Reviewed: October 3, 2004
Released: September 7, 2004
Terminator 3: The Redemption is Atari’s second attempt to deliver a franchise title based on the Terminator movies. We all know how hard it is to find a decent movie spin-off these days, especially when you base your game on what is arguably the worst installment in the trilogy, but that doesn’t seem to keep Atari from trying desperately to put us in the boots of Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger.
This time Atari went to veteran developer, Paradigm Entertainment to hopefully improve upon Black Ops earlier failed attempt at a movie tie-in. They traded in their FPS style of gameplay for a more console-friendly third-person action theme, added some vehicles, and recreated all of your favorite moments from the film. Sounds great…on paper.
Terminator 3: The Redemption features:
Redemption is a cinematic action title that takes you on a rollercoaster ride, actually, 14 rollercoaster rides. Each level is a linear run that includes walking, driving, riding, or flying while blasting the living crap out of everything that moves or twitches.
Any or all of these elements might be combined in any single level. You might start off by walking, and then hitch a ride on the back of a trashed-out pick-up with a machine gun mounted in the bed. You might even get to drive that truck. You might have to make a daring leap to the back of some futuristic Sky Net killing machine and you might have to make an even more daring leap to the skid of a helicopter as it hovers overhead, so you can take to the unfriendly skies and deliver some death from above. And you might even have some fun doing it.
While it sounds like a nice mix of gameplay elements, you’ll quickly find that you’ll spend most of your time riding around on something. The on-foot portions of the game are few and far between, which is a shame because I was really getting into the swing of bashing enemy robots with street signs, stomping on their head, and delivering a famous Arnold quote worthy of the fatality.
There are numerous vehicles to ride or drive in Redemption, each with their own predisposition to arcade physics that allows for mad air, thrilling powerslides and a fantastic sensation for speed. You can drive or hitch a ride on trucks, police cars, motorcycles, robots and even huge laser tanks. If your ride starts to take too much damage just get close to something else and jump on.
When you are merely a passenger Redemption plays like a pure rail shooter. You simply mash the trigger while aiming at the dozens of enemies swarming all over you. In some cases you may have to kick or punch a pesky droid who has latched onto your ride (fondly nicknamed, Cling-ons...get it…) but most of the time these portions of the levels are just a blinding fire-fest.
Often, there are more enemies than you could possibly destroy with your weapon so you need to be on the lookout for special targets like gas tanks, trucks, or anything that might create a larger explosion and take out multiple bogies.
The pacing of the game is very uneven. You will go from a slow methodical walking segment where you can leisurely dispatch approaching exo-skeletons, crunch their metallic skulls for a quick energy snack, then man a gun turret to shoot down a hovercraft, to hopping onto a truck for a ten minute “hope you just didn’t eat” rollercoaster ride through hell.
Oddly enough, during my mind (and finger) numbing hours spent playing this game I never felt like I was trying to “win”, but merely “survive”. The game as a whole is incredibly difficult, and while I certainly don’t mind a good challenge, when that challenge becomes painfully frustrating, I have to take exception.
You see, Paradigm has unwisely chosen to force you to finish these 14 levels with nary a checkpoint except at the end of your near-flawless run. Yes, anything short of perfection and you will likely die. Health is minimal and potential damage is overwhelming, especially on the rail sections where you have limited control over your vehicle and must quickly steer into the few alternate paths that do exist that lead to a power center where Arnold can recharge his batteries.
Even worse is that each level ends in a rather challenging boss battle of sorts. Again, I love a good boss battle as much as the next gamer, but these encounters traditionally take several attempts to learn the patterns necessary to defeat them. Without a single checkpoint this experimentation now includes you having to repeat the entire level leading up to that boss encounter.
Admittedly, by the fifth or sixth time through the level (about how many times it takes to figure out a boss strategy) you will be a pro at the level. You’ll be destroying a lot more androids and taking a lot less damage, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Prepare to suck it up or go looking for some cheat codes.
The designers have included a rudimentary RPG stat system that allows you to customize your T-800, but this lacks any real merit. The enhancements don’t really help you that much during the game. You can’t really improve your hit-points or armor or anything, merely enhance your vision mode and get some extra damage on your attacks. It was a nice effort but ultimately a failed attempt at fleshing out the game design.
I have to give kudos to one of the best marriages of FMV and CG in the history of video games. Redemption uses actual footage from the movie then seamlessly merges that footage with CG rendered footage to fill in the necessary story transitions from film to game. It’s quite spectacular.
All of the major players have lent their faces to the project so you can easily recognize Claire Daines, Nick Stahl, and Kristanna Loken, and of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger who also voiced his own dialogue. Character design and animation is excellent, especially the wonderfully detailed damage model for the T-800 whose flesh slowly tears away to reveal the metal frame underneath.
The framerate holds up surprisingly well considering the sheer amount of objects on the screen combined with fast moving sequences, and loads of special effects like lighting, volumetric smoke and particle explosions. Whether you are fighting in the future or the “past”, this game looks great from start to finish.
The heartbeat thumping futuristic military theme from Terminator is as much a signature to the series as the theme to Jaws, and the game captures that spirit perfectly and even manages to expand upon it with some original composition that fits the intensity and pacing of the gameplay.
The voice work is excellent, even if Arnold’s one-liners “talk to the hand” get a bit tiresome after a few hours. You can manually deliver these legendary quotes yourself with a quick button press or simply wait for the game to do it for you. Either way, you will hear them all soon enough.
The Dolby Digital mix creates a living 3D world where you will instinctively duck as an HK comes swooping in overhead with engines whining. The sounds of combat and explosions whip by and surround you as you drive at blinding speeds through these intense levels.
Redemption features 14 linear levels of modest length. There is very little branching save for a few alternate routes that lead to a high path or a low path or possibly a side route that takes you to some health (energy). Given the highly repetitive nature of the gameplay you will have plenty of opportunities to fully explore each and every level.
Sadly enough, this game is 14 checkpoints short of being something I would recommend as a purchase, especially at full price. Fans of the Terminator series will certainly find a few hours of fun with the title before boredom or frustration sets in, which makes this a rental at best.
Expert gamers can probably finish Redemption in 8-10 hours and there is absolutely no reason to replay it once you have finished it the first time. Chances are, you will have replayed each level at least 2-3 times anyway, probably more. If you do purchase and play this game to completion hang it on your wall as a trophy.
There is no denying that Terminator 3: The Redemption is certainly a huge improvement over last year’s Rise of the Machines, but this latest installment still suffers from several flaws, most of which are design related and have no correlation to this being a movie spin-off.
Fan of the game will want to give this a rental, but I’d avoid a full-price purchase and only add this to your library when it hits a friendlier platinum price of $20, which I’m guessing won’t be long.
While fun at times, Redemption quickly gets tedious and repetitive with its unforgiving, “win or die and try again” design. If you are a true masochist then Atari is ready to make you its little bitch. Are you man (or machine) enough?