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“ But before you make it to the past, you're plopped down into the actual war in the future... ”

Nice gaming in whole Terminator Universe!

Too little, too late

Wed 14 Apr 2004 | 16h44 GMT+1

Since the release of the game T3: RotM, there have been several previews, reviews, blabla and lots of other thingies online, talking this and that about the game. We've read most of them... but somehow this new one stands out. Maybe because the way it was written, or just because almost everything said is true in our perspective. So we thought we'd include it here for all to read.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Xbox Review

A little history: developer Shiny initially picked up the license for a "Terminator" game to coincide with the movie of the same name. In late 2003, developer Black Ops designs an engine for a game called "Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror." About the same time, Shiny scrapped the "T3" game, and Black Ops picked it up. "Fugitive Hunter" was released and universally criticized for having possibly the worst first-person shooter engine, coupled with an equally-baffling fighting engine that you'd cut to for random fights during the game. People were instantly turned-off when learning that Black Ops was developing the new "T3: Rise of the Machines" game with the same engine as "Fugitive Hunter." And that pretty much brings us up to speed.

In order to accurately rate "Rise of the Machines," I didn't watch the movie until after I'd played the game. What I found was that the developers cut out interesting parts of the movie in order to feed the constant action. That idea worked in the 1991 Midway game, "Terminator 2: Judgement Day," the autoscrolling game that threw all sorts of Skynet machines at you. Set during the apocalypse, you had to save John Connor and his mother Sarah from the T-1000, that liquid metal guy. This game was pure fun because it didn't attempt to be anything it wasn't; Midway set out to make a flat shooter, and they succeeded. The problem with "T3: Rise of the Machines" is that Black Ops and Atari set out to make a supplement to the movie, but instead made a first-person shooter that neither sufficiently ties into the story, nor uses the elements of the console to its advantage. Almost sadly, the extras are plentiful and interesting...only "sadly" because you won't want to actually go through the process of unlocking them. With other first-person shooters out on the Xbox that are more successful (to put it kindly), you're better off leaving this title alone. If you're a fan of the movies--I mean, you've got to have your room lined with "Terminator" memorabilia--then you might like this game. But up against games like "Halo," this game's better left among the ruins of the apocalypse.

So here's the real deal on the game: it's a first-person shooter where you play as the T-850, the "good" cyborg sent back in time (again) to protect John Connor and his wife. But before you make it to the past, you're plopped down into the actual war in the future, so if you don't like lasers and futuristic weaponry, you might not enjoy the larger part of this game. It's a double-edged blade--though I wanted to be playing in the present, the weapons offered there aren't as interesting; while the weapons in the future are more interesting, the time itself isn't as interesting. Along the way, you'll be helping the humans fight off the machines, usually taking orders from them to get yourself from point A to point B, while mowing down the collapsing pack of machines. At times during the action, the game will go from the first-person shooting to a sideview fight between you an another character, usually another T-model. These scenes serve as "boss" fights, and, ripped straight from "Fugitive Hunter," are button-mashing massacres that only showcase the awkward control and the shady graphics.

A lot of things you'll encounter serve as a sort of backstory to the movie, but if you hadn't seen the movie, you won't know. Basically, in the first 2/3 of the game, you're making your way through a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles to get to Skynet. Once you get to Skynet, you jump into their time machine and zoom back to the past, where as I mentioned, things get a lot more interesting. Problematically, the part of the game in the present is very short, so for most of this game, you'll be anticipating playing the shortest part. Sigh.

What's more is the presentation is spotty. While Black Ops took a good step in including the "Terminator vision" mode that washes everything in red and picks out targets, the "Terminator vision" isn't all that helpful, and says the same thing on it every time, making this feel too much like...well...a video game. In fact, it seems like every element in the game has a sad tale to it. Even the inclusion of Arnold Schwarzenegger's real voice is cheapened by the fact that he says the same three lines over and over again during the levels. And there's more: though you'll be treated to live action from the movie, the scenes are few and far between, and very out-of-place up against the weird CGI in the game. I can't help but feel like the game could have felt a lot better, but it was obviously rushed to coincide with the movie's DVD release at Christmas.

But back to the weapons. Though the lasers in the future are the more interesting weapons, they don't cause any real effects other than hitting their target. Basically, a red line jumps from you to the enemy and the enemy falls over. That's basically the story of the graphics in this game: "too little, too late." Graphical anomalies are problems in this game; both you and enemy cyborgs will shoot through walls and ceilings and clip on debris that litters the future, and cyborg enemies will spawn from impossibly odd places. If the graphics were stepped up higher (and I won't even request "Halo" level graphics...just ANYTHING more), we might forgive clunky controls. But it seems like every level offers a more bleak and ugly representation of the world, ugly even for a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles.

As mentioned, the unlockable stuff is excellent, I flocked to what was available instantly. The live action sequences they let you watch are great, and if you're a fan of the movie or the franchise in general, you'll enjoy them. But unfortunately, that's just the out-of-game extras. The in-game CGI is a hack-job of weirdness, and the characters barely look like their movie counterparts (was that Claire Danes or Glenn Close in the game?). But the graphical oddities go on--at times, you'll be shooting through a group of enemies, and instead of exploding or sparking or ANYTHING, the enemy will just disappear. Poof. Maybe Skynet pulled them back in time or something.

The sound is the same old thing. The voice acting is all sub-par, though some characters are better than others. The key again is that there's just too little in this game; there are some good environmental effects and alright NPC lines, but because there's only a few of them, they become repetitive and tiresome. The music is actually good, but doesn't feel right; through a mixture of standard background orchestration and the original "Terminator" anthem that everyone knows and loves, you're not really sucked in and kept moving. And that's pretty much that.

In a way, I enjoyed this game more when I turned on the invincibility and infinite ammo cheats. Not having to worry about your power or ammo really did free me in a way that brought me back to the old NES Game Genie days. Is that a crime? "T3: Rise of the Machines" is probably one of the worst disappointments since you can obviously see the seeds of a better game, but because of the rushing to get the game out, the seeds never grew. Sadly, everything suffers from the rush: the gameplay, the story, the graphics, and the sound. One can only hope that when Atari releases "T3: The Redemption," due out in late 2004, they'll have learned from their mistakes and polished their game. As for "Rise of the Machines," it wasn't that it lacked polish, it just lacked SOMETHING to polish.

Ratings (1-10):

  • Graphics: 4.
    Ugh. Even the apocalyptic future looks bad.
  • Sound: 4.
    For a game developed so closely to the movie, they sure didn't get any of the sounds.
  • Gameplay: 4.
    It's the engine from the universally-hated "Fugitive Hunter". Any questions?
  • Story: 5.
    Following the movie...oh wait, forget it.
  • Replayability: 5.
    The only reason to continue playing through the game is to unlock the extras.
  • Overall: 4 (not an average).
    Better luck with "T3: The Redemption."

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