It has always been fascinating to me that game developers seem to struggle when making games based on movies. It’s a long established tradition and stigma that movie tie in games just plain suck. Terminator Salvation isn’t terrible on a technical level, in fact it actually looks pretty good and has quite a few moments of awesome.
However, it fails to deliver the promise of its subject matter. The Terminator universe has so much potential that has never been properly tapped. This game is a short wander through the universe that gets repetitive and boring rather quickly.
The most annoying thing about this game is its lack of scope. Most of the game involves running around trying to get somewhere but being stopped at every turn by robots that need to be taken down. That’s fine normally and there really isn’t anything wrong with linear games, as such, but the variety of enemies is so limited that when you turn a corner and there is yet another flying robot and two spider robots, you sigh and die a little inside.
There is no real challenge to it either, even on its hardest difficulty. Weapons are spread around the place, are very easy to find and are always just the right weapon to take down the robots you just encountered. There is no need to conserve ammunition or make interesting decisions on what to use to kill certain enemies. If there’s a spider robot, make your way behind it using cover and shoot it in the back. If there’s a flying one, shoot it lots. Enoskeleton terminator? Don’t worry; NPCs will give you plenty of pipe bombs to take it down.
It becomes so “by the numbers” that the visuals and cinematic feel of some of the situations lose their sheen. Also, if I heard one more person say “John Connor” I would have thrown the controller at the screen. This is a brief synopsis of the script of this game:
“This is John Connor, We are coming to save you”
“Thank god, We are waiting for you John Connor”
“Do you have a plan John Connor?”
“Come on, John Connor, we need to move”
“John Connor, where are you?”
“We are almost there John Connor”
“Thank god you arrived just on time John Connor.”
Yes, the main character is John Connor. Yes, he is the only part of the franchise that exists from previous movies but for the love of all things pure and innocent, enough is enough… we get it.
The targeting system is a little imprecise too. You end up wasting a full clip on flying robots simply because targeting them isn’t responsive enough. However, the cover system is done well and the movement of the player character is fairly fluid and easy to manoeuvre.
In addition to wave upon wave of robot skirmishes there are also a few on-rails sequences that are fun but really not all that difficult. In fact, the whole game can be finished in 5-6 hours on the hardest difficulty setting. It really should have been sold as a budget title considering its length.
As much as many, many people hated the game “Enter the Matrix” it was an excellent example of what a movie tie in game should be. It had its own storyline that feed directly into the movie it was related to. It furthered the universe and rather than use poorly animated cut scenes with “dead eyes” CG characters, it used actual film footage filmed exclusively for the game. Whether you liked the game play or not, it was what movie games should try to do. Don’t just make a playable version of the film, we have seen the film, we know the story. Give us something new, please.
As much as it looks great and the universe created in the film definitely sells the post-apocalyptic feel, the game is largely uninspired. The cover system has some interesting ideas but on the whole just makes the game feel like a Terminator themed Gears of War clone. If you really want to check it out, pick it up for rental as you will finish it in one day. There is no real multiplayer to speak of, although you can play it co-op with a friend if you really want to.
Unfortunately, it looks like we will have to continue to wait for a good Terminator game.