In order for the new Turok to succeed in Xbox 360's overflowing first-person shooter market, it had to cast off its past. Josh Holmes, Propaganda Games vice president, realises this fact only too well. "Let's face it," he says, "the series needed a new start."
After the commercial and critical disappointment of 2002's Turok: Evolution, the once thriving franchise was in danger of becoming extinct. What happened next saw the series' licence acquired by Buena Vista Games. It, in turn, handed development duties over to the Propaganda Games studio with a plan to retool Turok for a next-generation audience.
It's a story that's eerily familiar. An iconic gaming character loses their home, only to have the cobwebs dusted off and their gaming experience streamlined by another development team. However, the differences between Lara Croft and Turok are clearly defined; the archaeologist has managed to remain in the public spotlight, while the dino hunter has faded to near obscurity. It's a fact that Holmes believes is beneficial to the design process. "We have crafted a whole new story and mythology for the game, choosing the best ideas from the original comic books and games and placing them in a new setting. We had a vision for a new kind of Turok game - one we all wanted to play."
The newest Turok is a former Black Ops Commando, now assigned to an Elite Special Forces Squad sent in to track down and apprehend a war criminal. But this is more Quake IV than Rainbow Six; the scenario is futuristic, while the elements that make up the storyline lie in the realm of science fiction. The squad have travelled to a genetically altered planet to track the villain down and are packing more firepower than an army of Terminators. But as always seems to happen in these fictional military situations, everything goes a bit titosaurus, and their ship is shot down entering orbit. Stranded in a remote area and kitted out in only the basics, Turok must traverse the alien jungle to find both squad and quarry. This situation is overly familiar with gamers, but the distinguishing difference here involves the food chain. It's important due to the fact that the player is no longer sitting confidently on top of it. The reason for your displacement comes in the form of a roving eight tons of cold-blooded carnivore.
Dinosaurs in this new title have returned to their primal, prehistoric roots. And while we've seen indications that there's a breed of Tyrannosaurus Rex that'll hunt Turok during the game, for the most part, the once-extinct predators will be a rogue factor and a continual threat to your survival. Holmes promises that you'll have to be aware of this - even in the heat of battle; "Creatures totally change the environment. You could be taking on an enemy and a dinosaur could rumble in. Now it's your squad, your enemies and the dinosaur. The situation is out of control," Holmes explains. "Add another creature of the same or a different breed. Do the creatures attack each other? Do they attack your squad or your enemy or all of the above?"
The player will be able to answer that question in their favour, if they're quick enough. The return of another piece of the iconic Turok lore, the bow, can see a well-placed arrow turn the creature's head enough to turn its anger onto prey or an attacking squad while Turok slips into the shadows. While stealth attacks can be common due to the nature of the play area, with long grass and trees hiding your passing, it seems odd that a compound bow would be an essential for any marine. Does its appearance indicate that the mysticism found in the Turok heritage will play a role in the game?
"The bow ties into Turok's background and training as well as his Native heritage," confirms Holmes, but he's coy in admitting how much. Could we see another wayward son re-establish his ancestral spiritualism much like Prey's Tommy? Holmes isn't saying, but with the three icons - bow, dinosaurs and jungle - established, Turok's return promises to be a welcome blend of old and new.