My preferred approach to reviewing is the well used critiquing method known as the compliment sandwich; open with something good, explain the flaws and criticisms before closing with another positive note. Unfortunately, Terminator: Salvation has failed to provide me with enough bread. Instead, all that’s left is a bloated negative filling between two sheets of corrugated cardboard.
Terminator: Salvation falls squarely into the realm of stereotypically poor movie tie-in. Developed by Swedish company Grin, it seems they may have fallen foul to having too many projects at one time with both Wanted: Weapons of Fate and Bionic Commando in the pipeline alongside Terminator. Similarly to Wanted, Terminator is short – too short really, but quality over quantity is my rule – a game may be short in length, providing the experience was enjoyable and satisfying. However, in contrast to the other film-based game mentioned above, the term ‘worse than poor’ would not be overly inaccurate for this title.
As there are unfortunately so few, let’s begin with the select few positives that the game provides. It’s always a shame when a great mechanic gets lost within a poor game, and whilst it seems nowadays that every game and its dog needs to have a cover mechanic, Terminator has a well thought out idea. Using a single button press to move in and out of cover (fixed to the X button) you can then move from cover to cover by aiming the left stick to move in one of five directions. It works well and is smoothly integrated into the gameplay, so it’s such a shame that the level design doesn’t allow much variation in movement. Also, it seems that my mistake was assuming that when in cover I was safe, as you can get shot at from the oddest of angles and actually melee killed over your cover from T-900s which is frankly a ridiculous mechanic.
Not quite a positive then. Still, the soundtrack for the game fits brilliantly into the Terminator universe, setting the dynamics and tension for incoming battles with the traditional drum-heavy beat so evident in the recent series. But this then brings me swiftly to the flaws, of which there are more enough. Graphically, the game is average at best. During battles, the enemies look pretty good, as do any cover points, but the rest of the environment seems empty and visually depressing. The poor attention to detail through the levels is apparent, with the entire game set in just one bland location.
The gameplay, whilst initially entertaining, quickly becomes tedious and incredibly monotonous after it has been rinsed and repeated over and over again, with only two differing objectives: kill all the enemies then move on to kill more enemies. Variety is not this game’s strong point: no more than six enemy types appear throughout the campaign, with a similar number of weapons, in one incredibly linear and funneled environment. Several sections even have you relying on your AI partners to take out enemies as you’ll be pinned down in cover drawing their fire, so it’s odd that the AI not only doesn’t know how to aim, but more often than not they’ll just stay hidden to avoid getting shot whilst bullets cascade vigorously against my cover. Did I say odd? I meant incredibly frustrating. Checkpoints are also poorly placed both directly before an unskippable cutscene, just before load screens or right at the start of the level.
Determined to reach the completion of the game out of a mixture of journalistic integrity and a hope that the narrative may be able to be the saving grace for such a game ultimately proved futile. Any attempt to make an engaging plot was cast aside sometime during development as the game fails to make any sort of sense at the best of times allowing you to just walk through a supposedly machine infested city with minimal difficulty. And the inclusion of one possible emotional moment was utterly ruined by the naming the penultimate chapter after such event – not a wise move.
Traditionally, the robotics present in the Terminator universe are very, well, robotic in their movements which Grin may have mistaken for ‘make every single animation robotic’. Android-wise the animation is rather good, regrettably so it’s the same as all of the animation for the main characters. Their facial motions, lip-syncing and running animation are all especially cringe worthy. The game does support a cooperative mode, but why you would want to put any of your friends through such a tiresome time? If you have a friend who you’d like to get rid of then pick up a copy and invite them round right away.
As previously mentioned, games are normally critiqued on their shortness, however on retrospect it was pleasing that it finished when it did, so that it was finally over and I could move on to another game. So, then, on that concluding positive note: you can now consider yourself lucky to not have to experience such a gaming chore. Spend your time more wisely, perhaps use the spare thirty notes you have on several bags of peas and a bucket, before transferring each pea individually to the bucket using only tweezers, held in your mouth – it’d be more fun.
Compliment sandwich completed.