T3: War of the Machines (PC) review
Date: December 8, 2003
By: Chris Cox
It was quiet. Too quiet. The silhouette of the city sky looked almost like it did before the war, tall buildings cutting a stark contrast to the cloudy darkness above them. Checking my watch, I knew I'd only got 20 minutes left on patrol before I was due to be relieved. Tech-Com had done well to establish a foothold in this sector, so close to a Terminator factory. Strategically, this sector holds significant value to both sides in this war, since it contains one of the few factories outfitted to construct the new T-900 series of our metal foe.
The T-800's had proved too easy to overcome as our forces had become better equipped. In the early days, when a heavy calibre pistol was often the best we could muster, we'd lose dozens of men to one of those metal bastards. Nowadays though, they just couldn't cut it against our foraged and stolen firepower. Personally, I've never favoured fighting them up close and personal. I leave that kind of stuff to the Hunters and the Heavy Hunters with their Automatic Rifles and Rocket Launchers. I like to put a bit of distance between my and my foes, the kind of distance I can use to line up a one-shot kill with my Robar "Light-Fifty" rifle.
15 minutes left on patrol before I'm to be relieved. The base I'm helping to protect didn't fall easily; we lost many men in gaining this position. However, the losses haven't been in vain since we have an unrivalled viewpoint on this area thanks to the location of this site. We're well covered too; protecting us from the Aerial H/K's that circle overhead, like flying Sharks, hungry to taste Human flesh...
Still, the boys are getting worried about the prospect of these T-900's. My troop hasn't fought any of them yet, but the reports we've heard from those that have say that they're pretty formidable. Stories of them taking several "Fifty" rounds before they'll go down, stories about them walking through clouds of Minigun fire before efficiently gunning down the origins of the fire. A formidable foe indeed... Still. I'm not scared. We're too close to shutting down Skynet for good to be worried about a few souped-up Terminators walking around. As long as I get a clear line of sight, I can hit it, and if I can hit it, I can kill it. Or at least, that's what I keep telling myself.
10 minutes left to go now. All seems quiet. The boys on the lower floor are talking about what we're going to eat when we get back to base. We're not exactly dining in style, but the rations are improving what with the stockpiles we're managing to capture, and the added sophistication we're managing to get within the bases. In fact I think I'm going to try and get mys- wait. I see movement! Three, no four, no, shit, five Endo's and a couple of F/K's coming this way! The air's lighting up with plasma fire coming from one direction, with Rockets being the strongest reply we can muster. Looks like I'll be earning my meal today...
Calm down and focus. Conserve ammo, and go for headshots only. Put the bastards down first time. Squinting, and prone, I get up close and personal with a T-900 for the first time, via the scope of my rifle. They certainly haven't upgraded their looks, just as ugly as the 800's ever were. Let's just hope that their cranial armour hasn't taken too much of an upgrade in the process. I've got one of them zeroed in right now... Preparing myself for the tremendous recoil this fearsome weapon exerts, I squeeze the trigger. They're too far away to tell by the naked eye, so I have to reposition the scope to see if I've managed a kill or not. Shit. Looks like I missed. Time to line one up again...
Terminator 3: War of the Machines
Terminator 3: War of the Machines, published by Atari and produced by Clever's Game Development pits Tech-Com forces against Skynet Forces across 12 maps spread over two different times, 10 character classes, 23 weapons, 9 vehicle types, 4 game modes and up to 32 players simultaneously. It's primarily designed to be an online multiplayer experience, although it also has a single-player mode and LAN support for localised network gaming.
Taking the lead from games like Counterstrike, Call of Duty and Return to Castle Wolfenstein play is class based, meaning that rather than being a walking tank packing 12 different weapons, ala Unreal Tournament 2003, you select a specialised infantry unit or support unit based upon your intended style of play. The Tech-Com forces are comprised of the Hunter, the Heavy-Hunter, the Scout and the Supply Troop. The latter two of which are available only in the post-war scenario. The Skynet forces have the T-900 Supply, T-900 Heavy, Infiltrator, FK and T-1 to choose from, with all but the T-1 appearing in the post-war theatre.
