When you’ve been playing high quality games for so long you kinda forget about all the crap out there. Once in a while you come across a game that gives you a fresh reminder of how mediocre some games can be. Unfortunately, Terminator Salvation (TS) falls into this category. There’s not one specific thing that makes TS a mediocre game, but several things that contribute to it not measuring up anywhere near its potential.
Let’s talk about the game’s plot. You play as John Connor, a member of the resistance, about two years or so before the movie. For a movie license game… there is absolutely no trace of Christian Bale – none. The beginning of the game is slightly confusing and it’s hard to get a sense of what is going on because you’re thrown right into a combat situation. Eventually you get a distress call from a few resistance fighters trapped behind enemy lines and from here your goal for the rest of the game is to travel across the war-torn cityscape to bring them home. Beyond that, the plot is really not that interesting and you will never feel engaged beyond the typical “you need to go here next and do this” which leads into the gameplay.
The gameplay in TS is basically handled in two parts. Through most of the game you’ll be playing in a 3rd person perspective running-and-gunning and ducking behind cover. The rest of the gameplay will be on-rails as you man a machine gun or other turret-esque device being driven around by the AI.
The on-foot controls aren’t bad. They actually felt like a copy of Gears of War, which includes Gears’ cover system — complete with the cover-jumping, directional cover changing (complete with a meter in TS), and blind firing — all of which I like. However, there are several important mechanics missing. Your character has no ability to sprint which is frustrating when you’re under fire. There is no dive role or way to dodge in a heavy fire fight. There isn’t even a crouch ability. At times it felt like I was sauntering through a sea of bullets. Covering is a bit inconsistent, which gets messy since it’s the only way to avoid fire. Several things, such as cars and walls, would inexplicably not allow me to use them as cover even when I had used something identical five minutes prior.
I found health regeneration to be one of the more frustrating and horrible things in the game. I don’t want to nitpick but I have to bring this up. Your health will not regenerate unless all the enemies in the area are killed. You can be behind cover and not even the focus of the enemy’s attention and your health will still not regenerate. Call of Duty has it, Gears has it, Killzone has it, Halo has it… WTB proper health regeneration, please!
Throughout the game you’ll encounter maybe three (yes, that’s 3) types of enemies: Flying Drones, Mechanical Spiders, and the Terminators (which look alike). I can’t ding the game on enemy variety. No game really seems to have a wide variety these days. But the enemies in TS aren’t really fun to fight, and I want to give reasons why: Flying drones are not a big deal and can be dispatched in one hit with the right weapon; Spiders only take damage from behind (not bad but a problem when your ai teammate won’t help you) so killing them becomes a pain. Terminators take an abnormal amount of bullets to kill. I know they’re terminators and should put up some form of challenge, but it takes away from the fun when you can only kill them with a grenade launcher or bazooka and can’t carry the weapons you want to use.
Weapon variety is lackluster. There is an assault rifle, a shotgun, machine gun, grenade launcher, bazooka… pretty sure that’s it. There are two types of grenades which both seem to do the same thing. While it may seem like the standard array of weaponry, you’re limited when the only viable gun is the shotty (very accurate with amazing range….)and explosives ala the grenades. Save yourself the trouble and only pick up the shotgun.
The on-rails turret gameplay takes up a significant portion of the game. This part was by far the hardest and not because it’s designed poorly, but with the health regen system it’s just downright difficult. Several levels are entirely devoted to turret use. I don’t have anything against them, but they’re a really unforgiving and far too numerous.
Visuals in TS aren’t bad. It’s nothing mind-blowing like Killzone or Drake’s Fortune, but they’re pretty good overall. The environments are a bit redundant and I often felt like I was going back through the same levels… lots and lots of broken buildings. I really take issue with the sound in this game. I usually don’t complain about sounds but the sound quality of voice overs were awful. The sound levels are all out of wack and you’ll be turning your sound up and down throughout the game. Voice overs during gameplay will be blasting but during cutscenes (which will invade your gameplay every 30 seconds) they’ll be inaudible. Gunfire is [Keen’s interjection: Omg my ears are bleeding!!!!] … yeah. When turning down sound effects to make the guns not so loud I discovered that they were tied to the voices in cutscenes which made them even harder to hear.
I have been really hard on this game, but that’s because I honestly did not really enjoy it. There were a few parts that I found interesting, but for the most part I couldn’t wait for it to end. To my surprise, my wish came true and I beat the game in three hours. There are no collectibles and all difficulties are available from the start. There is no reason to replay the game once you’ve beaten it. There is split screen coop which worked okay for us, but there is no multiplayer. Heck, I even received every single achievement in that one play-through since I played on hard difficulty (get it on the 360 for an easy 1000gp’s or trophies on the ps3!). It’s not worth $60 and I really hesitate to even recommend a rent… even to a Terminator fan.
We give Terminator Salvation a 2 out of 5.