Oh Terminator, we knew you would be back, though I doubt anyone expected return to the days of Judgment Day. It’s sad that the Terminator universe has never had a video game do it justice, but that didn’t stop GRIN from trying. After surprising many with Wanted: Weapons of Fate, the Swedish company picked up rights for Terminator: Salvation. If you heard about Christian Bale’s outburst during filming – odds are he had just finished playing the game. If not that, the faulty DVD that shipped with the PC version in North America ignited his rage, only to be further reddened by the month plus wait for a replacement.
GRIN was wise enough to use the license appropriately, if not fully. The developer brought Common and Moon Bloodgood’s characters into Terminator Salvation, added a new voice actor (and model) for John Connor, and created a new character voiced by Rose McGowan. Not hamstrung by the movie’s plot, Terminator Salvation is a prequel. Although the story never specifies how much earlier the game is, the setting and story line make the two events seem close in proximity. Like the movie, the game focuses on John Connor and his continued struggle with the knowledge of the past and what it means for the future. As Connor, the player is sent home from a recent raid against Skynet, only to be sidetracked by a desperate call for help from other Resistance members. Instead of abandoning the callers to their fate, Connor sets off to save the stranded members despite being highly outnumbered, out gunned, and under informed.
That’s what the new Terminator universe is all about – man using his brain to overcome the odds. As such, Terminator Salvation makes heavy usage of cover mechanics. By intelligently using wreckage strewn about levels, players dodge fire, toss grenades from safe vantage points, and maneuver themselves into position for easy kills. Unfortunately, the license worked both ways. GRIN was able to tap a fantastic IP, but the agreement restricted their creativity. Only a handful of Terminator models offer resistance. Needless to say, it’s a tedious task to kill the same machine over and over and over. Realizing the monotony of eternal hide-n-seek, GRIN inserted some vehicle based combat. Although only a handful of these settings pepper the game’s arc, they break up the game play and allow players to appreciate the well-crafted devastated lands and bombed out cities.
At its core, Terminator Salvation offers a solid prequel storyline backed by tolerable voice acting. All of this comes packaged with fun game play implemented into a fitting and graphically impressive universe. Sadly, GRIN didn’t push the game beyond a core experience – the envelope stays firmly sealed in this licensed title. A multitude of missing features common in today’s titles hamstring this game: online multiplayer – absent, unskippable cutscenes and poor checkpoints – present, token collectibles or unlockables – mysteriously misplaced. Terminator Salvation offers absolutely no replay value. When you factor in smaller issues like stupid AI, invincible teammates, and the inability to grab guns while using cover, you have a missed opportunity.
No game has done the Terminator universe justice, but GRIN’s attempt is the best yet. If you want an incredibly quick romp through the devastated wasteland of California (and some bonus movie material), then Terminator Salvation will fill your appetite without completely sucking. For most gamers, Terminator Salvation is another movie tie-in game that’s not worth the disk it’s printed on.