Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion begins with Joshua Turok getting jumped by ogres in the dark and then killing himself with a grenade. Joshua may suck, but his siblings prove to be much more capable. Nightdive has given Turok's surviving family a new lease on life with a remaster that goes a step beyond even its other recent releases, overhauling antiquated gameplay, controls and balance to the point that a late-period Nintendo 64 exclusive feels shockingly smooth and fluid on PC.
I was really impressed by how not like an N64 game Turok 3 plays, even if it is pretty stripped down compared to what most PC gamers are familiar with. There's no 'use' key, which really threw me at first, so in order to press a button you just run at and squash yourself into the wall until it activates. There's only health and ammo packs, no armor, and levels are broken up into dozens of small chunks to make the most of the N64's memory limitation.
Even still, the action is fast and punchy, with enemy AI and attack patterns that definitely feel designed to match the speed and accuracy of a mouse and not the D-pad / analog stick combo of an N64 controller.
Turok 3 is really about walking forward and blasting things apart, which is still a good time thanks to some kickass weapons. The shotgun is nothing less than a total joy to discharge, disintegrating anything in your immediate cone of vision with a firing animation that sells the devastating power of both the cannon and its wielder. I dug how the bow and arrow can be upgraded with a power-up that just lets you go on a rampage with a few dozen explosive arrows.
Don't expect to be hunting dinosaurs a la Turok 1 & 2 in the first few missions of Shadows of Oblivion. Zombie cops, monsters that look like the coliseum aliens from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and arctic camo military dudes are the roster on offer based on what I played.
It's actually a really varied and satisfying enemy selection, though. I was persistently impressed by the fluidity of the animations—there's a crude dynamic dismemberment system that has your bullets sever limbs and pop mutant eyeballs like water balloons.
I went back to take a look at the N64 release, which highlighted how Nightdive clearly put a ton of work into overhauling the presentation, bringing Turok 3 into the same visual bracket as the Perfect Dark remaster or the comparison that I kept coming back to: Timesplitters: Future Perfect. It's a pretty impressive feat to overhaul the presentation of an N64 game from 2000 to the point where it looks and feels as good as a shooter that was released a whole console generation later.
There's also something truly charming about Turok 3's almost braindead simplicity. The plot is absolute nonsense delivered with an endearing level of camp: Joshua Turok is beset by nightmares of the "Turok bloodline dying out" before he and his family are almost all wiped out by teleporting ogres, saved at the last minute by inter-dimensional androids in gimp suits. There's the needly issue of cultural appropriation, but the Indigenous set-dressing never becomes offensive or even really rises above the level of "really dumb" (the "Turok clan" appear to just be Turok's own immediate family).
That big dumb energy is present in the missions too—the opening city setpiece is just cops getting eaten by monsters all the way through, and the military compound has a big finale where you have to stop some nuclear missiles from launching and the game just spawns a bunch of Half Life 1 scientists for you to murder while you saunter between missile silos.
Having no nostalgia for the series, Turok: Shadow of Oblivion impressed me with how far Nightdive will go to revitalize a game that, before now, would have languished on the N64 with awkward D-pad aiming and a framerate that frequently dipped into the single digits. It's definitely worth checking out if you're game for a smooth brain FPS.