The turn of the millennium was an awkward time for console shooters. Golden Eye 007 showed that it could be done, but it was still a time of refinement before the eventual release of Halo: Combat Evolved which changed the future trajectory of console FPS.
One franchise in particular tried to move the genre forward and that was Turok. Inspired by the comic book series, Turok set the stage for console shooters as it launched closely after Nintendo 64’s launch in March 1997 (the console launched in September 1996). However, Turok was eventually overshadowed by James Bond and Perfect Dark, respectively. Yet, it did not stop it from attaining a trilogy of titles.
However, by the time it reached its third and climactic finale with Turok 3, the industry was already anticipating the release of the PlayStation 2, while the Dreamcast was trying to make a name for itself. However, 23 years later, the masters of remasters, Nightdive Studios, have once again worked their magic and refreshed Turok 3 Shadow of Oblivion to give this forgotten gem a new lease on life.
Note – An Xbox Series X key was provided for the purpose of this review.
Developer & Publisher // Acclaim Studios Austin, Bit Managers, NightDive Studios
Platforms // Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4|5, PC
MSRP & Release Date //$29.99, Nov. 30, 2023
Reviewed On // Xbox Series X
Turok 3 Shadow of Oblivion follows up immediately after the events of Turok 2: Seeds of Evil. The destruction of the Primagen’s Lightship caused a monstrous entity known as Oblivion to near death. Somehow Oblivion survives and is relegated to the Netherscape, a sort of purgatory realm. It is desperately trying to escape and tries to infiltrate into the human world with the help of its minion.
The game opens with Joshua Fireseed, the current Turok, who has a dream of a child that must be protected. Joshua interprets the child to be the last of the Fireseed lineage (only Fireseeds can assume the role of Turok).
One night, Oblivion Spawns teleport into Joshua’s home and try to kill him in his sleep. Despite being outnumbered, Joshua manages to momentarily hold them back, and warn his siblings, Danielle and Joseph, to escape. As they escape, Joshua sets off an explosive device in his hands, killing some of the spawns and himself.
Despite his sacrifice, more spawns chase down Josephe and Danille, but they are saved by Adon, a female alien, who teleported them to safety. Overall, the narrative wasn’t gripping in any meaningful way, nor did it impede the experience. It was serviceable and did what it was meant to do.
The Council Has Spoken, You Decide Who is the Next Turok
Both Firespeeds are brought before the Council of Voices to decide how to deal with the oncoming Oblivion invasion of Earth. The council decides either Josephe or Danielle must take up the mantle of Turok, which in turn prompts the player to choose who they wish to select.
There are some slight differences between both characters. Most notably when it comes to weapons and some deviating paths. But for the most part, the experience is almost identical.
Since Joseph is more stealth-focused, he has access to a silenced pistol, a sniper rifle, and a pair of night vision goggles that reveal laser sensors. While Danielle is an explosive weapons expert and can use the fireswarm (a shotgun with fire-laced shells) and the RPG.
Turok 3 Oblivion is a short and sweet affair. Clocking in a bit less than 4 hours with one character. You can easily double the playtime if you want to try the other character.
Simple and Linear Level Design
Turok 3 Shadow of Oblivion is a linear game that is divided into 5 chapters with each one having a distinct biome. You start in a ruined city. Eventually, you’ll make your way to a military complex, the ever-famous Lost Land, and finally end up in Oblivion’s HQ. Each level section is littered with life force you can collect. Collecting 100 of them permanently increases your health by 10 health points.
Each environment is unique in its aesthetics, where the Lost Land, in particular, stood out. It’s a lush jungle filled with out-of-place items such as a crashed 1950s-era airplane and of course dinosaurs!
While the Oblivion’s HQ is reminiscent of the level design found in games such as Quake. A sort of hellish industrial layout that felt familiar and iterative. But in all honestly, don’t expect to be blown away by any of the environments. Though some you will remember, but for the wrong reasons.
Level Design Blues
One section of the opening chapter left me quite frustrated when playing as Danielle. After climbing out of the sewers, you land in a destroyed part of a city. In order to escape this location, you had to climb up and jump to the other side of a destroyed building. However, the opening to the other side was quite small, so it took a few times before I could reach the other side. It was really a frustrating moment and I was extremely happy when I passed it.
During the later parts of Turok 3, did get lost for a bit in Oblivion’s HQ because there are so many interconnected areas that all looked so similar. It was difficult to tell if you were progressing or just going around in circles. Luckily, in between each level section, the game autosaves and you can always just load up a previous save if you want to recover some bearing.
However, there were regular points in the game that enemies would constantly respawn. It was quite annoying, especially since enemies can quickly deplete your health in a matter of seconds. The only way to avoid these situations is to quickly move on.
Turok 3 also features a number of boss fights. Not only do they help break up the game, they’re actually quite enjoyable. Granted, you might blow through them if you’re properly equipped and have a ton of health ready. Regardless they are a lot of fun and their designs look absolutely silly, yet distinctive.
