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Mini-Review: Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation The Terminator film franchise has been a fantastic canvas on which to paint intriguing stories as well as hot gobs of explosive action, but the key thing about Terminator that some people have yet to figure out is that there are only certain stories in the series's universe that are worth telling.  Kyle Reese traveling back in time to protect Sarah Connor?  That's worth telling.  A reprogrammed T-800 model Terminator protecting a teenage John Connor?  Also worth telling.  Just another day of trying to stay alive in a post-Skynet future war environment?  Not so much, which brings us to Terminator Salvation, the video game tie-in to this summer's film of the same name, and although they share a title, they feature different stories.  The game sets up some of the film's backstory, casting players as John Connor prior to humanity lining up to follow him into hell just because he says so.  It's just another day for Connor when he vows to rescue a group of trapped humans from behind enemy lines before they're terminated once and for all.

Terminator Salvation for the Sony PlayStation 3 (as well as Microsoft Xbox 360 and PC) comes to us from publisher Evolved Games and developer GRIN, the studio last seen delivering the stellar yet underrated Bionic CommandoTerminator wants to serve up similar action and gunplay in a gritty setting, but suffers from being rushed and a bit buggy.  Each level contains, on average, more cinematic breaks than actual gameplay.  The gameplay itself is repetitive, as Connor and his team of soldiers progress from Point A to Point B where they're ambushed by Terminators and other Skynet forces.  After blasting the robots, Connor moves on to Point C to start the cycle all over again.  This may have worked if the rampaging robots varied across different levels.  There seem to be only about four or five different Skynet robots that recur over and over again in addition to the T-600 model of Terminator, and they're all easily dispatched.

Terminator Salvation The most glaring issue that I encountered involves the consequences of shooting an enemy with a weapon carried over from a previous stage.  There are a variety of different guns and explosives available, but some weapons only appear in certain stages.  However, if Connor has any ammo left over at the end of a stage, he can bring it with him into the next one.  In my case, I carried a rocket-propelled grenade from one stage into the next and used it to blast a stubbornly shielded Skynet spider-type robot, expecting that I could destroy it with one overpowered shot.  Instead the game locked up on weapon impact and required a flip of the PS3's power toggle switch to turn the machine off.  This was not an isolated incident.  As the game progressed, I found that this sort of thing kept happening with different weapons and different robots.  My guess is that the developers didn't expect players to have any ammo left at the end of each stage (it can get scarce at times), so they didn't bother to provide instructions telling robots what to do if they are struck by an unexpected shot.  This leads to a game-killing error.

There's really not much more to say about Terminator Salvation.  It could have been so much more, but either the development team ran out of time and had to get the game out into stores to coincide with the release of the film or they just didn't have their hearts and/or resources invested in this one.  There's definitely some desperation in the air when every PS3 trophy that this game awards is a gold trophy.  You can pass this one by without missing anything important.  It won't be back.