Reviewed: December 19, 2003
Reviewed by: Michael Gonzales
One of the things about todayís video games that impress me the most is how society is beginning to realize just how much fun console games can be. In fact, games are becoming so popular; itís not a rare thing to find well known actors like Patrick Stewart or Michael Clarke Duncan lending their voices to game developers in order to provide a better experience for kids of all ages. Unfortunately, this kind of popularity has a tendency to distract game designers from the ďgoalĒ of their software. Atariís latest effort, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, proves to be one of those games that seems to be more of a marketing scheme rather than a sincere attempt to let us relive the movie. In fact, itís like Entering the Matrix all over again.
What really frustrates me is that Atari Games had the resources to make this game fantastic. They even had Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself, to provide game specific voice-overs for our favorite T-850 model Terminator. What they did though, is use an outdated engine (Fugitive Hunter) to create a first person shooter, based on a movie that really isnít all about shooting. They also seemed to have forgotten all of the little details that make a first person shooter fun these days, such as multiplayer or better yet, online multiplayer. The bottom line is, Atariís latest game seems to be merely an extension of our favorite moviesí paraphernalia, and after playing through this dull laser fest, I have to say move on, it ainít worth your time.
In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines you control Arnold Schwarzenegger from a first person point of view as he blasts away machines and occasionally goes one on one with the sexy T-X Terminator, modeled after Kristanna Loken, in a Matrix-style fighting mode. The game is based on the third movie of the very cool Terminator series with an additional back-story between the movie that allows the gamer to take control of the action himself.
During the first half of the game you are in the future, in the time when mankind is constantly under attack by the machines. You begin playing right after Arnoldís program is activated and he ďbecomes alive.Ē The soul of these ďmissionsĒ consist of running through the poorly designed levels flipping switches and shooting your way through passages to continue to the next level, just to do the same thing again and again. I actually had a lot of trouble determining where to go sometimes only to find a dark ramp somewhere that leads me to the next checkpoint.
The latter half, occurring in the present, had Arnold running into cops and then the mighty T-X Terminator, who would drop in every now and again between stages to offer a rather stiff battle scene. I know theyíre robots, but weíve all played fighting games before and know what games are capable of. There are some cool cut-scenes directly ripped from the movie between the short levels, but they arenít inspirational enough to keep your adrenaline pumping, thanks to the incredibly old, unpolished engine and lack of important details like physics.
I lost count of how many times I rolled my eyes at a Terminator lunging towards me after receiving a huge blast to the chest. There are no excuses for that, not in this day and age. I would advise the developers to see whatís out there to get some ideas of what amazing things can be done with the FPS engine (Nightfire, Wolfenstein, TimeSplitters).
This game really disappointed me in the graphics department. So many things were dark and unclear; it was like I was playing a shooter from a few years back. Lighting effects were almost non-existent. Extra touches like reflections would be a nice addition when youíre fighting a bunch of big metal machines. The sky lighting up with lightning during the future stages was kind of cool, but thatís one of few highlights of the game. NOT a good sign.
Also, the explosions that took place in this futuristic shooter were less than mediocre. Some machines would light up in a bright blue swell and then simply vanish without one measly piece of shrapnel. They even made a half-assed attempt to make the environment interactive with wall damages like in Red Faction. Unfortunately, regardless of where and how you hit them, they all shatter the same way every time, showering low-rez polygons into the air only to disappear when they hit the ground. Like I said before, this kind of thing cannot be tolerated on any next-generation console.
There is no reason to have someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger acting in a game if the lines are going to be as repetitive and boring as these. Hearing cheesy one-liners from Arnie and an occasional line from Nick Stahls or Claire Danesí replacements does not make me feel like Iím fighting for man-kindís survival. Neither do quiet Terminators; those things have to weigh a ton and a Robocop-style step would be a lot more realistic sounding than nothing at all. I even jumped off a two story platform and Arnold didnít get so much as a Sam Fisher click.
The only thing in the sound department that wins any points, is that is supports DTS and Pro Logic II sound. This is cool but on a game that has much bigger things to worry about, itís too little, too late.
Some of the extras in Terminator 3 are actually not bad. The longer you brave Atariís bland universe, the more extras youíll unlock, allowing you to view scenes from the movie, a DVD release trailer, and a scene shot specifically for the game that might just be a cheesy, deleted scene from the film. You might want to pay a visit to the CG gallery as some of them are actually a pretty impressive. Pay special attention to facial close-ups too. They did some real nice texture work there. Too bad the gameplay and graphics of the interactive portion didnít prove worthy of the 6-8 hours it takes to blast your way through this easy shooter. Honestly Iíll be surprised if you spend more than 2-3 hours before it goes back to the video store.
One thing that definitely could have benefited this game is multiplayer action. Wailing on one to three of your friends in a first person shooter is an enormous amount of fun, especially when you have an excuse to use futuristic weapons. Plus could you imagine online gameplay with T-model Terminators versus human military personnel? You canít expect your game to wow people when it canít keep up with modern day gaming advances, like superior AI or broadband.
After playing through the first couple of stages of this game, it became obvious that Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was either rushed out the door to synch with the DVD release of T3, or simply not given the time and attention of other games in the FPS genre. You would think after Enter the Matrix, Atari would use their movie licenses more carefully and not expect the bandwagon to do all of the work. I am personally a big fan of the Terminator and would love a chance to play an action packed game that put me into the movies. Unfortunately, there has yet to be a Terminator game that lives up to this terrific Schwarzenegger classic.
If the game developers had improved the overall graphics, added multiplayer or online multiplayer game modes, AND rewrote the entire script, then I might suggest renting this game. Sadly though, I must tell you to avoid it at all costs. If first person shooters are your thing, buy a game like Return to Castle Wolfenstein or even the original Red Faction. Both are cheaper and either would blow this game out of the water. Better luck next time Atari.