Reviewed: October 1, 2004
Released: September 7, 2004
Okay, remember Ikari Warriors for the NES? Yeah, that's right - a big beefy guy running forward, blasting a bunch of wannabe Vietcong with a silly weapon. You couldn't really run around on the screen, just side to side. You always faced forward. Partly because of this, Ikari Warriors was a considerably difficult game.
Fast forward to 2004. Now, put the game in 3D, add a bunch of unlikely sci-fi vehicles with guns and change the beefy guy into “The Beefy Guy” himself - Arnold Schwarzenegger - and you've got Terminator 3: The Redemption.
All right, so that's not an entirely accurate description. In all fairness, this game is considerably more varied than its predecessor, but the parallels are definitely there. Solid graphics and sound tie together this action title, a nearly-dead type of purist shooter with an added emphasis on vehicle combat.
"To kill one, you must become one," warns the back of T3: The Redemption's box. Assuming they mean the Terminators, this is technically quite impossible. But at least you can play as one, which is as close as we'll probably ever get anyway. This title grants the wishes of many Terminator fans by letting them take control of Arnold Schwarzenegger's infamous T-850 character and play through a loosely matched version of the Terminator 3 movie. However, whether or not the game is actually any good... well, that's another matter entirely.
After a brief and uninspiring opening cutscene in which the voice actors talk too quickly in a vain attempt to keep up with the pace at which their digitized doppelgangers are moving, players take control of the nominally robotic Arnold as a T-850, the original Terminator from the '80s movie of the same name.
In this scenario (based on the Terminator 3 movie), the unit has been reprogrammed to accomplish an objective to protect a couple crazy kids in 2003, John Connor and Kate Brewster, from the new TX unit sent to maul, smash or otherwise eliminate them. At first, the Governator is on foot, blasting away at an obnoxiously mobile air unit with his machine gun.
On a positive note, as a game that doesn't take itself too seriously, there is no ammunition micromanagement. You've got infinite bullets, rockets, laser charges, minis (that IS what a minigun shoots, right...?), et cetera. However, the first scene was where I ran into my first problem with the game - not a good sign.
Most of us can agree that, while perhaps not as challenging to use, an auto-targeting feature really makes a game's action sequences move more smoothly. Hardcore FPS fans aside, most gamers prefer to be able to automatically "look at" the various enemies in an area and focus their attacks.
It's a simulation of the fact that if the player's character were a real person, she wouldn't be wandering around shooting at the walls when, say, a raging gorilla was goring her at point-blank range. Besides, it's just so much cooler to play as a guy who can frag everything without breaking a sweat.
I can think of no franchise better fit to auto-targeted combat than the Terminator series - he is a preternaturally powerful killing machine, after all. However, the feature is nowhere to be found in T3: The Redemption.
Instead of auto-targeting, you have to move an independent reticle using the C-stick. When it passes very near an enemy, a little targeting circle will appear over it and Arnold will shoot his big, nasty guns right at it for as long as you don't fiddle with the reticle again. It's easy to imagine how hectic this can get when fending off three dozen extremely unpleasant androids in rapid succession - you can't blast one, and then push a shoulder button to cycle to the next. You've got to re-target each time.
At least when our hero is on foot, he can take on enemies by closing with them and performing some rugged hand-to-hand combat. This system delivers a lot more power per hit and can also help him to recharge some of his energy by impaling or stomping on his helpless android adversaries and "drinking" their electric charge (Legacy of Kain parallels, anyone?).
However, 98% of the time, enemies are shooting at the T-850 constantly as he approaches, and since there's no auto-targeting, there's no strafe or dodge ability whatsoever. In other words, it had better be worth the damage if Arnie goes mano-a-mano with the bad guys. Of course, usually you have no choice but to take some flak along the way. So the strategy when on foot is kind of out the door. Just blast away and hope you do a good enough job that the Terminator doesn't drop dead.
That might not sound like a whole lot of fun, but it gets worse. A selling point of The Redemption is its emphasis on vehicular combat. Nearly every level has at least one part that is played behind either the wheel or the gun turret of a car, motorcycle, helicopter, or something of that type. Occasionally, he gets to do both at once - oh, and THAT'S just a load of fun.
Here's the control scheme: Directional stick drives the car (good note: the arcade feel keeps handling simple), B to brake and do a powerslide, C-stick to target weaponry, right (and sometimes left) shoulder buttons to fire primary and secondary weapons, and A to beat back androids that jump up onto the vehicle and try to punch T-850. All at once.
Let's just say it takes some getting used to. And unlike on foot, chances to recharge Arnold’s energy while driving/shooting are few and far between. This means when you get to the point that you're using the above controls to drive through an obstacle course while fending off mechanized infantry and hovers that can destroy your truck in a few solid hits, the Terminator is pretty much going to have to feel some pain no matter how skilled you are. That sucks, plain and simple.
But worst of all are the bits inside helicopters, where the Terminator takes control of a gatling gun/RPG combo (for those of you who haven't given Tidus and Yuna a rest in two years, those letters also mean "Rocket-propelled grenade"), or some variation, to strafe at aerial targets and shoot down threats to the 'copter. If the mobility of T3: The Redemption is poor in the rest of the game, it's atrocious here.
