Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion review: The end of an era

Nightdive Studios has wrapped up remastering the original Turok trilogy. How does the third game hold up?


I have an odd personal affinity for Turok; Seeds of Evil was baby’s first M-rated videogame. “BEWAREOBLIVIONISATHAND” is burned into my skull, a legendary cheat code that opened my eyes to the world of weird crap tucked away in 90s shooters. Turok 2 was a bizarre sandbox full of polygonal ultraviolence and confusing level objectives. But I never touched a Turok game again. So how weird is it that, multiple decades later, I’m writing a professional review for Turok 3? It certainly wasn’t on my bingo card.

Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion Remastered is the latest retro remaster from Nightdive Studios, capping off what could be considered the original trilogy for the Turok series. These games were notable for being major third-party shooters for the Nintendo 64, back in the peak era of Acclaim Entertainment as a game publisher. Like the first two releases, this edition of Turok 3 is loaded with visual improvements, gameplay tweaks and lots of interesting restoration efforts.

Videogames archaeology

Rare dinosaur enemies in Turok 3
Source: Nightdive Studios

The restoration stuff is probably the most interesting part of Turok 3. The Nintendo 64 obviously had its limitations, and Turok 3 was made to run smoothly without the RAM-boosting Expansion Pak gimmick. Sacrifices had to be made during development, such as removing objects from level design and practical things like audio compression.

A document provided by Nightdive listed various restored elements, my favorite being uncompressed dialogue that was found in some old PR materials. Retrofitting content that was only removed for technical reasons is a really cool use case for remasters, beyond simply making older games playable on modern platforms. Newcomers like myself may not be able to tell on sight, but anyone familiar with the original or willing to check it out for comparison’s sake has a whole new layer of historical context to digest.

As far as the game itself, as a game to play, Turok 3 is a strange follow-up to its predecessor. Turok 2 was a bigger, more ambitious game that was about exploration as much as shooting. You’d navigate each level having to fulfill objectives such as rescuing children or destroying weapon caches, and couldn’t actually complete the stage without them. You also had to unlock special abilities and find hidden keys to unlock each level, which existed in a sort of hub. On one hand it was very videogame-y, and on another it was challenging and complex.

In comparison Turok 3 has much more in common with a contemporary, AAA, single-player shooter. Well, “contemporary” is a bit of a stretch, but you get the picture. The story is strikingly linear, and is far more interested in tossing fodder in front of your bullets than making you think or explore. It certainly moves fast, and for the most part getting lost or confused won’t be an issue. I cruised through Turok 3 in around eight or nine hours, while in comparison the first level of Turok 2 (which I replayed for… research, yeah) felt like a couple hours by itself.


blood effects featured in Turok 3 remastered
Source: Nightdive Studios

I wouldn’t call this shift either an improvement or a downgrade. But for me, and for the part of my brain that remembers playing Turok 2 when it was new, there’s a much bigger point of concern. If you know these games, you know exactly what I’m about to say. Blood and guts, yo. For whatever reasons, the gulf in tone, volume, and detail between these games’ depiction of gore is massive. And for games like Turok, the novelty of excessive videogame violence felt like half the appeal.

Even with some added gore effects in the remaster, Turok 3 is significantly less violent than Turok 2. And while that’s not an issue inherently, the game has a severely different vibe as a result. Enemies lack a certain presence when they’re just dudes coming at you instead of bipedal dinosaur soldiers who cartoonishly suffer, flop around, and explode depending on where you shoot them and with what. Even the infamous Cerebral Bore weapon loses much of its impact this time around. Hell, there are so few dinosaurs in general it’s bizarre Turok 3 is even associated with a game that had “Dinosaur Hunter” in its original subtitle.

Really, Shadow of Oblivion is a perfect subtitle for Turok 3, because a lot of the negatives come from the game going all-in on its very 90s comic book-style lore. Most of the story is about dealing with an impending cosmic threat and its group of cult followers. That stuff was in the background before, but supplemented with the excitement from being a regular dude fighting super inhuman creatures. And, you know, dinosaurs. Here, the background becomes the foreground, and you’re shooting at boring dudes in space armor.

The boring stuff

Combat gameplay in Turok 3 remastered
Source: Nightdive Studios

Consternation over Turok’s deep lore aside, there are some neat gameplay elements added for the third go-around. For one, you get to pick between two characters to play as. Not only do these characters have subtler, individual gameplay nuances, they also have unique verbs. One character has a sort of grappling hook she can use to scale vertical spaces. The other can crawl through small spaces, and has a preference for sneakier combat. These aren’t massive differences, but they do alter how to proceed through levels, which is a fun twist for a game of this vintage.

There are also some tweaks and “quality of life” updates for the remaster. N64 shooters were married to a strange controller, and Nightdive has made adjustments for folks using modern gamepads or PC controls. There’s a lot of minutia available in the options, but even some incredibly helpful default auto-aim makes the experience feel more like a modern game. From a nuts and bolts perspective, this is probably the best of Nightdive’s efforts on the Turok series and you can tell on an intuitive level.

Which is great, because Turok 3 originally wasn’t doing itself many favors. There’s a particularly annoying weapon progression gimmick that crowds your inventory and makes ammo a bigger problem than it should be. Having multiple weapons take their own space but share ammo is a bad idea no matter how you dress it up. Weird, little things like that remind you that Turok 3 was a Nintendo 64-exclusive shooter, but that’s theoretically part of the charm, right?

It’ll take a specific kind of person to get the most out of Turok 3. Shadows of Oblivion is an impressive remaster of an interesting retro game, but even when it came out it wasn’t blowing any minds. Did you grow up on games like the Turok series, those chunky, 90s shooters made for consoles before Halo? Are you interested in fascinating, specific corners of gaming history, and what kinds of restorative efforts can be applied thereof? Players just looking for a new shooter to play probably won’t have a great time. For me, I feel like I just slingshot time-traveled inside my own brain. I don’t know what that means, either.

Turok: Shadow of Oblivion is available on November 30, 2023 for the PlayStation 4 and 5, the Xbox One and Series X|S, the Nintendo Switch, and PC. A Steam code was provided by the publisher for this review.

Contributing Editor

Lucas plays a lot of videogames. Sometimes he enjoys one. His favorites include Dragon Quest, SaGa, and Mystery Dungeon. He's far too rattled with ADHD to care about world-building lore but will get lost for days in essays about themes and characters. Holds a journalism degree, which makes conversations about Oxford Commas awkward to say the least. Not a trophy hunter but platinumed Sifu out of sheer spite and got 100 percent in Rondo of Blood because it rules. You can find him on Twitter @HokutoNoLucas being curmudgeonly about Square Enix discourse and occasionally saying positive things about Konami.

  • Cool restoration efforts with unused assets
  • Dual character gimmick changing level navigation is a neat touch
  • Modernized controls and visual options are top-notch
  • Big departure from Turok 2; not as bombastic
  • Weirdly cluttered weapon collection
  • Big focus on bland storytelling
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