Summary:Visually stunning continuation of the Terminator Salvation movie, but with faulty plot structure, repetitive action, and a lack of bonuses, challenges and the like. Has awesome cut-scenes.
When my childhood friends were watching Bambi, The Fox and the Hound, and other Disney flicks, I was watching RoboCop, Terminator, and Aliens. I like to wryly tell my friends that being raised on these movies really shaped me into the person I am today (Violent? Bold and testosterone-laden? Interpret as you will).
Terminator, though, was always a favorite, and Ridley Scott to this day is one of my favorite directors (he did direct Blade Runner!). Which is why, like many other avid fans, I felt compelled to watch the fourth installment of the Terminator series, despite the, shall we say, less than stellar third movie. Surprise, surprise, Terminator Salvation wasn’t a great movie – possibly not even a good movie -, lackluster and incomplete-feeling, with poor acting and editing, and not enough scenes of brash-talking Christian Bale. It was basically seen just out of blind allegiance to the series. Well, at least the game Terminator Salvation may be more entertaining, right? Turns out the results are merely passable.
Terminator Salvation by Gameloft chronicles John Connor’s fairly solo quest to bring down SkyNet – that aggressive, ungrateful, misanthropic, artificial intelligence network. While there are only a mere eight missions to the whole game, the game manages to touch on some key moments in the movie – they were released at the same time, bigger bang for the buck, I suppose; it’s only too bad these missions jump around from one location to the next with little explanation, even switching your character – from John Connor to Marcus Wright – and leaving you completely and utterly confused. It’s a convoluted mess.
This confusion, in part, stems from the game’s abrupt ending. It really only takes an hour to complete Terminator Salvation, leaving little time to develop a coherent story, and even less time to savor the action, which, as it turns out, is quite good. Almost immediately (granted there are only 8 missions), you rage in firefights against T-600s, escape towering Harvesters through the ruins of Los Angeles, and even battle to take down a massive HK-Tank (I love those Hunter Killers, and the game doesn’t disappoint). You often have to use set guns, stationary and powerful, to mow down the opposing forces. The scenarios are pretty cool, and while lacking the fine finesse of better games, proves to be entertaining enough to keep you going through to the end. I should probably mention you only fight four different opponents, so those seeking variety in slaughter, look elsewhere.
I’ll be upfront: you’ll be dying frequently in this game. After all, you’re but on man, taking on the biggest onslaught of frightening looking Terminators and their robotic brethren alike. Since strafing and otherwise dodging is fairly hard to do with the still nascent touch controllers on the iPhone, an in-game tactic of leaning against walls to take cover becomes a necessity in combat. Taking cover is a matter of pressing up against a surface to snap to it, but it’s fiddly and doesn’t always work. Similarly, you can’t switch weapons while moving so you have to stand still and swap firearms, placing yourself at the behest of open fire. Overall, though, the controls are efficient, with a touch D-pad and fire button enabling you to blast everything that moves, with the option to choose amongst three other control styles should one suit you better. Doom Resurrection should take note in this controller style, as Terminator Salvation’s visuals look nearly as stunning – perhaps a bit less sharp – without sacrificing freedom of movement.
While the in-game dialogue is pretty boring (people in games have yet to transcend the cheesy awkwardness of CGI. Humans don’t translate well into games as of yet), the cut-scenes of action are pretty cool, and impressive for the iPhone – it’s only too bad you can’t skip them, which gets repetitive after dying for the twentieth time. In a funny quirk to add further interactivity and creativity, the game has a mini-game where you hack into terminals to open doors and the like. It’s ridiculously easy – you just tilt your iPhone around, avoiding the red areas and going through the green, and while cute, it doesn’t add much to the game, and should be made more difficult to solve.
For me, the real issue with Terminator Salvation is you play it once, and then you’re done. After you complete the game, an additional level of difficulty is unlocked, but no further advances in challenge. You can elect to play as the Terminator, but that loses its novelty fairly quick. That, alongside artwork accessed by picking up microchips from defeated machines, and a handful of random, uninspiring achievements is not enough to extend the experience in a compelling way.
It’s disappointing, because despite the action being fun and the visuals inspiring, Terminator Salvation is a short thrill that’s good for only one time around. I’d spend $2.99, but not $4.99.