Genre: Action Developer: GRIN Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment Classification: M15+ Release Date: 27th May 2009 Platforms:PS3
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The Good bits
Wow, those pre-rendered cut-scenes are nice.
The Bad stuff
This entire game screams afterthought.
The in-game graphics are pretty bad.
Really, really short.
Terminator Salvation is an interesting examination in the curious and complex difference between "painfully short" and "mercifully short". At first glance a game which is only five hours long if you take
abnormally long to "get" the game is painfully short - especially for a full priced game. Take a look a little deeper, however, and you'll find that the game's annoying and clunky controls, abhorrent graphics and non-existent storyline and AI definitely make me want to thank GRIN for their mercy.
Let's break it down a little - you play John Connor, a human resistance fighter two years before the events of the movie. You do not in any way shape or form resemble Christian Bale, though your supporting cast make appearances in their own roles. It tells the tale of how John Connor builds his name in his quest to become the leader of the human resistance, thrusting you into battles with all manner of terminators (all of which appear to die fairly swiftly).
To me this is actually a pretty awesome concept. I'm a giant sucker for movie tie-ins which - instead of simply mimicking the movie - add to the overall franchise universe. I actually enjoyed Enter The Matrix more than I enjoyed Matrix Revolutions.
It's the execution which sucks - the game emulates the 3rd person cover-and-shoot technique mastered by Gears of War, but it does it with clunky movement, shoddy animation and unlike GoW it doesn't even give you the illusion of choice. The only good thing about it is the hop to cover feature, whereby you can skip to the next piece of cover in one motion. This is naturally so poorly done and so dependant on location that it took me literally minutes to get over the first piece of cover. It's a cool idea, but this is not the way to sell it.
The fighting robots part - the part with the greatest potential - is hampered by the fact that most robots go down after a few shots and their AI... If Skynet used this AI it would make Paris Hilton look like a genius. Most of the tougher fights can either be solved in seconds by holding onto your rocket launcher (you can only carry two weapons at a time) or simply out-manoeuvring the enemy.
The on-rails segments provide some respite from the usual blend of "move to area with predictable arrangement of cover, kill enemies, move on", but they're annoying in their own special ways - sometimes your gun can only shoot forward, sometimes only backwards. The turret itself moves sluggishly so you have to start compensating for controller lag just as you begin your attacks.
Earlier I mentioned the shoddy animation and abhorrent graphics -
it's important to mention the cut-scene graphics. When using the in-game engine naturally the game looks like dog food, but when they step away from the terrible game engine the graphics are truly amazing. There was a split-second where I couldn't tell if it was real life footage or not. You just read about the only good thing in this game.
The biggest issue I have with Terminator Salvation is that it doesn't even try. It's resigned to the idea that it is a shameless movie tie-in, and it's not going to try at all to do any better. If Terminator Salvation went on Biggest Loser, it'd be the contestant who cries on the first week, gets booted out and shows up at the reunion weighing more than they did before spouting claims of "I'm happy with who I am". Sure you are, you fat loser. Get the hell off my TV.