Differences of Class
Whilst not revolutionary, the class system does offer a refreshing approach to the FPS scene. Since you are equipped for a more limited range of tasks dependant on your selected class, teamwork becomes a vital ingredient if you want to be successful on the battlefield. A Heavy-Hunter, for example, with a Rocket Launcher needs time to reload and aim his weapon, without combat support from another unit; they soon become sitting ducks for any Terminator in the area. In a similar vein, the Sniper-Rifle carrying Scout can easily become overwhelmed by multiple targets, particularly at close range meaning that close-combat support is essential unless the unit is well hidden.
Before you reconsider your Tech-Com selection to exclude the Heavy-Hunter and the Scout, these units are invaluable when deployed correctly. A Scout located in a well-protected position with a superior view of the battlefield can easily turn the tide of a battle to favour Tech-Com. Similarly, it is easy to become overwhelmed when your only protection against the five Terminator Endo's encircling you is an M-16 with half a Magazine of ammunition, which is when the Heavy-Hunter can devastate the enemy with some well-placed rockets, rescuing the Hunter from certain death in the process.
Interestingly enough, the correct tactical use of units and unit interaction is far less important for the Terminators, which is reasonable to expect given their role as the attempted exterminators of humanity. The main differences between the different Terminators in the post-war scenario are their weapon selections and the types of vehicles that they can control. As the names would suggest, the T-900 Heavy is equipped with a Plasma Cannon, TermCannon or Minigun making it a formidable opponent in close combat. The T-900 Supply has the capability of supplying other Terminators with ammunition where required, and is equipped with a Plasma Rifle and Grenade Launcher. Both models of the T-900 are capable of manning the two varieties of Terminator vehicles that are available. One being the HK Tank, the other being the HK Transport, which is reminiscent of the Troop Transport used in Aliens, although the HK Transport is unarmed.
The Infiltrator, as fans of the series will already know is a flesh coated Endoskeleton, although it is unclear which model of Terminator the Infiltrator used in WotM is supposed to be. There have been many opinions on why the T-900 has been used for the game, ranging from the complex T-800 being overly intricate to render accurately as an in-game model and sustain an acceptable frame rate to the idea of WotM continuing the trend of expanding the Terminator franchise somewhat. A nice touch with the Infiltrators is the fact that when shrouded in darkness, their eyes glow a menacingly, an image indelibly burnt onto the memories of all Terminator fans alike...
The remaining Terminator units are very different to the different models of conventional Terminator. The FK, as seen in T3:RotM is the smaller, more nimble version of the HK Aircraft also seen in the films. Equipped with twin Plasma Cannons as well as Rockets, the FK is a diminutive but powerful foe not to be underestimated. Finally the T-1, also seen in the T3:RotM movie makes an appearance as a playable unit, equipped with the same twin Miniguns as in the films. The T-1 is fairly limited in manoeuvrability, but makes up for this shortcoming in sheer firepower, able to rain down a torrent of Minigun fire on any target within its vicinity.
Termination or Domination?
The basic game play of WotM is split into three modes. Termination, which is a domination style of play, Team Deathmatch and Mission mode, typically comprised of a small set of simple objectives for each opposing force to accomplish. Termination mode offers the player a range of bases located across the selected battlefield, which can be captured either by a Human Soldier or by a Terminator. Once a base has been captured it is then possible for players of either side to spawn from "friendly" bases, in order to arrive at the hot areas of the battlefield more quickly. Once a base has been captured, it must then be protected from the enemy, since a captured base can be overrun and claimed by the enemy. Base capture is a simple process, simply requiring the player, or 'Bot to stand near to the base for 10 seconds, until the base becomes claimed.
