The first-person shooter has become so prevalent on consoles in today’s market, it’s bizarre to think back to a time where PC gamers held the lion’s share of the genre. By 1998, the desktop faithful were gorging on Half-Life and Unreal, but a little console by the name of Nintendo 64 wasn’t about to bow down to the overclockers. A year earlier, Rare had surprised everyone with the intricate design of Goldeneye 007, and now it had Quake 64 and a little thing called Turok 2: Seeds of Evil. With its black cartridge and a combat model that was creative and unrepentantly gory, Iguana Entertainment’s sequel was further proof that Nintendo could shoot with the big boys.
And while the Turok franchise has gradually slipped into complete obscurity by 2019, the importance of Turok 2 and the strengths of its overall design are still something to savour. The big selling point it lauded for 20 years ago no longer holds true – those graphics were pretty hot at the time, but even with a HD remaster they’re still very much an ugly trip down polygonal lane – but some of the issues that dogged it as a result (specifically its problems with framerate drops and considerable distance fogging) have now been completely rectified. So it might not look exactly how you remember, but its stellar gunplay and exploration have nonetheless endured.
One thing that Turok 2 does far better than its predecessor, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, is giving you a far clearer sense of purpose and direction. Its six levels are pretty big by the standards of the time (flying in the face of traditional corridor shooters), and there are plenty of shortcuts, hidden rooms and secrets to be found, but by adding in a little more linearity – especially in the opening hours of the game – Iguana helped refine the occasionally wayward nature of the first Turok. There’s a little more of a story this time – Turok has been summoned to stop the imminent escape of alien entity known as the Primagen – but what really makes this ballsy sequel stand out is the creativity of its levels and the destructive power of its weapons.
Oh, the weapons. The weapons! Things start off innocently enough in the style of its predecessor with just a bow and a clawed gauntlet to your name, but then you get your hands on more and more destructive firepower. Pistols give way to shotguns, which give way to the brutal power of the Firestorm Cannon, which then bows down to the missile-launching hell of the Scorpion Cannon, the glaives-slinging Razor Wind and the energy-powered Nuke. It’s Ratchet & Clank levels of creativity, especially when you’re firing guns on the back of a triceratops and causing enemy craniums to cave in with the slow death of the Cerebral Bore. Iguana really raised the bar with its guns, tapping into an almost slapstick approach that’s very, very ’90s.
And while you can tell its development cycle ran very close to that of its predecessor – with the inclusion of level designs that can be a little too obtuse at times and an over-reliance on backtracking and key collecting – Turok 2 remains a far more complete shooter experience. For a game that’s over two decades old, the sway of Turok as he turns a corner and the unique death animations each enemy descends into when you deliver the killing blow are still a marvel to behold. Turok 2 is the series at its absolute best, refined just enough to put rewarding gunplay and open-ended exploration at the forefront.
The Switch version benefits from all the technical improvements Nightdive Studios made to the previously-released HD remaster. The sluggish frame rate of the original version has been fixed, as has the sheer amount of fogging that Iguana used to make Turok 2 run on 64-bit hardware (honestly, the original was like running around Silent Hill at times). Now you can see every level in full clarity with proper draw distances. Even something as simple as adding in objective markers makes the backtracking to find certain keys or secrets a far less frustrating experience. And, yes, there are gyro controls in this version as well, and they really make a difference when you're zooming in with your Tek Bow. You can even aim with the touchscreen, if you really want to play awkwardly.
But for all the things this shooter still does right 21 years on, especially with the technical improvements Nightdive has made, there’s one glaringly obvious problem – and it’s an issue entirely isolated to Nintendo Switch. There’s no multiplayer. Not a dime. For whatever reason, the developer has completely removed a fundamental feature that gave Turok 2 such longevity back on Nintendo 64. We love the game’s single-player campaign to this day, despite its faults, but it’s not enough to justify the full asking price.
Because every other version of this particular remaster features multiplayer, both local and online. You can buy Turok 2 on Xbox One today, and you’ll get the full package for the same price you’ll pay on the eShop for the Switch port. Considering you can play the recent ports of Doom and Doom II in local multiplayer on your Switch, it’s an omission that simply doesn’t make sense. We can understand the developer potentially removing online support, but to stop players from splitting Joy-Cons and enjoying a tarted-up version of one of N64’s most memorable multiplayer modes is a decision that ultimately diminishes one of the system’s greatest exports.
It’s a testament to the quality of Turok 2: Seeds of Evil and the great enhancements made by Nightdive Studios that this remaster is still an essential chapter of FPS history – more so than its rough-around-the-edges predecessor. Every gun still feels incredible, every level still looks unique in its design and the bosses and enemies are still a riot to hunt down and slay. But the bizarre amputation of the game’s multiplayer modes renders the Switch version painfully incomplete. Until support for multiplayer is patched in or addressed in some shape or form, we’re forced to give this N64 classic a score it doesn’t deserve.