Acclaim Entertainment’s first game for the N64 was also one of its most significant for a number of reasons.
GoldenEye 007 is widely regarded as the game that proved that the first-person shooter genre could work on home consoles, but really Turok: Dinosaur Hunter did it first. The key difference though is that Rare’s James Bond game revolutionised the whole genre beyond the template set out by Doom – and had a four-player split-screen mode to boot – whereas Turok merely evolved it.
The game’s concept arose from Acclaim’s business strategy at the time: develop games and then license related merchandise. The character of Turok actually first appeared in comics in the 1950s, before later being rebooted by Valiant Comics in 1993. Acclaim bought the comic publishing company in 1994 (renaming it Acclaim Comics for the time it owned it), acquiring the rights to Turok in the process.
In terms of gameplay, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is similar to Doom and Quake, but features larger, more open environments, as well as some platforming segments. Taking control of Turok, you must enter the Lost Land – a realm where time has no meaning, and everything from dinosaurs to aliens roam – and scour each level in search of keys (which open subsequent levels). The ultimate goal is to defeat the Campaigner, an evil warlord hell bent on acquiring the Chronoscepter – an incredibly powerful weapon that will enable him to rule the universe.
The game is notorious for its short draw distances, and features a heavy fog effect to mask the visuals popping up. This setup ensures a relatively smooth frame rate, and it arguably enhances the atmosphere of the game, as it enables intimidating enemies such as velociraptors to get quite close before you can see them.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter proved to be a major success for Acclaim Entertainment at the time, selling over 1.5 million copies and pulling the company out of financial turmoil as a result. The game’s strong performance paved the way for three more Turok games on the N64: Turok 2: Seeds of Evil in 1998 (which was announced before Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was even released), Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion in 2000, and the multiplayer-centric arena shooter Turok: Rage Wars in 1999. A remastered version of the original game was released by Nightdive Studios for the PC in 2015.