Platform: Xbox 360
Category: 3rd Person: Action
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Having had the chance to go see Terminator Salvation in the theatres prior to heading down to E3, I was quite intrigued to play the game. Unfortunately we did not get our review copy of Terminator Salvation (the game) until about two weeks after coming home from the annual Videogame extravaganza in Los Angeles. Add to this that we have been catching up and getting through the pile of games that we had to review when we left, and well you get the picture. I was given the chance to review the game based on the title of the movie. I say "based on the title of the movie" because the game is not a videogame clone of the big screen story as it is a prequel of sorts. So what were my impressions after having seen the movie and playing the game? Read on to find out.
The visuals in Terminator Salvation don't do a bad job at all but they are definitely not ground breaking. Post-apocalyptic Los Angeles looks pretty good. You can tell that Skynet unleashed its wrath upon the unsuspecting city. From the scorched landscape to the destroyed buildings, everything has a look and feel of having survived a nuclear attack. There is pretty good use of lighting and textures to further the feel of your environments. Having seen the movie I think that developer GRIN did a great job of bringing the setting where the movie eventually takes place into the game.
In terms of characters, John Connor looks alright, as do your computer controlled A.I. teammates. They move pretty fluidly and manage to look like you'd expect the members of the resistance to look. That being said, the visual stars of the game are the bevy of Skynet controlled robots who get in your way. From the way they move to the way their chrome-like exterior shines against the post-apocalyptic background, they are pretty solid. The first time I saw the lumbering T-600 turn and start to fire with its chain gun I thought that was pretty impressive and very much what I expected from the Terminator franchise.
If there is any negative to be found it would be that the game did seem to need a bit more polish in certain areas. At times the human characters looked rough and there seemed to be the odd animation hiccup now and then too. Maybe this was due to the need to launch the game prior to the movies launch. Regardless, a bit more time in the shop to fine tune this visual issues would definitely not have hurt.
I am a big fan of developers/publishers who bring in the actual actors of those who a movie based game is founded on. Point in case, Activision used the actual voices of those actors from Quantum of Solace. Well in Terminator Salvation we don't seem to have any recognizable voices in the game. Now I know that the game takes place before the events of the movie, but come on, it was very disappointing given that Christian Bale's effort on screen definitely deserved to be carried over into the game. Although all the voice actors did a pretty good job, the lack of any recognizable movie voice talent, particularly Terminator Salvation's biggest star, took away from whole experience somewhat.
As for the sound effects, they are what you would expect from a Terminator franchise game. The explosions are plenty, and the weapon sounds are solid. There is a nice mix of available weapons ranging from your regular assault rifles and shot guns, but there is also the addition of a few larger weapons such as heavy machine guns and grenade launchers. All of the available weapons manage to sound different and you can tell one class is different from the other. There is nothing like hearing the sound of a rocket propelled grenade hitting its target and exploding on contact.
As for the in-game soundtrack, I would have to say that it is pretty solid too. It manages to add to the overall feel of the game, and can amp up, or calm down, at just the right times. It was not annoying and I thought that it definitely did not feel out of place. Some music that is included in movie based games can be darn right bothersome but I found that this was not the case in Terminator Salvation.
Terminator Salvation is a third person shooter whose events take place two years prior to the events of its big screen brother. This prequel has John Connor fighting with the resistance as a grunt soldier, and not the leader of the human race. Not to ruin much of the game's story, but some of the resistance's members have been caught by Skynet and John Connor takes on the task of rescuing his fellow 'freedom fighters'. During the story you will get a bit of insight on what transpired to make John the leader he was destined to be.
The story itself is ok, and it is neat to watch the events unfold in what will eventually help you understand how John Connor became who he is. There are some pretty good looking cutscenes to tell the story as well. That being said, should you want to skip the story and just get on to killing enemies, you can do that too. In the end the story is just a backdrop to the action that is to take place in the game.
As one would expect, you battle various forms of Skynet's soldiers from humanoid terminators (T-600) to spiderlike robots. The enemies definitely take a page from the terminator universe as they do a good job of being Skynet's minions. They manage to have a bit of ‘smartness’ to them and they take on their roles to tee. For example, the T-600 is a tank like terminator whose job is to identify their target, and go after it at any cost. In game this is very evident as the T-600 will identify you and head your way without hesitation. It will make any and all efforts to reach you and kill you. The spider on the other hand is more calculating and moves with caution. It takes great care in protecting itself while finding a safe route in its effort to reach you and kill you. It was neat to see these different enemies acting in these ways.
