Acclaim Entertainment must have always had a good feeling about Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. Before the game was even released in 1997, the company announced that it was already working on a sequel. In hindsight of course, it’s easy to see why Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was such a massive success; it released at an ideal time in the Nintendo 64's life when there was little in the way of software — or first-person shooters on home systems for that matter; it went on to sell over 1.5 million copies and laid the foundation for its sequel, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil.
Nevertheless, Acclaim knew that it wasn’t going to have the same luck and good fortune when it came to releasing its second game in the series. By 1998, the N64 was finally seeing a steady trickle of high-quality releases such as Star Fox 64, Diddy Kong Racing and F-Zero X. Furthermore, Rare's GoldenEye 007 had already taken the world by storm in August the previous year, providing players with a first-person shooter experience that not only completely blew Acclaim's previous effort out of the water, but also revolutionised the genre on home systems. As a result, Iguana Entertainment – Acclaim’s development team — was faced with the mammoth challenge of providing a worthy successor that could hold its own against Rare’s behemoth. While it's fair to say that Turok 2: Seeds of Evil didn't dethrone GoldenEye 007, it definitely surpassed it in many ways.
Despite Turok 2: Seeds of Evil being announced before the first game had even released, it's hard to tell if the franchise was originally intended to be a series from the start. That's because the second game follows on in a relatively loose sense. When the original Turok (Tal'Set) defeated the Campaigner and destroyed the Chronoscepter super-weapon, he also inadvertently awakened a more sinister and evil creature known as the Primagen. This evil alien being once tried to conquer the Lost Land, and is hell-bent on having another stab at it.
To face off against this new threat, a new Turok has been appointed. You take control of Joshua Fireseed, the son of Tal'Set who funnily enough looks eerily similar to the guy that appears on the first game's box art. Fireseed's quest takes him to various locations throughout the Lost Land, ranging from ancient ruins to alien spaceships. In each area, you must complete various objectives, as well as protect an important energy totem that prevents the Primagen from escaping his ship. The Turok storyline is just as original and unique as in the sequel, and is a much richer experience as a result of an in-depth back story that is fully voiced by the character Adon.
What makes Turok 2: Seeds of Evil stand out from its predecessor and other first-person shooters at the time is its incredible production values. It holds the accolade of being the first N64 title to take advantage of the system's Expansion Pak upgrade, which provides an additional 4MB RAM and, in this instance, allowed for a high-resolution mode.
However, it's not just the improved resolution that makes Turok 2: Seeds of Evil so impressive. Even without the benefits of the extra RAM, it looks fantastic and is a solid improvement over the first. The distance fog, while still present, is far less encroaching, and the environments and character models sport an impressive amount of detail. The levels in the first game all looked woefully similar in places; this time round, each one has been carefully crafted from the ground up to provide a varied experience. Levels are huge in terms of scale, but feature tighter, much more linear designs so that getting lost isn’t an issue, while still being open enough to harbour plenty of secret areas. As a result of this – and the improved draw distance — exploring the environments is much more fun, especially because the enemies don’t respawn as quickly. It does suffer in some places a result of archaic design issues, namely save points which are far too sparsely located and the need to find keys to unlock later levels. To get as much enjoyment as possible from this title you really do need to set aside a few hours of your time.
It’s the little details in Turok 2: Seeds of Evil that make it stand out from the rest. The AI is surprisingly advanced, and actually surpasses GoldenEye 007 in this area; enemies utilise cover and keep shifting positions if you attempt to strafe around them. If you possess a particularly powerful weapon, they may even flee in sheer terror. The animation is equally impressive, with enemies jolting back and forth as they're riddled with bullets or coming to a tumbling halt if they just so happen to be running when they take a hit. It's a pretty gory game, and while it seems a little odd to praise such a feature, being able to dismember evil monsters is strangely satisfying. This level of detail probably seems quite basic by today's standards, but needless to say this was a pretty big deal back in 1998.
Of course, all this detail comes at a price; in this case, it's the frame rate, which suffers quite drastically as a result of all the fancy effects. The moment there's more than one enemy on screen things get incredibly choppy, especially when played in high resolution. It makes Turok 2: Seeds of Evil a difficult game to come back to in this day and age, but if you can see past the performance issues, it's a rewarding experience. Thankfully, it isn't the insane challenge that the first one was — it's still difficult in parts (even on easy), but far less frustrating, mainly as a result of its more linear design. With that said, players must still explore certain areas for switches and items, but it's much harder to skip past the vital bits such as level keys.
Much like GoldenEye 007, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil contains a multiplayer mode in which up to 4 players can battle it out. Unfortunately, the game falls down a bit in this area; it's not a bad multiplayer mode by any means, but the maps aren’t nearly as interesting, featuring quite standard and generic layouts. On the other hand, the weapons are much more varied and there's a neat in-game drop-in/drop-out feature.
Turok 2: Seeds of Evil was an incredible achievement for Acclaim Entertainment and proves that the first game wasn't just a lucky one-off. While it — or any of the other Turok games for that matter — never enjoyed the same commercial success that its James Bond counterpart did, it certainly set a new technical benchmark when it came onto the scene. It's a visually stunning experience, where the high-quality graphics and an astonishing amount of detail constantly surprise you. The unusual setting and multiplayer mode may not be to everyone’s tastes, and it’s rather choppy in terms of performance, but nevertheless Turok 2: Seeds of Evil is quite possibly the best third-party effort ever released for Nintendo 64. It may be almost 15 years since it hit the classic 64-bit system, but that shouldn't stop you from equipping your Tek Bow and heading out into battle one more time.