• Terminator Salvation Review - Microsoft Xbox360

    Terminator: Salvation is a third person shooter based off the universe that has been created around the titular movie. The developers, Grin, have set the story before the film, neatly segueing in with the cannon from the novels to cover a crisis of faith in the adult John Conner that eventually led to the formation of his unit seen on the big screen.

    If a machine is looking at you, it's generally a good idea to duck.
    If a machine is looking at you, it's generally a good idea to duck.
    The Salvation film brought a level of grittiness and realism that arguably had been missing from the franchise since the first movie back in 1984 and the game captures this to a large extent thanks to a muted warm colour palette and a plot that isn't afraid to show the human cost to victory. There's little doubt that it is difficult to base a game around enemies who are, for all intents and purposes, nigh on invulnerable to conventional small arms weaponry, but Grin are to be commended for remaining true to the universe in their depiction of Skynet. Rather than cramming the guts of the title with just the traditional endoskeletons there's a wide array of both the more utilitarian machines such as the weak flying Aerostats and highway-bound Moto-Terminators, and the more primitive versions of the heavyweights such as spider bots and the earlier experiments with cyborgs - essentially endos with reduced armour capability.

    This varied array of enemies has allowed the designers to make careful use of the hardened endoskeletons to brilliant effect, whether it be a last stand backed into a corner or trying desperately to stall them as your allies rig explosive charges around you. They take some serious firepower to bring down, with carefully meted out ammunition supplies helping to keep players on their toes throughout. It's this careful pacing and build up in dramatic tension across the whole of the campaign that makes for a very engrossing experience. When that tell-tale booming bassline kicks in from the movies and you see their glowing eyes appear in the darkness, things become very tense.

    This is a very bad situation, it's best to always keep a few RPGs ready for moments like this.
    This is a very bad situation, it's best to always keep a few RPGs ready for moments like this.
    A great deal of this is thanks to the cover system and the way that the player's health regenerates. Locking onto cover is handled in much the same way as other titles but when attempting to shoot out from behind it the enemy will often be able to zero in and score some damage before you are able to get a shot off, particularly on the higher difficulty setting. This is complemented by a health regenerating system that not only takes quite a while to kick in but during larger firefights won't actually refill until a certain number of the larger enemies have been defeated. As a result this mechanic is not a crutch to be abused and instead mandates a degree of planning and timing for every volley unleashed upon your foe.

    None of the guns feature much in the way of recoil but this isn't really a problem thanks to the enemy designs. The likes of the Aerostat are able to make rapid, low inertia movements lending them a degree of erratic behaviour that forces the player to repeatedly re-aim as oppose to merely controlling the kick of their gun. During vehicle segments the camera constantly adjusts with the bump of the road resulting in much the same effect. And when it comes to the slower adversaries the emphasis then comes back to targeting weak points and outmaneuvering them, with your opponents able to turn in response almost immediately once you open fire. So despite the simplistic weapon behaviour the combat is kept involving thanks predominantly to the enemy attack and defence patterns.

    Aerostats are capable of making quick, random movements.  Note the way your AI friendlies aren't braindead too.
    Aerostats are capable of making quick, random movements. Note the way your AI friendlies aren't braindead too.
    Particular mention does have to go to the friendly AI and how it interacts with the cover placement. Conner is never alone on his journey deep into Skynet territory but thankfully the player doesn't have to concern themselves with babysitting their fellow soldiers. Not only will you not have to worry about them strafing across your fire or having to regularly race back to heal them, but they actually prove useful in combat too. Against medium to heavy enemies you'll usually want to attack from the flank or rear. So on the one hand your allies can be used to draw the machines' fire whilst you quietly sneak around the side but then, should you miss with your initial shots or only manage to break off the armoured covering before drawing the Terminators' fire, they will also be able to finish the job for you, should you have positioned yourself properly.

    The cover layouts themselves are somewhat blatant in terms of the tactics they allow but there's usually a couple of different options to choose from and depending on your weapon loadout it's always possible to break out the explosive weaponry if you feel comfortable with your ammunition level. The usage of the left analog stick for moving between cover, whereby the player points in the direction of the piece to dash to, also enables some denser packed scenery without causing control issues and frustration. Overall Terminator: Salvation keeps a reasonably well balanced difficulty curve throughout, with most players able to find a challenging and enjoyable offering on either the normal or hard difficulty settings.

    The co-operative play is well integrated into the campaign structure.
    The co-operative play is well integrated into the campaign structure.
    If there's one criticism to be leveled at the title however, it is the campaign's length. There is an offline two player co-operative mode throughout, but on a single playthrough most will see the end credits within a couple of solid afternoons. Due to the nature of combat and cover utilisation it does, however, warrant experiencing the co-operative play far more than many other shooters as both players move more independently of each other than is usual and are equally important to success. There are some rough edges due to the requirement to meet the film's deadline character lip syncing is way off and on the odd occasion a particularly loud part of the background music can cause a delay lag in sound effects in the mixer. But thanks to the excellent use of the iconic sound cues and the atmospheric, subtle sky shading capturing a nice stock grading effect, the movie-feeling moments are all there.

    Terminator: Salvation stands strong as a solid shooter experience that is fun for both the lone and co-operative player. It has stayed true to the universe it exists in without compromising on gameplay mechanics or balancing. Despite the issue of its brevity the combat model is still refined enough to warrant attention beyond just fans of the movie and books.

    Third person shooter
    Evolved Games
    Xbox 360
    -Captures universe well.
    -Good co-operative play.
    -Solid combat model.
    -Brief campaign.
    -Rough edges.

    Score: 6/10

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