|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: GRIN||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Evolved Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 19, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
The Terminator franchise seems like the perfect IP for translating to video games. Unfortunately, throughout its lengthy history, there has never been a truly compelling gaming adaptation of it. This still holds true for Terminator Salvation the video game. While the game sports challenging enemy A.I., a well-contrived cover mechanic, and functions smoothly overall, the poor excuse for a story, lack of boss battles, scripted encounters, extremely short length, no online co-op, and meager bang-for-the-buck make this movie tie-in skip-worthy.
For those yet to see the film, Terminator Salvation the video game wont spoil it in the least. Thats because the plot in the game, except for the introduction of a few key characters, has nothing to do with the feature film. While some may view this as disappointing, Im glad it was devoid of spoilers. That being said, the inclusion of an unremarkable player character rather than Christian Bales depiction of John Connor feels incredibly cheap. Moreover, the games narrative is extremely trite. In fact, it is merely a glimpse at the world of Terminator Salvation. Players simply head out into a decimated L.A. as John Connor and Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) in search of a lost group of comrades without any other real purpose. The game doesnt even attempt to tie the events of T3: Rise of the Machines to the films depiction of Terminator Salvation. As such, players will be hard-pressed to derive much satisfaction out of the game besides whats obtained from emptying bullets into Skynet machines. The lack of a cohesive narrative is certainly a big knock against the games initial appeal.
Another problem the game has is that youll constantly be railroaded into battle set-pieces. These relatively small, arena-like combat zones limit the action to taking out just a handful of baddies at a time. Similarly, this game lacks substantial boss battles. All youll be doing throughout this game is challenging the same few minion-like machines in different environments. In retrospect, it seems like the limiting of onscreen enemies was done to keep the game running artificially smooth, and the lack of boss battles screams of massive time constraints during development.
Regardless of which of the three difficulty levels you choose, the game is awfully short; selecting the balanced, Normal difficulty setting will allow players to get through the game in under five hours. Furthermore, a load of mini and lengthy cutscenes have been incorporated throughout play, so that the game feels more like interactive machinima rather than an in-depth shooter. Adding insult to injury, these cinematics, while pretty, arent particularly engaging and not at all revealing. This will likely have shooter fans reefing on the facebuttons in consternation.
Though the game is full of missteps, a few enjoyable aspects do a nice job of redeeming it. For starters, having to take on durable baddies from several angles and multiple dimensions (the game often mixes flying and grounded opponents) with squishy humans required the creation of a well-implemented cover system. Thankfully, the developers passed this test with flying colors. The environments are full of chunky pieces of devastation to hide behind, and a very solid cover mechanic was used by the devs to get people scooting from one cover point to the next. Accessing the cover mechanics radial menu allows players to get to safety efficiently regardless from where the threats are coming.
Also, playing local co-op through the story is a good bit of fun. Thats because this game puts a premium upon teamwork. Most of the machines are largely indestructible, requiring players to work in concert. Consequently, playing with a friend on the couch is very fun, even though the split-screen presentation is a bit confining. Working together to set traps and flank the machines is a largely rewarding third-person shooter experience.