Terminator Salvation Review

By James Youngblood - Posted May 20, 2009

With the deluge of blockbuster summer movies, videogames trying to take advantage of the ravenous fan base tend to creep out of every dark corner like slugs on a wet sidewalk. Terminator Salvation slithers its way to your local store shelves, but this movie tie-in at least comes with the hopes of a relaunched franchise.

The Pros
  • Interesting environments
  • Co-Op Gameplay
The Cons
  • Terribly Short
  • Only a few enemies
  • Repetitive combat
  • Long, boring rail shooting sections

With the deluge of blockbuster summer movies, videogames trying to take advantage of the ravenous fan base tend to creep out of every dark corner like slugs on a wet sidewalk. Terminator Salvation slithers its way to your local store shelves, but this movie tie-in at least comes with the hopes of a relaunched franchise. The dystrophic fantasy that rolled out before every other Terminator movie has finally become a reality as John Conner loses his whiney teenage bravado for semi-automatic guns and a fist full of grenades. Killer robots and giant explosions are the building blocks of most action game. Terminator Salvation tries to play it safe when it should be aiming to be the ultimate terminator.

You’re a nice guy but that don’t (beeping) cut it.

Terminator SalvationConner is little more than a grunt working the streets and disheartened that he’s not the hero of humanity. A radio transmission breaks in from a group of survivors trapped in the heart of robot country. This would-be hero takes his would-be love interest through the shattered streets of Los Angeles as they met a handful of resistance fighters only to risk their lives to save a few others. This isn’t a cost effective move. The story is sparse to say the least. When working with a movie license outside of the movie, developers took extra care not to add anything that could shake up the Terminator universe or contradict anything in the movie. And that makes everything boring.

It’s a shame that developers choose the safe and easy route rather than try to make their own mark on the series. As it is now, the scope of Salvation feels more like a side mission of something much bigger. There’s no build up to a final battle or deep insight into how a boy from the valley became the last hope for mankind. This cutscene-heavy shooter wants to be the movie, but falls short in nearly every way.

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Play with me if you want to live.

Terminator SalvationYou play as John Conner, not John Rambo. Cooperation is the key to survival here. One of the first (and sadly few) bots they throw at you is a spider terminator. With full shields and double barrels in the front, you’ll need to approach him from the rear to take him down. As one of your party members grabs his attention, you can flip around using their cover-to-cover system until you find that soft spot. As the metal menace beef up their numbers, you’ll need to depend on both the cover system and your partner to keep you alive.

Unfortunately, the game doesn’t have online co-op because it’s practically begs for a second person to cover your back. In cases where you’re only fighting in a very small area, the AI does what you need (re: shoot at things in front of you.) Get into a bigger area or have enemies move around cover and you have a problem. Ally AI doesn’t always shoot where or even when you need them to shoot. In bigger areas, you’ll often have to lead enemies back to your team in order for them to start firing on them. With health only regenerating after finishing a section, you’ll find yourself dying more or waiting forever behind a concrete bunker in hope that someone will grab the terminator’s attention.

The cover system is more academic than practical. While behind cover, you can bring up a small half-circle with lit and unlit sections. The lit sections indicate the places you can dash to from your cover. In the right conditions, you can move from cover to cover without being seen. Most of the time, you’ll never get to one or two extra spots before running out of cover. The system itself is very fickle to where you can dash to and where you can’t. Even in the heat of battle, you’re better off sticking your neck out and just making a dash for it. The system doesn’t allow for move back to previous cover or moving around cover. Even a gun on the ground proves impossible to pick up when you’re in cover. You’ll need to move out of cover, take a few head shots, pick up the gun, and then slump back into position as your lifeless corpse falls to the ground.

Beautiful Ruin

Terminator SalvationThe land of angles never looked quite as good when it’s a smoldering piece of wreckage. Many (and unfortunately not all) of the stages effectively utilize the broken Los Angeles environment to stage mankind’s last stand against the robotic rebellion. You’ll hot foot it up windy Mollohan-type roads as you unload in some of the ritziest neighborhoods around. The greens, yellows, and reds of plant life overtaking the broken concrete buildings definitely gives character to world already filled with metal grays and blacks. You’ll drive through former traffic and palm trees. If anything, the game could have used a couple of landmarks from the area to really give it that L.A. touch.

Rushed is the word that comes to mind when playing through this third-person shooter. Never mind the hardly there story or the half baked mechanics, just give players more than a handful of enemies. Besides the spider enemies, you have you standard terminator (flesh and non-flesh variety), flying drones, some motorcycles show up in the rail sequences… and that’s it. I’m not asking for a metal zombie invasion but I think there were more terminators in arcade game that came out over a decade ago. No bosses. No big build up. The final stage is only a hand full of terminators.

Someone did the right thing by reminding the developers that a by the book cover shooter won’t fly with gamers for six hours straight. I believe that the phrase “we need to break this up somehow” was probably thrown out there. Then someone had a bad idea – rail shooting sections. Not just a couple of times, but four long sections will have you shooting down fliers, motorcycle terminators, and one terminator in a white van. Only one section has you shooting down own of the bigger aircrafts. Most of the time, you just have to survive until you get to a certain point.

Oh, good for you, and how was it?

Terminator Salvation could have not only been a new beginning for the series but also a decent terminator for once. This barely there shooter covers little more than the basics for six hours. If you can find a friend to drag into the room with you, you can also suffer through this travesty with a partner. Glimmers of ideas appear here and there, but never amount to much in the end. I guess that this all goes to show you that even in the future; you cannot escape bad movie tie-ins.

Article Written By James Youngblood