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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

From the negative buzz, you’d think that Terminator 3 was the worst film-to-game adaptation ever made. It’s not however, that honour goes to the Playstation’s Land Before Time, but it is pretty dismal nonetheless. The problem is that developers Black Ops (Ironically responsible for the execrable Tomorrow Never Dies on the Playstation) seem to think they are developing a game for the original Playstation, and so what we have here is a mildly okay PSone launch title. Which isn’t much good to us now.

The game follows the same story as the film, which I personally thought was pretty good, and adds all of the story extensions and extra explanations that are expected post-Enter the Matrix. You play Arnold Schwarzennegger’s Terminator character, and follow some of the set pieces from the film. The game starts, though, in the derelict, apocalyptic cities of the future. Although the later levels seemed more creatively designed and visually diverse I preferred these earlier ones simply because they gave simple action that the stuttering game engine could actually handle, plus the arsenal of weapons was much better.

Perhaps T3 wouldn’t seem as laborious as it often does if it was more technically adept, but it moves slower than literally any other FPS I’ve played on a next-gen console. In the more vast areas of the game the framerate is horrible, and the fact that you walk interminably slowly all the time doesn’t help either. You are luckily saved from complete frustration by the fact that there is an auto-aim feature and tonne of health dotted around, but then things just become easy AND difficult to see, so what’s the point? I don’t think it ever really becomes unplayable, but it is consistently annoying.

Early missions are very short and easy, and will have you completing dull missions, which almost always entail finding a room or an item. Sometimes you will be asked to escort characters (A mission type I’ve always loathed in FPS) but this is just made irritating by the fact that your escortees are morons and walk into explosions, of which there are a ridiculous amount. There is a sense of atmosphere provided by the sombre music and dreary art direction, but since the level objectives and enemy AI is so monotonous, these slightly impressive elements eventually accumulate into an enveloping feeling of depression. Videogames are supposed to be fun aren’t they?

Like I said, the weapons are fun to use, ranging from regular plasma rifles to all kinds of explosives launchers. However, these are hardly impressive enough to differentiate the game from most other FPS games, and the lustre soon fades. The only pulling power of the game, it seems, is the extremely well animated cut scenes. They are a little overlong, but are a sight to behold nonetheless and set up the story well. It is just a shame that the story seems to stop making sense once you reach the ‘past’ section of the game, which mimics events from the film. Terminator has of course been re-programmed by the human resistance and spends the first part of the game killing terminators. Supposedly indestructible killing machines, these terminators stalk along judderingly and are taken out with a few presses of the fire button. Sad, really.

These future levels soon become very tedious to look at, with the only difference in enemy design being obscure colours to the lights of their eyes. There are flying robots as well, but these are such pathetic little nuisances that they almost seem comical. It is all the more painful to see the dull outside areas when the designers occasionally show some spark and make the interiors look authentic. The subway level is quite impressively structured, and the entire thing is painted as a convincing post-apocalyptic world, but the dim lighting makes it hard to find necessary doors and items. Technically, however, things are just not up to scratch. The textures in the game are recycled endlessly and playing the game often feels like one of those surreal X-files episodes where you walk out of one room only to appear in it again straight away. Much more could have been made of the skyline of these levels to strengthen the sense of miserable grandeur set up by the vast, burning cities, and we only get a glimpse of this sometimes.

The ‘past’ levels are almost as bad in this respect, with equally poor texturing and lack of variation in design. Absurdly, things also get easier in the future, as the missions become so short that some of them can literally be accomplished in little over a minute. It is obviously clear that Black Ops have had trouble translating the actual film to the game, but the mission structuring here is so poor that almost nothing can be satisfying because it is so brief and randomly designed (Missions are varied, especially the graveyard level, but aren’t a whole lot of fun).

There is some incentive to do well in the form of film stills (Boring), video clips and old Atari Games (Much better) and I actually had quite a bit of fun unlocking these. I’d say that this would add to the replay value, but the game is so easy and I’m pretty sure you get everything first time round. I should also add that there is a ‘Terminator view’ you can adopt at pretty much any time, which is initially quite a lot of fun, but it’s a flashy gimmick that I had no actual need for during the entire game. These bells and whistles might make the experience worth it for Terminator completists, plus the fact that the game moves too fast in the latter section for you to really be bored, but I doubt it will excite anyone too much.

But of course I haven’t mentioned the most hideously bad part of the game yet, the fighting sections! These are so jaw-droppingly awful that I can’t understand how the developers had the nerve to include them in the state that they are. Apart from being completely easy, they are tediously simple, and only allow you a couple of moves and combos, and since throwing the other character usually works so well (they rarely defend) you don’t need any other moves anyway. These parts showcase some pretty good animation, but the engine here is even more abysmal than in the shooting bits.

And ultimately the game feels as if it is all in bits, rather than a cohesive whole. You never really get involved because the mission objectives and rushed, non-sensical and repetitive, and they get lazier (If more varied) as the game goes on). I still couldn’t say it was awful, as I enjoyed it to a certain extent, but I would still only recommend this to die-hard terminator fans as its aging and irritatingly counter-productive mechanics don’t do anything to hide it’s unimaginative design. Not what you’d expect from a game with seven pages of credits in the instruction booklet.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2003.

Gentle persuasion

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