfilling its promise to complete the Turok series, this final entry may be the most appealing to FPS fans with a taste for brisk action, violent, bloody bullet decapitations, and stealth kills by way of bow and arrow. On one hand, Turok 3 teases, offering a glimpse into the future of the genre, a fusion of combat and Half-Life-style traversal. On the other, though, it's also home to something since lost: the searching, quick-fire task elements that engage the grey matter, as opposed to the Halo-influenced pure-combat escapades that challenge you only with clearing increasingly cluttered corridors of entrenched enemies. This makes it doubly disappointing, then, that its crucial multiplayer mode has been inexplicably left out of this remaster, losing it a point on our scale.

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