This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee goes dinosaur hunting, with Turok.
Australia, as most intelligent people know, is populated by the descendants of convicts sentenced to exile for cutting purses and throats on the streets of London Town. As for the people whose purses and throats were cut, their descendants all now work in the games industry, and conspire to continue the punishment of Australians by stapling an arbitrary number of months onto every single motherfucking release date. So while we're waiting for stuff like No More Heroes or Rock Band to finally deign to show their faces down here, let's take out our frustrations on some shitty dinosaur game.
I'm actually rather glad that a really unequivocally bad FPS has been shat out in front of me, because there are a lot of problems with first-person shooters these days, and Turok plays like an itemized list of them. So rather than do what I usually do - i.e., crucify the game with big, blunt, rusty nails shaped like penises - let's instead use Turok as an example to go through a few of the mistakes first-person shooters keep persistently making. Perhaps I could persuade developers to stop making them, then maybe I could persuade the tide to turn back and ride a winged marshmallow to the Sherbet Kingdom.
1. Use console controls responsibly. When I am aiming at something, and I nudge the right analog stick slightly, this is usually because I want to be aiming at something slightly to the side of whatever I'm aiming at now. It does not mean I want my entire body to rotate 90 degrees, and I especially don't want that to happen when a velociraptor is running straight at my face brandishing a dessert fork. Of course, the absence of mouse control will always cripple console FPSes, but the good console FPS will compensate for it with, say, smoother aiming or auto-targeting. But since, as we've already established, Turok is not a good console FPS, aiming at things is like trying to play darts after letting your arms fall asleep.
2. Bring back health meters. I don't know when the games industry in general fell out with health meters - maybe someone threw a big party for video game interfaces, and Mr. Health Meter got drunk and acted like a tit, so now everyone shuns him. Whatever, games just don't have health meters any more. When you're hurt, you just heal up by sitting in the corner sucking your thumb for a few seconds - which makes things a little patronizingly simple, but it's very accommodating towards players who happen to be the three-year-old children of syphilitic lepers. What's so bad about health meters, anyway? Okay, they're not what you'd call realistic, but I kind of thought we'd abandoned realism around the time space marines were stabbing dinosaurs on the planet Zog.
3. Give grenades halfway decent splash damage.
4. Stop ripping off Aliens. Aliens was a good film, I'm glad we're all in agreement there, but it seems you can't walk ten paces in today's first-person shooter market without tripping over grizzled, sassy, multi-ethnic military types, often wearing, or at least located somewhere inside, suits of powered armour each the size of four brick shithouses stacked together. Turok goes the extra mile by ripping off the entire cryo pod scene from Aliens verbatim, except with Sigourney Weaver replaced with an overly masculine stupid haircut. No change there then, har har har, raucous laughter. When you consider that the original Turok games were about a time-traveling red Indian, this new installment has had to really work hard to rip off Aliens: they had to lock the established setting and storyline in a wardrobe and throw it off a cliff. They've approached ripping off Aliens with the same determination that most developers would approach making a game that's actually good, and that's sort of admirable, I guess, in a retarded kind of way.
5. Stop zooming into the backs of people's heads to show we're taking control of them.
6. Stop blowing all your money on big-name voice actors who then totally phone it in. So Turok has this grumpy friend who looks like a cross between Gimli, son of Gloin and Popeye the Sailorman, and whose voice indicates that he is A: incapable of human emotion, and B: a recent victim of cranial drill intrusion. Out of curiosity, I went on IMDb to learn what amateur dramatics wannabe voiced this gobshite, and found it to be none other than Ron fuckmothering Perlman?! A Ron Perlman I could only assume who realized early on what kind of dross he was working with, and vowed to bring that across in his performance, and if Ron Perlman thought Turok was shit, who are you to argue? Did you ever warm the frozen hearts of audiences worldwide in City of Lost Children? No? Well, shut up then!
7. Conclusion. Most of these problems with modern FPSes can be explained with four words: "Let's be like Halo." But I remember a time when FPSes didn't all march in step behind that inexplicably popular festival of mediocrity,
[a choral version of "Pomp and Circumstance" begins playing in the background]
when FPSes weren't all about soldiers or space marines, when they could be about undead cowboys, or backwards pig rapists, or wisecracking misogynistic wankers. I remember a time when FPSes had a sense of humour about themselves, and could have colors other than gunmetal grey and dogshit brown. I remember titles like Exhumed, and Chasm, and Witchaven II...
[the music stops]
...although on reflection, I'd rather forget about them.
Totally wasn't offended by recent de-rez video: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
Seriously cut it out with the back of the head zooming thing, I'm sick of getting up-close views of someone's pimply nape
Smash Brothers Brawl doesn't even have an Australian release date yet so shut up