Life for your average Terminator fan is pretty challenging these days. Not only does each new movie abjectly fail to deliver a return to the glory days when Terminator 2 was the biggest box office smash in the multiverse (spoiler alert: Dark Fate isn’t the return to form we were all hoping for), but their increasingly convoluted stories ask you to hold enough alternate timelines in your mind at once that you need a neural net processor to make sense of them. Now the franchise brings us the ultimate time-bending instalment: a video game based on a movie that came out in 1991, set in 2028, released in 2019… but seemingly made in about 2003.
It’s a major feather in Terminator: Resistance’s cap that it disregards every abysmal sequel from Terminator 3 onwards, basing its story solely around the events depicted in the first two classic films.
This decision by Polish developer Teyon probably has much more to do with the infamously complicated mess of the official movie rights, but if it means we avoid the Terminatrix, Genisys, Legion or any of the other rubbish, then it’s a great start.
The game is set in the post-apocalyptic future dystopia of Los Angeles, 31 years after Judgement Day marked the near-extinction of the human race at the hands of malevolent mainframe Skynet.
This makes it, bizarrely, both a prequel and a sequel to the movies (I told you this would get confusing), and more importantly provides a great excuse to pit its band of brave survivors against endless waves of murderous machines.
You are cast as Jacob Rivers, a cookie-cutter honourable-soldier-type who is rescued from the blazing ruins of Pasadena by a mysterious stranger in an opening sequence that quickly establishes that the game is a first-person shooter, and that it has incredibly dated graphics.
Seriously, it put me immediately in mind of Quake 2 – so if you’re after a jaw-dropping Triple-A spectacle, this is most definitely not the game for you. However, once you’ve adjusted to this, the utilitarian visuals quickly become perfectly adequate: the iconic metal endoskeletons of the T800s are suitably chilling as they menacingly patrol amongst smouldering wreckage and crumbling houses that provide a suitably bleak, Fallout 3-style backdrop for the game’s events.
In fact, the Fallout 3 comparisons can be extended to include many of the game’s mechanics: we forage for tradeable resources, barter for better weapons and healing items, accrue experience points for completing side quests that can be invested in increased stats and other perks, and even utilise a lock-picking mechanic that is identical to the Bethesda game.
The influence of Bioshock is also apparent as we hack computer terminals – via a fun Frogger-style minigame – to convert Skynet’s systems to our cause, watching in delight as Terminators are blasted apart by friendly fire from their own laser turrets.
In another section, the game borrows another Bioshock mechanic as we make use of a camera to take photographs of enemy technology.
The gameplay has a distinct ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ feel, and although that means we get precisely zero innovation, it does feel like they’ve done a good job of grafting together the scavenged parts. Encounters with Skynet’s mechanical minions are challenging but fair, and the menagerie of machines feels like a plausible accompaniment to the quintessential and intimidating T800s.
There are enough things to do and new enemies to battle to keep the game feeling entertaining until its climax, although the burnt-out rubble environments do become repetitive towards the game’s conclusion.
From a plot perspective, the game is less satisfying. It strives to make you care about the fate of its tight-knit group of rebels, calling to mind Telltale’s The Walking Dead as it presents you with dialogue options and meaningful choices that can mean the difference between survival and death for some of these bit-part players; but the characters are so one-dimensional and the script so clunky that I rarely cared about any of them.
I enjoyed the rising tension and mistrust in the camp after we learn about Skynet’s new, more convincing, flesh-coated infiltration units, but this never really leads anywhere.
The game seemingly can’t decide if it’s trying to tell a series of emotionally resonant human stories against the backdrop of the Judgement Day apocalypse, or an epic war yarn that ties in to the events of the first two movies.
The game feels fairly polished, although I did encounter some glitches. At one point I was locked in a boss arena without the requisite weapon to defeat it, and there was the time I had to reload the game after becoming stuck in – you guessed it – some smouldering ruins. One major technical gripe is the size of the in-game text. In the game’s defence, there are a host of other recent releases at which this criticism could be levied (Death Stranding, I’m squinting at you), but this really is becoming a problem for many modern games, and I genuinely can’t fathom why it’s happening; it seems developers really don’t want you to sit a sensible distance from a sensibly-sized TV!
These issues aside, Terminator: Resistance is a surprisingly fun little outing, with an old-school charm that puts you in mind of the halcyon days when first-person shooters ruled the roost, and Terminator 2 was the best film ever made.
This game is easily the best Terminator sequel, prequel or spin-off since the second movie; but sadly, that’s not saying much.
This game was reviewed by Jon Richter, writer of dark fiction and connoisseur of weird stuff. Follow him on Twitter @RichterWrites, Instagram @jonrichterwrites, or visit his website at www.jon-richter.com. He is also the co-host of the Dark Natter podcast, a fortnightly horror discussion show available wherever you get your podcasts (the Terminator franchise was featured in episode 9 in November 2019).
Published at Mon, 02 Dec 2019 09:50:00 +0000