June 09, 2009
With the beginning of summer, comes the inevitable "summer blockbuster" movie season. One of the first such blockbusters this year is Terminator Salvation, the fourth film (and apparently the first in a new trilogy) of a sci-fi franchise focusing on the struggle between man and machine. Sounds pretty epic, right? Well, with a long-standing franchise, a video game adaptation is all but guaranteed these days and so we have Terminator Salvation the Video Game. Cue shocked face and epic music, or not, as the case may be.
Looking at the game the first glaring fault is developer GRIN's failure to sign Christian Bale for either voice-acting or likeness rights. Instead, the role of John Connor is voiced by a seasoned video game voice actor Gideon Emery and the character model is just... some dude. However, the characters of Blair (Moon Bloodgood; yes that is her real name) and Barnes (rapper Common; not his real name) are voiced by their movie counterparts and there is even a game-exclusive character named Angie voiced by Rose McGowan. So a few big stars were signed, but the main character of John Connor should have been their first agenda and it really just makes you wonder how serious they were about getting this game looking the part.
The story attempts to bridge the gap between Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation, acting as more of a prequel than an adaptation as its name would imply. You step into the shoes of John Connor, disobeying an order from your commanding officer to go behind enemy lines and rescue some captives at a Skynet facility. Skynet is the antagonist in all the Terminator films, a self-aware artificial intelligence that has revolted against its makers (humans) and set out to destroy all life through increasingly advanced robots. With such an ominous adversary, you'd think have your work cut out for you, eh? Well, you'd be wrong. At a scant four hours of gameplay on the hardest difficulty, the game presents no challenge whatsoever.
Whilst the game is comprised of nine chapters, moving you from one destroyed area of Los Angeles to another, they are all surprisingly short. Each broken down building looks the same, as do the highways, sewers and subways you pass through on your way to the Skynet facility. As you progress, the enemies become more dangerous, if only due to increased numbers. There are maybe six enemies you'll face throughout the entire game, and even less choices in the gun department to take them down. Lucky for John and friends, there are plenty of explosives conveniently laying around; not to mention the fact allies will infinitely re-supply you with ammo for your rifle or shotgun if you run out. It almost seems as if the developers wanted you to rush through the game with the minimum level of effort.
Delivered as an extremely generic third-person shooter with basic controls and pretty much nothing to distance itself from the genre, you can tell GRIN was simply banking on the franchise name to move this product. The campaign is as I mentioned only four hours long, with only a few "drive and shoot" levels to break up the monotonous act of moving into a new area, killing a few enemies and repeating. There are no real "boss" battles, save for maybe the first encounter with the flying Hunter Killer. The only issue there is that the thing shows up three more times during the story, downplaying that first battle a bit. With all of the innovations that the Terminator franchise has been responsible for down the years, it is shocking to think that this game is so totally devoid of ideas.
Another huge issue is the focus on a co-op experience without the ability to connect to friends over Live. One enemy in the game is only weak on its back (or yet again to explosives), but the idiotic AI refuses to shoot at it when you get it looking your way, and despite sitting hidden in cover for a straight minute, it refused to look at my allies so I could get a crack at its back. There is of course local co-op, but in this day and age, that just won't cut it. If something like Looney Toons can have online co-op then Terminator should have been able to pull it off with ease.
The graphics are right on par with some decent original Xbox games I've played (that was me feigning niceness by the way). When I first started playing I was appalled at how poor of a job GRIN did putting Christian Bale on-screen, but luckily they were pulled out of that one by the already-mentioned failure to procure his likeness. Okay, so maybe the fact that they didn't screw something up isn't such a pro for the game, but again, I'm stretching for niceties here. If I could say they got something right, I'd be sure to do that.
Perhaps (from an x360a standpoint) the most laughable part of this game is its achievement list. When the 360 first came out, developers didn't really know what to do with those little achievement points, so you had games giving huge scores for little effort or unlocking a handful just for playing the game. Well, maybe as a throwback to the old days or maybe again for a quick increase to units sold, if you play the campaign on the hardest difficulty, the entire 1000 points will be yours. King Kong (a launch title) did the same, but it had twice the game length and to be honest, might have had better gameplay and graphics as well.
Well if you couldn't tell by now, I am not a fan of Terminator Salvation the Video Game. To me this was essentially a throw-away cash grab for GRIN which is even more surprising considering their far more successful conversion of Bionic Commando recently and the great Terminator back story available to them. No thought seems to have gone into the gameplay mechanics, no effort into replicating the Terminator experience and no skill into making a quality video game. Sometimes less is more, but in this case, less was just inexcusable.
The three major stars they did sign do a decent job, but again, the failure to acquire Bale is just inexcusable and highlights the fact that this is a poor movie tie-in, worse than anything else.
Last-gen graphics for a next-gen tie-in to a blockbuster sci-fi motion picture? Come on.
The controls are all very basic for this genre, but the lack of good AI in a co-op based experience, with no option for online hookup with friends makes the campaign needlessly frustrating.
Generic down to the last aspect, and again, the lack of online co-op or Bale's likeness/voice just kill the experience that should come from recreating a movie of this scope.
I haven't seen a list this bad in a while. One play on hard and then entire 1000 is yours. Only the fact that it at least challenges you with the hardest difficulty gives it a slight boost.
Unless you're aiming for a quick gamerscore boost or are just a die-hard Terminator fan that has to indulge in every aspect of the franchise, there is really nothing here for you. At a scant four hours of gameplay (less if you have a local friend to help you out in co-op) and with no extra features present, the generic and overall unfinished feel of the game are easy to pass up.