There is no doubt that developer GRIN has stretched themselves pretty thin lately. Considering this is the third game I have reviewed by them in the past two months speaks volumes. Terminator Salvation is releasing at just the right time to be considered a movie tie-in game, but if you have been keeping tabs on the series reboot, you will be scratching your head as to what this game has to do with the Christian Bale flick recently released in theatres. The plotline is completely different and there is a severe lack of Christian Bale, however, there is a chance it will take longer to watch the movie than to finish the game. When you combine all of these aspects it is hard to recommend GRIN’s latest title for anything more than a weekend rental.
The events of Salvation occur two years prior to the movie, and focus on John Connor before he was head honcho of the resistance. The entire game revolves around Connor’s obsession to rescue a group of his men from the confines of Skynet. This mission really brings Connor to the front with the resistance, and seems to be an essential part of what causes people to trust him with their lives. There are times when the story excels, such as hearing character chatter about the way the world used to be, and there are times it is entirely laughable. The cut scenes look dreadful, and there is a character introduced later in the game that has some of the worst dialogue I have heard in quite some time.
Salvation is a cover shooter through and through. Much like Gears of War you will spend the majority of your time crouching behind objects while taking potshots at the enemy. What actually sets Salvation apart from other titles of the same nature is the inventive cover mechanic. Much like GRIN’s previous title Wanted, you can hop from cover-to-cover with the tap of a button. Everything here works in a 360 degree fashion. When in cover you simply move the analog stick in various directions and it will give you all of your options of where you can move. Once you are set simply tap the button and Connor will move seamlessly to the next piece of cover.
This is imperative as you will be fighting of wave after wave of enemies, one in particular that requires you to flank them. This is another sore spot for the game; enemy variety. There are literally only a handful of enemy types, and you will spend the majority of your time fending off Wasps and Spiders. Wasps are annoying, but not very threatening as one good shotgun blast can take them down, Spiders on the other hand are one of the most frustrating enemies I have comes across. Not only do you have to flank them, they focus all of their firepower directly on you 99% of the time. It doesn’t help that your AI partners are clueless when the Spider has its back to them, as they continue to fire aimlessly at Wasps, or worse yet, dead air.
Unfortunately this is the bulk of the game: move from one cover spot to the next, fight off a horde of Wasps and Spiders, rinse and repeat. Repetition is bad, but when a game that lasts less than three hours is full of recurrence it is not a good sign. There are a few breaks from the action in the form of vehicle levels. I found myself looking forward to these, not because they were a blast (although the dune buggy scene was pretty exciting), but because they were not as frustrating as the rest of the game. There is nothing difficult about the title; just fighting the same enemies over and over really becomes tedious very quickly.
The one shining spot in all of this is co-op mode. You can take on Skynet with a buddy via split-screen, and I have to say it makes things much easier in the long run. What really stinks is that this is not available online, so unless you have two controllers and live with someone you will still be fighting in the resistance alone. It just feels like Salvation was not finished. From the poorly constructed cut scenes to the lack of online co-op, this feels like a game that could have been great had it had more time to develop. As it stands you get a cheap and dirty Terminator game with a lot of promise and a severe lack of execution.
Visually the game is as messy as the rest of the package. While the levels are all varied and fun to explore, there really is no reason to do so. There are not collectibles or hidden items. The cut scenes look terrible, but I am guessing this is mostly due to the compression used. Character animations really stand out as their mouths do not move when they talk in in-game cut scenes, and each character looks and feels stiff when they move. The voice acting ranges from passable to just plain terrible, some characters feel like they are really making an effort, while others are downright impossible to take seriously. Overall the game looks and feels much like the rest of the package; unfinished.
Terminator Salvation is not a terrible game; in fact the cover mechanic alone makes playing through it quite enjoyable at times. However, there simply is no denying that the entire package feels unfinished. From under a three hour playtime to some truly peculiar omissions, Salvation displays all the symptoms of a rushed movie tie-in. GRIN has been working hard to release a ton of games, and with their recent financial troubles it appears their reach has exceeded their grasp. If you love Terminator, and are a Trophy/Achievement whore (you can nail all of them in one play through by playing on Hard) then a weekend rental is recommended. Otherwise if you feel the need to own the game there are a lot of hurdles that make it hard to recommend at $60.