In the unlikely event that you struggle to find 32 other players, either via LAN or on the Internet, WotM provides what has become a pretty standard feature for multiplayer FPS games nowadays, in the shape of 'Bots. A 'Bot is a computer simulation of another player, designed to emulate the style of play that another Human would employ, as opposed to an arguably more rigid form of single-player AI usually featured in single-player games. Unfortunately, the 'Bots in WotM aren't the greatest this reviewer has ever played with. The Tech-Com 'Bots have a tendency to rush headlong into battle, ignoring the use of vehicles in the majority of instances and simply opening fire on anything that crosses their path.
Skynet 'Bots aren't quite as poor as the Tech-Com forces, partly due to the very nature of them in that they are hardened, armoured, relentless killers. The very concept of a Terminator is that it absolutely will not stop until its targets are dead, and not having the soft, easily injured body that their Human counterparts do, it is fair to reason that they wouldn't be too worried about catching a few rounds here and there. Having said that, the Terminators are even more reluctant to use vehicles than the Humans are, in fact I've only ever seen 'Bots using the HK Tank once, in many, many hours of play.
For what is a designed to be a multiplayer online FPS, the 'Bots are adequate for refining your skills with, and for filling out a LAN or Internet server that's not filled to capacity, but don't expect anything revolutionary from their AI.
Single-player mode is comprised of a mission for each map, of which there are 12, for each opposing force. The mission objectives for each side are diametrically and directly opposed, usually with the Tech-Com forces having to capture an area of the map, or to download some information from a downed Aerial HK for example, whereas the Terminators will have to prevent Tech-Com from completing this task. If you strip away the textual content of the objectives, the single-player mode becomes basically a dressed up version of "Capture-the-Flag", set against a 20-minute time limit.
Single-player no go?
Single-player isn't what you're going to buy this game for though, you're going to buy it for the online and offline multiplayer experience it offers. Initially, upon UK release, online play was not possible due to the Master Servers, which are in the US not being activated. Although this problem has now been solved, there still aren't a huge number of servers available, however the quantity and quality of servers appears to be increasing daily. WotM includes an internal server locator, which lists available servers, along with the selected map, ping and some other key information. Once a server has been selected, which is basically a process of selecting a server with a low ping, hit "Connect" and allow your machine to attach to the server.
Once your connection has been established, you select a character class, as in the single-player game, and also a base to enter the battlefield from. My first few forays into multiplayer were a little disappointing, although it wasn't a fault of the game itself; it was the fault of the players involved. Watching my fellow Tech-Com forces sprint into the firing line of the enemy like camouflaged sheep was a disappointing image. The complete lack of teamwork and co-ordination spoilt what should have been an enjoyable experience. Spawn, run then die was about all that was happening. No combat support, no supplies to restock and medicate fellow troops and no gunners for the vehicles, in short, we were like Lambs to the slaughter.
Teamwork, teamwork and more teamwork
Teamwork is key to an enjoyable game of WotM. Clever's have implemented some interesting game play features which demand teamwork. Armed vehicles for example, require at least two occupants to operate at optimum ability. One to drive the vehicle, the other to operate the mounted weapon. It is possible to operate them with only one occupant, having to drive, then stop, switch position to the Gunner, then back again once the area gets too hot, but this isn't what the game is all about. Similarly, the Terminators have to put two T-900's into the formidable HK Tank to be able to drive it, and operate its twin Plasma Cannons simultaneously.
Fortunately, further attempts at multiplayer games were far more enjoyable. Improved co-ordination between players on each side made for some fearsome and intense battles. As a Tech-Com Scout, I found myself receiving combat support from a Rocket Launcher equipped Heavy Hunter, and close support from a machine-gun wielding Hunter. As the Heavy-Hunter and I were reloading our slow-firing weapons, the Hunter mopped up any Terminators that managed to breach the perimeter. Similarly, we were supporting him by preventing our position from being overwhelmed by picking out long-ranged shots, and whittling the enemy down to a manageable level.
Another memorable scenario was when I was playing as a Supply Troop, supporting two Heavy-Hunters on a bridge between two buildings. Each Hunter was back-to-back, firing over the wall of the bridge to kill any ground targets, while I provided them with ammunition, health packs for the times they weren't so lucky, as well as using my Plasma Rifle to mop up and targets that got a little too close for comfort. It's this teamwork that sets WotM apart from a more fast-paced game like Unreal Tournament 2003.
