As if to help solidify the Xbox's ground in the games industry, the big black box now has its own version of Turok. The newest game in the series, Turok: Evolution, debuts on the Xbox alongside the PS2 and GameCube versions, and in some ways, it's the best of the three. Certainly, Xbox owners would expect no less, but this doesn't change the fact that the game itself, though not without its merits, is pretty cut-and-dried. Turok: Evolution gives you more of the same dinosaurs and mayhem found in the last three Turok games on the Nintendo 64, and this should please fans of the series as a whole. You won't find much that's new in Turok: Evolution, with one notable exception, but chances are that if Turok is your thing, you won't want a lot of new whiz-bang features getting in the way of the gameplay anyway.
These lumbering oafs won't give you any problems if you leave them alone.
Evolution is sort of a prequel to the Turok series. It casts you in the role of Tal'Set, a Native American warrior fighting against the incursions of the United States Army. While Tal'Set is fighting his archrival, Captain Bruckner, on a cliff, a mysterious energy swells up and pulls him into a strange realm called the Lost Land. Tal'Set is rescued by the indigenous people of this primitive world, and from the seer Tarkeen he learns that he is Turok, the legendary Son of Stone sent to battle the villainous reptilian Sleg and their master, Lord Tyrannus. Tal'Set reluctantly accepts this charge and sets out to do battle with the Sleg, Tyrannus, and even the not-quite-dead Captain Bruckner. As in past games, the storyline in Turok: Evolution is passable, but nobody really plays first-person shooters for their stories, anyway, and the plot here serves mainly as an excuse to frag some dinosaurs.
The original Turok game's subtitle, "Dinosaur Hunter," may be consistent with the license's comic-book roots, but in Evolution, you won't be battling as many of the massive beasts as you might hope. Most of the game's dinosaurs serve as backdrop elements only, although you'll occasionally have to defend yourself against a couple of raptors or a tyrannosaur. The bulk of the fighting in Evolution is directed at the Sleg, a warlike humanoid-reptilian race with a perplexing command of technology. The upright lizards have overrun the Lost Land, and you'll spend most of the game's 15 chapters engaging in standard run-and-gun shooter combat against them. Periodically, you'll have to engage in some extremely basic forms of puzzle solving, such as finding two switches to open a gate, but for the most part, your single objective is to kill everything that moves and reach the end of the level.
Enemy AI is a bit inconsistent in Turok: Evolution. At times, you'll find the Sleg warriors hiding behind cover, rolling out of the way of your shots, falling back to a defensible position--in short, making your life difficult. Other times, though, you'll see silliness like an enemy dinosaur stuck on a piece of the background, making it a pathetically easy kill. We even saw a so-called sniper running around and around in a circle, ad nauseam... until we mercifully removed his head. Generally, the enemies are pretty deadly, but occasionally they can be more droll than dangerous.
The shooter levels in Turok: Evolution really don't do anything new for the genre. You do have access to an impressive arsenal, ranging from the primitive club and bow and arrow to the more-futuristic plasma cannon, remote-controlled spider mines, and tekbow, which is a high-tech version of the classic bow and arrow. Evolution tries to incorporate stealth into a few of its levels, but it often comes off as contrived, as the nature of the guns-blazing gameplay and controls make it very difficult to avoid being spotted by enemies. Fortunately, Evolution does feature one major new addition to the Turok series: flying stages. Several times in the game, Tal'Set takes to the back of a pterodactyl armed with, well, .50-caliber machine guns and guided missiles. As silly as that scenario sounds, the flying stages are actually pretty fun and don't feel at all like a last-minute addition to the game. They provide a nice dose of variety when the shooting levels begin to border on monotony.