Terminator Salvation: The Videogame Preview (PS3)

Terminator Salvation may actually be a decent movie tie-in for once, even if at first glance it might seem like an overtly derivative one. Yes, it looks like yet another in a long line of Gears of War inspired cover shooters, but having been allowed some hands-on time with this one, we can confidently report that itís looking pretty good. Taking its cue from the forthcoming movie, which sees John Connor begin his rise as leader of the human resistance, the game takes place two years before the events of the film.

With development being handled by the Halcyon Companyís (the independent Hollywood studio behind the film) videogames department in collaboration with Swedish developer GRIN, the game has been afforded unprecedented access to the movieís assets and artwork, which should ensure that the entire experience is completely faithful to its source material and that can only be a good thing.

Get used to seeing a whole lot of these T-7-T spider droids.
The T-600 skin jobs actually look remarkably human from a distance. It pays to keep your wits about you.

Playing as Connor himself, the section we sampled opened on a ravaged LA street with Hunter Killers hovering around our position, firing towards us. Itís an explosive way to open the game; pinned down under the duress of lethal bolts of plasma fire, but itís the perfect way to introduce you to the gameís unique cover system, which you use to escape to safety. Utilising a semi-circle on your HUD thatís divided into five directional segments, directing Connor into cover and outflanking enemies to exploit their weak spots is incredibly simple. Of the areas we played, there appeared to be a repeated emphasis on navigating your way behind enemies while your NPC squad keep them occupied with covering fire from head on. Engaging the crab-like T-7-Ts (otherwise known as Spiders), the same flanking tactics are actively encouraged since theyíre only vulnerable from the rear. There are other ways to disable them, with a well-aimed shotgun blast to their central red eye stunning the T-7-T temporarily, giving you a brief window of opportunity to dash behind it and blast out its power source. Alternatively, a well-timed grenade bounced through The Spiderís legs does the job too.

The Spiders are the main enemy along with the flying nuisance Aerostats, who normally attack in swarms and are easy to blast out of the air with the shotgun. The real challenge arrives in the iconic shape of The Terminators themselves, the first encounter with which forces us to flee or face dying in a hail of minigun fire. Two of our team foolishly hang back and attempt to fight the T-600 - an early model of the classic endoskeleton with Gatling gun and grenade launcher fitted as standard Ė that decimates the pair in a matter of seconds. Clearly it canít be bargained with, it canít be reasoned with Ė it will not stop until you are dead. Coming out of nowhere, smashing through a wall is the perfect introduction for the gameís pre-Arnie T-600, but later levels will see you having to confront T-600s disguised in clothes and crude rubber skin. You may remember Kyle Reese mentioning these Ďskin jobsí in the very first movie and itís cool to see them feature in the videogame.

Thereís been a concerted effort by the developer to ensure that each member of your group has their own distinct personality, so whenever one of them is killed in action, youíre meant to feel a sense of loss. Losing our first two members to a T-600 made us feel less upset, more annoyed at how stupid they were to stand in front of a seven foot titanium killing machine with a huge minigun. Certainly later in the game, the idea is that youíll forge stronger relationships with the accompanying members of your team, all of which are voiced by the movieís actors. Naturally, Bale himself refused to lend his voice and likeness to the game, but the dev team have done a bang up job in making Connor look as close to the actor as possible while the replacement voice is surprisingly good.

A Hunter Killer like this can decimate you and your squad in a few seconds unless you move from cover to cover and avoid it.
Itís encouraging to see that Salvation features a full split-screen co-op mode.

Weíre glad to see too that Salvationís environs are just as gloomily evocative as the movieís dystopian setting, its post-apocalyptic vision of LA in 2016 a crumbling urban nightmare, ravaged by the Skynet uprising. Pockets of human survivors huddle around burning barrels underground, husks of smouldering wreckage perpetually burn producing swirls of billowing smoke and every building you come across is a bombed out shell, comprised of enormous lumps of rubble, mortar and detritus. As you make your way through each zone, enemies appear in what seem to be their own isolated areas surrounded by strategically placed cover. As a result, the level design doesnít feel quite as organic as youíd hope, but the cover system encourages dynamic play as you always have full control over which barrier Connor moves to next.

For a sci-fi series thatís so revered by a huge fanbase, spawning numerous comic books, novels, a TV series and a slew of truly awful games, thereís a lot riding on Terminator Salvation finally doing justice to the iconic IP. With early indications looking mostly positive, Terminator Salvation should be a solid enough shooter, although thereís the nagging feeling that it might be a tad repetitive. Nevertheless, we remain cautiously optimistic that Halcyon and GRIN will deliver the goods by the time that looming May 19th release date rolls around.

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By Marco_Fiori (SI Veteran Newbie) on Apr 14, 2009
After being depressed that the second series of Sarah Connor came to a close, the movie, and subsequent game, should be awesome and quell my thirst.
By rowza (SI Newbie) on Apr 15, 2009
looks intresting i suppose but never a fan really