Vehicle-based battle is also an enjoyable aspect of WotM, since emulating Reese's vehicular exploits from the future scenes during the original Terminator movie is a lot of fun. Being chased by an aerial HK, while your gunner attempts to return fire elevates the tension somewhat. The first time you take on a fully-manned HK Tank, alone with no support is also a formidable and tense prospect. Fortunately, I was able to emulate Reese's activities once more by throwing a well-placed Plasma Grenade into its path, with inevitable consequences...
Whilst Terminator teamwork isn't quite as important as the Human teamwork, since each Terminator unit is essentially a walking weapons platform, the difference in play style is refreshing. The screen is shrouded in red, as seen in the films, even complete with the flickering scrolling bank of numbers, and status messages around the screen. Actually seeing the battlefield is easier as a Terminator, since the game is very dark in the post-war scenarios, which poses a problem for Humans not using their night-vision goggles. When a Terminator acquires a target, they have a targeting box appear around them, as well as what is essentially an energy bar. Cause enough damage with your favoured weapon, and the energy bar will deplete until it become empty, again, with inevitable consequences.
As an added bonus for the Tech-Com forces, the player with the highest score can opt to spawn as Arnold himself, fighting for the Tech-Com cause, including voice samples allegedly made specifically for the WotM game. Since some of the samples aren't quite what they should be, with Arnold stating "I need ammo!" when you request medicine, it seems that Atari resourcefully re-used the voice samples from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines to add some flair to WotM.
WotM is an enjoyable foray into the multiplayer FPS world, especially for a Terminator franchise title. I have to say that if it wasn't for the Terminator license being involved it probably wouldn't be half the game it is and I have doubts that those who aren't overly interested in the Terminator universe would rate it as highly as those who are based on game play alone.
As a fan of the series, it offers an irresistible foray into what it would be like to be either a Terminator, or a Tech-Com rebel embroiled in the war to decide to fate of mankind. It isn't without flaws, notably the decidedly average quality of the AI and the slightly unbalanced game play when too many FK's enter the battle. The FK is extremely fast, manoeuvrable and packs enough firepower to stop pretty much anything in its path. The obvious problem with this is that due to the slow nature of the other Terminator units, often many, many players will be using FK's on the Terminator side of the battle, which due to them being so hard to hit and so powerful can work to the detriment of the game.
Graphically, the game is not going to worry the likes of Half-Life 2 or Doom 3, but it's not designed to. It follows the style and content of the Terminator franchise perfectly with the exception of the inclusion of the T-900's, and offers some genuinely impressive battlefields. The present-day scenarios are a little bland, but offer a stark colourful contrast to the war-ravaged future.
Audio is of a more than acceptable standard, but is nothing revolutionary. The occasional piece of motivational music will sound during intense battle, but other than that the ambient sounds of the battlefield will be what you hear. Weapon effects are pleasing, from the loud crack of the Sniper Rifle firing, to the rapid thud of the Automatic Rifle. The Terminator weapons are loyal to the sounds from the films, making for some interesting and tense moments as Plasma fire gets closer and closer to your position...
Overall, I would only recommend this to you if you're not able to play online if you're a devout and dedicated devotee of the franchise. For multiplayer however, it's a lot of fun no matter how much the Terminator universe interests you.
- Graphics: 7/10
Not revolutionary and nothing new, but true to the series nonetheless
- Sound: 7/10
Typical FPS audio, although some nice usage of the Terminator weaponry sounds
- Playability: 8/10 (Multiplayer) 5/10 (Single-player)
Very enjoyable online multiplayer, but sadly single play is a let down
- Lastability: 7/10 (Multiplayer) 4/10 (Single-player)
Plenty of fun playing online, but a less appealing long-term prospect as a single-player
- Overall: 7/10 (Multiplayer) 5/10 (Single-player)
It's a lot of fun playing online with skilled team-mates and opponents, but the single-player game is lacking somewhat.