In particular, my favorite boss fight was the Opisthor. In order to defeat Opisthor, you had to close off a bunch of acidic pools to trap him and finally get it to move to the boss fight arena. Once it’s there, it doesn’t take much to take it down. The boss fights are a nice change of pace and are a welcome part of the game.
Shooting Mechanics Remastered
When it comes to the shooting mechanics of Turok 3, there were always questions about how well an N64 FPS game translates for modern consoles. Luckily, I can say with confidence that Nightdive Studio did a great job of modernizing the aiming and controller layout, albeit with a couple of caveats.
One aspect that stood out was how aggressive the auto-aim acts in Turok 3. By hovering your crosshair over an enemy, you will notice how the reticle latches onto the enemy’s torso. But by waiting for a split second later, the reticle will automatically move up to the enemy’s head for a guaranteed one-shot kill.
Now, this could turn people off, but since I am someone who suffered through the horrendous N64 controller days, and distinctly remember how terrible FPS games controlled back then (using the 4 C buttons to move was an input travesty), what Nightdive Studios actually did here was phenomenal.
The aggressive auto-aim essentially brings back the game from the foggy stone age of the N64 era and defogs the windshield. It may seem egregious but in all sincerity, Turok 3 remastered shooting mechanics, while still providing that nostalgic kick, modernizes it in a playable, and more importantly enjoyable, state.
Not All Weapons Are Created Equal
Pulling off headshots (or latching on in this case) remained enjoyable throughout my playthrough. Especially when enemies would burst into polygonal pieces. However, not all the weapons benefitted from the latching auto-aim.
In particular, the grenade launcher was a gambler’s choice in the game, because it was difficult to judge the grenade’s trajectory. What commonly happened then was a sporadic hail of grenades bouncing around like skipping rocks on a pond.
But my favorite weapon to use was the Assault Rifle for 2 reasons. First, it visually reminded me of the famous AK-47 from Golden Eye 007. Second, it was a headshot machine and could take out human enemies without a fuss.
The tried-and-true classic Turok weapon, Cerebral Bore remained a succulently satisfying weapon to use. Yes, it still launches the nano insect-like shots that crescendo with that ever-gorey head explosion. However, I have to admit that I mainly used the Cerebral Bore when I felt the urge to be theatric when mauling down enemies. It was still a treat nonetheless.
Reinventing the Weapon Wheel
If you played the Quake remaster, then one quality-of-life feature you should remember is the phenomenal weapon wheel it introduced. Turok 3 has over 20 weapons (between Danielle and Joseph), and scrolling to choose between them is made so much easier with the weapon wheel. The game even has a shortcut for selecting the Energy Grapple (up on the D-pad). Though I wished that pressing up on the D-pad again would reselect your last equipped weapon.
Overall, the game’s revamped control schemes and shooting mechanics performed well and never hampered my experience with Turok 3.
Cleaned Up Graphics and Stable Performance
I’ll admit, I love the polygonal graphics of the late 90s and early 2000s. Now, that may be nostalgia talking, but I felt that those distinct graphics and art styles were a time capsule of that era.
Obviously, being a remaster, Turok 3 still has those prominent polygonal character designs, though they are much more cleaned up. Surprisingly, the facial animations did get a touch-up from Nightdive Studios, which doesn’t look out of place.
Environments are cleared up from that grotesque fog that plagued several N64 games due to its computational/media format limitations from back in the day. But overall, it’s easy to tell that Nightdive always handles their remaster projects with distinct care and consideration.
Turok 3 performed without even the slightest sign of a frame dip. Aiming for 4K resolution and up to 120 FPS, the game was buttery smooth from start to finish. Though there were occasional bugs here and there.
Most notably, in one of the game’s earlier sections, there was a cutscene that showed a dead police officer pulled by an alien creature. Because I repeated that section a couple of times, I memorized that particular cutscene. In one instance, the dead officer disappeared and the entire cutscene occurred in a vacant space. It wasn’t a big deal, but it’s worth mentioning and garnered a chuckle out of me.
Nightdive also did a decent job of cleaning up the game’s audio design. Don’t get me wrong, it still has a tinny sound, but it is a major improvement from the N64 version. Weapon sounds have a little bit more oompf to them but they still maintain that retro sound, albeit just more cleaned up.
The same applies to voice acting as well. While the performances won’t be riveting by any stretch of the imagination Turok 3’s voice actors do enough to service the story beats and dialogue is already sparse to begin with. This is likely due to the hardware limitations of the N64 cartridges.
The game’s soundtrack has a distinct 90s action movie theme to it. It sounds a bit corny like it was ripped straight from a 90s action movie and isn’t too memorable. But it does sound cleaner when compared to the highly compressed original soundtrack, just don’t expect to hum any of its tunes any time soon.
Final Thoughts on Turok 3 Shadow of Oblivion
The original Turok 3 was released during an awkward time. Sandwiched between the tail end of the Nintendo 64 life cycle and right before the release of the PlayStation 2, it likely passed many players’ radar. However, like their previous offerings, Nightdive Studio did a tremendous job bringing back a forgotten gem to modern audiences. If you slept on Turok 3 in 2000, make sure to not pass up it again in 2023.