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May 28

Written by: Thryon
5/28/2009 11:05 PM  RssIcon

Box Art
If we stay the course, we are dead! WE ARE ALL DEAD!
Terminator Salvation
Release Date: May 19, 2009
Developer: Halcyon
ESRB Rating: Teen
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
I am a huge Terminator fan. I have been a huge fan ever since I saw the first Terminator movie way back in 1989 on VHS (I know the movie came out in ‘84, but I did not see it till ’89). Terminator 2 was my first movie that I enjoyed in a movie theater. When it was finally released on VHS, I watched it every single day for an entire Summer and at least once a week for the following year. I have read every single Terminator comic released by Dark Horse. I played and completed most all the PC games and even the difficult T2 Arcade shooter. Yep, you could say that I am a huge Terminator fan. So it was with this level of fanboyism that I awaited what could potentially be the best Terminator movie yet. But before I saw the movie, I played the game. Now normally I would not play the game for fear or releasing spoilers, but I read that the plot of the game does not overlap the one of the movie. I could play the game without fear of any spoilers. With this news, and my need for achievement points, I assumed the role of John Connor and went Terminator hunting.

First some background story for those new to the series. Terminator Salvation continues the tale of men vs. machine. In the future Skynet, an artificial intelligence, becomes sentient and decides to eradicate all humans from the face of the planet (sentient AI have a tendency to do that). To accomplish this task, Skynet builds an army of humanoid robots called terminators. In the first movie, written and directed by fellow Canadian James Cameron, Skynet sent a terminator back in time (oh yeah, time travel has been invented in the future) to kill Sarah Connor before she can give birth to her son John Connor, the man that would become the leader of the human resistance and eventually bring down Skynet. John Connor (from the future) sent back Kyle Reese to protect his mother. Kyle was successful in his mission and even ended up becoming John’s father in the process (talk about achievement unlocked). In the second movie, Skynet sent back in time a more advanced terminator with the task this time to kill an adolescent John. Future John once again sent a terminator to protect himself. The third movie copied the plot of the second more, but with a sexier terminator (good enough to get me to watch). In Terminator Salvation Skynet is still trying to eliminate John with it’s latest and deadliest terminator yet. Will it succeed? More importantly, will it be any good?
Screenshot
(Click for larger image)
Terminator Salvation is a 3rd person shooter that is trying very hard to be Gears of War. The game is not a run and gun shooter, but rather a tactical shooter in which players must make heavy use of environmental object to use as cover. Well at least the game wants to be a tactical shooter. It does not completely succeed in that respect.

My first complain with the game (complaints before praises is never a good thing) is with the controls. They are simply not as tight as they need to be for this type of game. What I mean is that the controls at times to do respond as quickly as they should. For example many times the game would not immediately recognize my button press to fall into cover mode resulting in extra damage taken for no reason.

While on the cover system. The cover system works in a similar fashion to the cover system for Gears. Approach an object and press A to fall into cover mode. From cover mode, gamers can peek out, take aim and shoot or just pull the right trigger to shoot blindly. Also from cover will be the option to run and slide towards other cover objects. For the most part the cover system works great. A minor irritation is that once John goes into cover mode, only pressing A again will remove him from cover mode. I fell to the barrage of bullets from a T-600 while trying to figure out why John was magically velcroed to a wall or car far too often.

The similarities with Gears of War is strong. If the developers were so intent on copying Gears of War, they should have also borrowed the run feature. One would think that in a game where giant killer robots patrol the streets and skies, terminating anything that moves, that people would move a heck of a lot faster than they do in this game. I can only assume that maybe the designers did not want to make it obvious that they blatantly tried to rip off Gears, after all it’s not like they have a level in which the gamer must control a weapon from the back of a moving vehicle driving on a highway, littered with the carcass of abandoned vehicle, while shooting down flying enemies….oh snap they do. OK then…hmmm, moving on.

The graphics in Terminator Salvation are OK, but not very impressive when compared to Gears of War, the game it’s desperately trying hard to mimic. The framerate dropped more times than it should have, but a no times was it crippling.
Screenshot
(Click for larger image)
Do not get me wrong, there is nothing in this game that is crippling to the gameplay. In fact, the main problem of the game was the lack of variety. There are only four different enemies in the entire game. The game is a shooter, but there are only 5 types of guns in the entire game. Did anyone not tell the developer that gamers like a huge variety of guns in a game that focuses primarily on shooting stuff. Also for some strange reason, bullets are very limited in the game, but rockets are plentiful.

The level design is not much better than the enemy selection. Here again everything appears repetitive with the same bots attacking John in the same predictable pattern and the same overturned cars available for convenient cover. After gamers completed the first level, there is really nothing new to see during the rest of the entire game.

The good news is that the game is very short. A complete play through will only take about 5 hours when playing on easy and about 8-10 hours when playing on hard. That is if you can stomach playing on hard. The loose controls can make the game very frustrating and the lack of variety very boring. Only the truly determinate will complete this game on all difficulty levels.

PS: I am glad to say that the movie was much better than the game. It did not redefine the Terminator franchise, but it did not shame it as well, and at the end of the day that is all we could realistically hope for.
--Brian Wray

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