More is Less
Note: This is a review of the remastered edition from 2017
When the first Turok remaster came out a few years ago, I was pleasantly surprised. I spent 20 years thinking that game was crappy, but ended up having a lot of fun with it thanks to Night Dive's improvements. I was pretty excited to see if Turok 2 would continue the trend and I'd have a new retro FPS to enjoy. Unfortunately, Turok 2 is a pretty irritating and ponderous game.
That's not speaking to the the quality of the port, however. Night Dive has done an awesome job here. While I'd recommend turning off some of the graphical additions like the cheesy bloom lighting, the quality of life improvements go above and beyond. The mouse and keyboard control feels great. The famous Turok fog has been all but removed. There's a new Thief-style mantling system to make platforming less annoying. The best new feature is the inclusion of objective markers which highlight collectibles and switches in the environment.
Of course, those objective markers are part of the problem as well. See, in Turok 1 each level had a few slightly-hidden keys used to unlock future levels and one piece of an optional super-weapon called the Chronoscepter that unlocked a slightly better ending when assembled. Iguana must have realized that Nintendo 64 games need a lot more bullshit collecting, because Turok 2 fully delivers on that front. In addition to level-opening keys, one must collect a Primagen Key from each level in order to fight the final boss. Getting these Primagen Keys usually requires a Talisman, which grants several dumb traversal-based superpowers that exist only to gate off Primagen Keys. There's a Talisman in each level. To get a Talisman you must first find a Warp Portal. To open the Warp Portal, you need to press the Warp Portal Switch which is usually hidden nearby. Once you open the Warp Portal you need a Feather. There is one Feather in every level. Take the Feather to the Warp Portal, and you get a Talisman, which will let you get a Primagen Key. There are also other Warp Portals (which also need to be opened with a hidden Warp Portal Switch) that open combat arenas. Beat the combat arena and you get a Piece of Nuke. Get all of the Nuke Pieces and you get the Nuke superweapon. Something to keep in mind is that the Talisman needed often doesn't align with that level's Primagen Key. For example, getting the Primagen Key in Level 2 requires the Talisman from Level 3, so you're going to have to replay almost every level at least once. The levels are about 1-2 hours long each and remembering which identical room had the Primagen Key in it can be difficult. Doesn't that all sound like fun?
On top of that every level has a few mandatory objectives, Goldeneye-style. These are almost always a collectible checklist. Find the 5 prisoners. Destroy the 3 computers. These objectives require that you obsessively cover each level from top to bottom, leaving no corridor or dead-end unturned.
Maybe you're starting to see why I think the objective markers were a great addition.
Something I really enjoyed about Turok 1 was that its levels felt huge and convoluted but somehow I never felt genuinely lost. That's more or less out the window with Turok 2. Levels are massive labyrinths of samey looking rooms and switch puzzles. You can never just turn your brain off and shoot some monsters like you'd want, because the constant pull from mission objectives, collectibles, switches, and obtuse puzzle elements are constantly eating away at the experience. And God forbid you miss anything because backtracking is a massive, boring pain in the ass. Themeing also suffers. Turok 1 had this really weird jungle safari vibe, but Turok 2 is mostly just another late-90s sci fi FPS. A lot of people compliment Turok 2's weapon set, but I found it to be disappointing. Weapons felt weak and ineffective overall, with very low ammo capacity. While something like the Cerebral Bore, a weapon that drills into enemys' brains, is clever in concept, in practice it's just a slow, crummy homing weapon with limited functionality. The weapon set lacks real workhorse weapons-- there's no 'assault rifle' equivalent, for example. Enemies don't seem to take consistent damage. Sometimes one shot kills, sometimes it takes five. I have no idea why, and it makes combat less fun overall.
Bosses are another weak spot. While Turok 1's bosses were nothing special-- mostly of the "shoot at until it dies" crowd, in Turok 2 they're just baffling. I beat almost every single one with little to no understanding as to why it was or was not taking damage at any given time. Sometimes their life bar would be at zero and they just kept going and I don't know why.
Turok 2 is just over-designed. Turok was a fine run & gun FPS, but the sequel takes every opprtunity to bog its formula down.