Arnold can't move, at all. The most he can do is swivel the turret via that damned C-stick and shoot a lot. There isn't even a faint illusion that you could possibly avoid a bullet or two. You've just got to make the man blast at such a furious rate that the swarms of armed-to-the-teeth military hardware protecting the target don't get a chance to fire back. Not only can this become nearly impossible (especially if you haven't been able to keep the big guy in great health during the rest of the level), it's really boring as well.
There's just too much shooting in T3: The Redemption, and none of it is really much fun. At times, the difficulty is so steep that you'll be begging for it to stop, but if you die, even three seconds from the end of a level, get ready to start from the beginning again. There are no checkpoints in T3: The Redemption. There's no good reason not to include them in this day and age. It's just another example of the lack of forethought that went into designing this game.
The story cutscenes, while well placed and decently compelling, still didn't have me caring whether or not John Connor and Kate Brewster escaped the clutches of the often partially clothed TX. Neither did the deadpan humor that is the signature of the films really affect the overall experience. Some funny moments can't carry an entire game. Without an effectively told story that interweaves more smoothly with gameplay, the gameplay itself seems even more flat than before.
There's no depth here, just a test of trigger-finger skill. That in and of itself isn't always a bad thing, but T3: The Redemption is a mass-market game, designed for casual gamers. Many people who play it will be outside of the usual 18-24 demographic, and many will have little interest in honing the kind of ridiculous skills needed to do well in this type of game. If even hardcore game freaks like myself get annoyed with the contrived difficulty (read: cheapness) of the title, it is unlikely that it will be a big hit with the general public.
Overall, the graphics in T3: The Redemption are quite solid. The damage mapping on the T-850 is cool and quite detailed. I imagine there are quite a few map levels to his model, and the reward is getting to see him as he appears in the movies, with parts of his creepy-cool metallic skeleton exposed. Facial expressions were a valiant effort, and some are pretty convincing, but there's nothing special. Of course, it was easy to get the T-850's expression down: it never changes.
The number of enemies onscreen at once can sometimes be staggering (it gets into the hundreds!). Everything is clearly defined and solid, with no draw-in. Jaggies are rarely evident, though not completely eradicated. Though apparently a graphically taxing game during these massive sequences, it runs constantly and smoothly with the steady in-game framerate that is a hallmark of GameCube titles.
However, not all is sweetness and light in the graphics department. The CG movies have a noticeably choppy framerate - even more so than many games from six or seven years ago. This may be a concession to the small size of the gigadisc in comparison to competing systems' DVD-ROM discs, but I don't care. It still detracts from the visual experience of this extremely visual game.
Character models in the rendered CG cuts are another complaint. They're quite nice, but not up to par with most A-list current releases by a long shot. They look a couple of years old, really. And what's with just randomly inserting live-action from the movie and segueing to CG? Did they think we wouldn't notice? People who play this game will most likely have already seen the movie, so I imagine it's just a way of not having to render everything in CG (i.e., to save time). It gives the game a piecemeal feeling in the end.
The theatrical score is cool. It sounds, of course, like being inside a Terminator movie, which is something I can't complain about. It's usually sweeping and ominous in an adventurous sort of way, just like in its namesake film.
Voice acting is pretty average. The yells and grunts of the soldiers are convincing, as are most of the bit parts (police officers, etc.). The really, really main characters all have good voice work done by the actors from the film, which is one of the few nice things about even the most dismal of movie tie-in games. Some of Arnold's lines have to be heard to be believed. I suppose this is also in the spirit of the films, isn't it?
The sound in T3: The Redemption is basically a decent package. However, the mixing is where it really falls short. As in too many games these days, voice acting is turned down too low to hear without blasting the rest of the sound through the roof. It can be altered in options to work better, but how many years will it take for people to catch on? Also, during gameplay, the sheer number of sounds competing for your ears make everything seem jumbled and poorly put together. Not a big crime, but it doesn't help anything. In the end, the sound in this game is uninspiring.
T3: The Redemption's replay value is flat average. There's a co-op mode with about as much substance to it as the rest of the game, but only two players are allowed. This is permissible as the game is multi-platform, but GameCube owners, at least on this front, can really expect more from an A-list title. The number of games with 4-player simultaneous out for this system is huge, and 2-player just doesn't stack up.
The one player mode is a once-through for all but the most zealous and/or brain-damaged fans of the movies. Besides, parts of the game are such a chore to wade through that a lot of casual gamers might never bother finishing it. For a master, the whole game can be blazed through in less than a couple of hours - perhaps even less than one. The length of it really depends on how many times you have to retry the obscenely difficult levels.
I never expect too much from movie tie-in titles, and T3: The Redemption is no exception. Perhaps a small part of me was holding out in some vain hope for a repeat of the surprisingly cool Spider-Man 2 game, but if it was, it's been crushed once again.
Antiquated controls combine with a lackluster storytelling technique to create a game that might have been cool five years ago. The graphics are quite nice, and the sound is okay, but when it counts, T3: The Redemption fails to deliver. I can't really recommend it to anyone, though I'm sure not everyone will be as annoyed with it as I was. There are just too many better games out there (especially on the 'Cube) to be wasting your hard-earned greenbacks on yet another forgettable franchise title.