During battle you will discover that each of the enemies has a weakness and it is up to you to find and use that weakness to down your foe. As you make your way through the various levels, you will also discover that there is a formula so to speak as to how enemies can be taken down by certain types of ammunition. There are basically three types of ammo for you to use: explosives, bullets and shells. Certain enemies are more susceptible to certain ammo types. For example, when battling the hulking T-600 you will find great success with explosives where as when you come across any spiderlike enemies, bullets will do the trick. Sure, you can take down the weaker enemies with the heavier munitions; however that will leave you with having to battle the more difficult enemies with the weaker ammo type.
Something that I think a lot of people should enjoy about this game is that it does not force you to simply move forward in each particular level. The strategy that is involved in this game actually has you taking various routes along the level in order for you to dispose of the various Skynet enemies that you face. There is a bit of strategy to what you have to do given that you need to come from different directions in order to expose certain terminator's weak spots in order to kill them. This in turn causes you to take a look at your surroundings, as well as your enemies, and come up with some sort of plan to move around the level in order to succeed. You can up behind, or beside, your foe in any given level and you are not just forced to move forward. It is very satisfying when you think up some sort of stategy, implement it, and eventually vanquish your enemy.
To pull of your strategies, and generally survive the madness of the on screen action, developer GRIN has provided you with some pretty competent A.I. teammates. I was pretty happy that I did not have to baby sit my fellow resistance fighters during battle and I enjoyed the fact that they were able to provide me with assistance in killing the various enemies that I faced. That being said though, you are the main killing machine in this game, and if anything your computer A.I. teammates will provide support and help you to pull of the strategies you may attempt in flanking your enemy. Your teammates are not super soldiers either and they do need some assistance, in the form of cover fire, as they draw the enemy fire away from you to assist as you move across a level in an effort to attack any weak points of the terminators you face. It is good that the A.I. in your teammates is somewhat competent given the aforementioned 'smartness' of the enemy.
Developer GRIN has opted to include a very functional and somewhat innovative cover feature to assist in your efforts to stay alive. It is not your traditional “run up and press a button for cover” mechanic either. You are basically given a reticule that allows you to 'point' to any of the identified cover areas and head over in that direction. This is initiated after you first get under cover, which I do admit you have to press a button to do so. The neat part about this is that should an area you wish to get under cover is somewhat in the distance you can “point and press the button” and John (your on screen character) will make his way over and around objects to get to it. This makes your strategies a little more enticing given that you are not locked into just going from cover to cover in a very close proximity. With the cover mechanic in this game you can go to almost any area on the level that can be used for cover, so you are not tied down to one small space. I should note though that the cover you hide behind is not indestructible either as it will erode when fired upon. Of course once you are in cover you have the option for blind fire and normal fire.
Finally, Terminator Salvation breaks up the gameplay with driving sequences where you take on the role of a gunner in various vehicles. I found this to be a nice change of pace and it added another element to the game. To not have to worry about ammo (it is unlimited) and just shoot the snot out of everything on screen really took care of that need to go crazy. I did note that the accuracy and control of the gun use could feel wonky now and then. Yes, I said wonky. It was as though I could not aim as accurately as I thought I should. I don't know if this was to simulate being in a moving vehicle, or if it was a fault with the game itself, regardless, it could prove to be a little frustrating at times, but it didn't kill the experience for me.
Terminator Salvation is a strictly single-player campaign experience which hurts the game. Sure, there is the addition of local same-screen cooperative multiplayer but it has has no special features or incentive to it, it is just the single-player story played out by two people on a split screen. There is absolutely no online component to the game, be it cooperative or adversarial. I think that this is an oversight on the developer's part, given how important any form of multiplayer can be. The inability to play the game online, even in a “same story/two people” mode, does hurt. Look at Resident Evil 5, the online cooperative mode is the single player story, but playing online with a friend makes the game that much better. In terms of an adversarial mode, I think it would have been neat to allow for the Resistance versus Skynet aspect to be played out in a multiplayer matches, and the modes of play could have been really interesting if they were fleshed out properly, but alas we will never know as there is no adversarial component in this game.
If there is one area that really turned me off it is that Terminator Salvation is a very short game as it can be completed in about 5-6 hours depending on the skill setting you play it on, and how skilled you are at playing games. This is incredibly short given that there is no incentive to play the game again and there is no online mulitplayer mode of any sort. You will find no need to search for hidden collectibles, nor will beating the game open up more for you to play. Once you beat the game the first time you have pretty much seen all there is to see. You'd think that a game based on a franchise as deep and rich as the Terminator franchise would have more meat on it's bone's, especially given that it has a chance to tell a story that has never been told before. Another disappointment within this area is that is not only is it the game short lived, but its’ price is double or triple that of some Xbox LIVE Arcade titles that offer more gameplay experiences. In this time of economic recession, a good bang for the buck is warranted, and I don't think Terminator Salvation offers this.
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