Terminator: Salvation

6/10 Banzai!s

The Game:
Based on the film of the same name, the game was released just two days before the movie, on May 19th 2009 internationally.  A third-person action shooter, the game takes place shortly before the events of the film.  In 2016 Los Angeles, John Connor, along with the characters Angie Salter and Blair Williams, head off towards Skynet in hopes of doing the impossible – rescuing survivors from a helicopter crash.  On their way, they meet a demolitions expert named Barnes in a hidden survivalists camp in the subway tunnels.  Together, they must battle a set number of robots – all having been previewed in the film – cause some damage to Skynet, while restoring Connor’s faith in the future of humanity.
What makes this game rather famous, is that Terminator: Salvation is the last title ever to be developed by Grin.  After issues with a game in development titled Fortress, which was to be designed for SquareEnix, the project was dropped – leaving the Swedish company Grin financially in trouble.  They filed for bankruptcy on August 12th 2009.

What I Liked About the Game:
Rarely do I play a game that has been adapted from a film, and thought it was good.  Most of the time, the video games try to be as close to the movie as possible – thereby altering the style of play in order to suit the film’s storyline.  The Harry Potter games come to mind, where it feels more like playing a set of mini-games.  Most often than not, the game doesn’t add any incite into the film’s story or characters.  Essentially, you’re just playing the movie.
The game Terminator: Salvation, however, I felt didn’t follow that path.  Rather, if the movie didn’t exist, the game could still stand on its own.  From beginning to end, it’s a third-person shooter, with a few moments of turret-gun action.
In many ways, it’s a duck-and-cover game, much in the style of Gears of War.  What I found interesting, is that a bit of strategy was involved.  The action sequences take place in a certain setting with options of cover; however, certain enemies can only be hit from behind, while others must be attacked from the front.  In each sequence, you must decide which position to hold, and for how long before switching to another position – like a watered-down version of chess.  It’s not a question of finding a “safe” zone, or getting closer to the enemy – it’s all about position and timing, on top of having good aim.  I found this style of game-play a bit original, and give Grin kudos for using it in a film-adapted game.
Moon Bloodgood, who played as Lt. Blair Williams in the film, and Common who played as Barnes, both lend their voices as their respected characters in the game.  That was nice, I thought.  Too bad Christian Bale wasn’t interested.

What I Didn’t Like About the Game:
The one thing that always drives me nuts about a game, is bugs.  Though not as many as Fallout: New Vegas, there were enough problems with this game that I wonder just how much attention was given to the QA team.  There were a few times when the robots would get stuck in the walls, unable to be attacked, and unable to proceed through the game without destroying it – leaving me to reset the game and play again from the last checkpoint.  Once, I had to replay the same scene three times – and guarded that wall! – to reach the next stage.
There were other issues with the game which, I imagine, is why most online magazines gave Terminator: Salvation such low scores.  These issues, I believe, were either the result of being rushed to finish the product before the release date of the film, or their financial difficulties.  After all, Grin has made some pretty kick-ass games in the past, such as Bionic Commando: Rearmed.  It’s not like they lack talent.
The main issue is that Terminator: Salvation just doesn’t feel completed.  When you first start up the game, you see a pretty nifty cutscene, in which John Conner is running, shooting, blowing stuff up, and hiding from the machines.  Then the game starts, and all that glorious graphics went out the window.  Every cutscene after that is merely in-game renders, which means that rather than creating a movie-like scene, the characters you’ve been playing are suddenly walking around and moving on their own.  Some explosions look like bits of pixels, which means they probably weren’t rendered properly.  And when the characters are speaking, it appears their mouths are just opening and closing – like watching a dubbed kung-fu film.  Again, signs that the game just hadn’t been finished.

Overall:
So why did I give this game 6 out of 10 banzai!s when it’s not even completed, and other online critics gave it fours and fives?
Well, I never found the game boring.  Though short, it was fun to play, I enjoyed shooting at robots, and I liked the trial-and-error of setting myself up in certain positions to wipe out the enemy.  And to be honest, I found a strange sort of humour in the poor graphics and terrible voice dubbing – the same kind of enjoyment I get when watching a cheezy B-movie horror.  It’s so bad, that it’s funny.
I don’t recommend rushing out to the nearest store and paying full price.  But if you happen to see it in a cheap bin for ten bucks or so, it may be worth checking out.  If anything, it’s a nice easy platinum to add to your collection.
It’s a shame that Grin didn’t have the time – or money – to finish this title properly.  Even more tragic is that, of all the games in their list, the company had to go out with the half-completed Terminator: Salvation.  Like if James Cameron’s final movie ended up being Leprechaun 7, and not even starring Warwick Davis.
Rest in peace, Grin.

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