sunnuntai 6. helmikuuta 2011

REVIEW - RoboCop Versus The Terminator (1993)

Genre(s): Action
Released: 1993
Available on: GB, GEN, GG, SMS, SNES
Developer(s): NMS Software, Unexpected Development, Virgin Interactive, Interplay Entertainment
Publisher(s): Interplay Entertainment, Virgin Interactive
Players: 1

In 1992, writer Frank Miller and artist Walter Simonson created a limited comic book crossover series by the name of RoboCop Versus The Terminator. Miller, who had written the original script for RoboCop 2, but forced to cut back on several storyline threads that the producers claimed to be impossible to film, used the scraps for this classic series. Several game developers, most of all Virgin Interactive, saw the story as a brilliant, exciting base for a video game, which it indeed would've been, if any RoboCop or Terminator games that had been released that far had been any good. Well, this one was made by whole other people than any of the related games that came before it, so how is it?

A match made in cyberspace

An officer of John Connor's resistance movement finds out that the source of all of Skynet's advanced military technology is Alex Murphy, a.k.a. RoboCop. She travels back in time to destroy RoboCop, but is killed by a Terminator. Before she dies, she accuses Murphy of his pivotal role in the future war between man and machine, thinking he did it on purpose. Murphy begins a hunt for Terminators all around Detroit to get to the bottom of things and change the future.

So, RoboCop Versus The Terminator is by all means a RoboCop game rather than a Terminator game. You play as Murphy throughout the whole thing, however about a half of the game takes place in Old Detroit, and half of it on the Terminators' home turf in the unnamed wastelands of the future. ED-209 makes a cameo appearance, you fight both Arnie - or a very weird Arnie sprite - as well as a horde of endoskeletons, occasionally following the admittedly strange but surprisingly good plot via cutscenes drawn in a comic book style. You should know, though, that the game is very loosely based on the original comic book, so don't get any ideas about these cutscenes being any sort of faithful recreations of its pages.

The graphics are quite good, if not excellent at best! The Arnie sprite sucks ass, but everything else character-related looks very good, surprisingly good and detailed, from the cutscenes to the in-game graphics. Murphy's large sprite looks about a hundred times better than the one in RoboCop 3, and the Terminator endoskeletons are very authentic. There's a bit too much detail in level design, though, it all gets quite messy from time to time, and the backgrounds consist of just a handful of spammed textures in each stage. In turn, the music's just boring and unmemorable.

Murphy's been to the school of Mega Man.
You have got to believe me on this one: I didn't script this whole thing. After a total of six utter failures when it comes to Terminator games, three bad RoboCop games and one single almost decent game in Murphy's first 8-bit adventure, I didn't expect anything out of this game that I had never even heard of until a few weeks ago. While I was writing the previous reviews, I had a couple of scenarios in mind for RoboCop Versus The Terminator even though I hadn't even played the game. It could turn out absolutely horrible; then it would reflect on every RoboCop and Terminator game that came before it, and sum up the quality of both video game franchises perfectly. Or, it could also be a decent game, which would turn this sub-marathon upside down, end it on a high note, and go to show that all Murphy and Arnie needed to shine was get it on against each other. So, which is it? The answer: it IS a quite decent game! It has serious flaws, but none as serious as the worst qualities of the games based around these two titans thus far.

A common stage in RoboCop Versus The Terminator is a multi-leveled maze, which you need to navigate to get from your starting point A to the finish line B, and kill everything in your way, basically. You have access to different weapons, all of which have unlimited ammo. You start off with RoboCop's patented pistol, but as you progress, you'll pretty fast gain access to rocket launchers, plasma rifles, bazookas, and even ED-209's machine gun! The weird thing is that once upgraded to rapid fire, your pistol is most definitely the best weapon in the bunch against any other enemies than the Terminators, who take something like a million shots regardless of your current weapon's firepower. This basically means that the first half of the game is easy as hell, while the second is just simply hell - after all, you'll be facing off with nothing but machines after getting dismantled by Skynet, and rebuilding your body over the years. Boohoo, a spoiler! As far as storyline goes, this is where I totally cracked my ass up. If Murphy's brain was so strong he could rebuild his body from scratch all by himself, why did he get trashed and rendered completely helpless a million times in the movies, until some kind scientist rebuilt him or he took like 20 minutes to turn on some reserve "do or die" power? Especially RoboCop 2. Well, the capabilities of Murphy's brain were one of the main concepts written by Miller that were turned down by the producers of RoboCop 2, so that explains it all some.

For the most part, progress is very simple - hunt and kill - but there are also some keys to advance which could be called "puzzles". For example, you need to shoot down wooden crates to be able to cross a sea of flame - why these crates don't catch fire is beyond me. Anyway, the idea is the same as in one of the puzzles in Resident Evil 4 years later, where Leon had to shoot down wooden crates, so he would be able to cross a dam. Another example is finding fancy lock mechanisms in the rooms of the OCP basement to open blast doors. This combination of very light brain teasers and the straightforward action with decent controls makes up for a game that is highly entertaining at its best... but...

There are just some things that remind me of the burning hatred I have for the rest of the games in these two franchises. The first and foremost thing is that enemies spawn at a complete random. Let's choose just one random spot in any stage, let's take the Terminator Outpost. On the first time you pass through, there might not be one single Terminator in there. Let's say you're heading for a hidden passage to improve your weaponry, and perhaps to collect an item to revitalize yourself. When you're back, there might be three to four Terminators in that very same spot. On the third time, there might be one, and again, on the fourth time - some of these stages are very confusing - there might be none. The game is totally unpredictable, which also affects falling stuff. In the construction site, it's a real problem; there are these girders falling down in totally random spots, you simply cannot see them coming. Whenever you're not fighting anyone, you should keep your weapon pointed up - you can shoot them in half if you can spot them in time, which you usually can't, they fall so fast.

OH HELL YES! I think I'm about to soil myself.
The final thing I'll mention, a very crucial one though, is that there are NO checkpoints, at all. In some stages, there is a very much needed checkpoint in the beginning of the boss phase, but in most, there are absolutely none, and the stages are very lengthy and confusing. Once again, the game isn't really that hard at all until you reach the Terminator Outpost; suddenly, health items become some sort of holy grails, and you're getting ass-whipped by a thousand Terminators on both left and right. The exit lies behind some cryptic, hidden passage, which have also been somewhat of a problem throughout the game, but this is where this kind of pseudo-difficulty becomes unbearable. The Outpost isn't the final stage in the game, but it draws the line between a casual player and one that really likes this game. I consider myself standing on the line spot-on. I don't exactly LIKE this game, the flaws are just way too serious for that, but it's way more entertaining even just for a while than any franchise game ever was, and the controls are sufficient. It's amazing how much decent control improves a game that has all the potential to bore the shit out of you.

My final judgement is that RoboCop Versus The Terminator is a harmless crossover game. If there were some sort of checkpoints and just a slightly better sense of security and chance of survival, it would almost be worth a 7, just because it has notably better controls than any RoboCop or Terminator game that came before it. It's a game that kills you on random and doesn't even reward you for any accomplishments you've pulled off up until that moment, but it is still most definitely the game to play if you've just got to try some Nintendo game relating to these sci-fi stalwarts.

Graphics : 7.9
Sound : 5.7
Playability : 6.4
Challenge : 7.0
Overall : 6.5


GameRankings: 60.50% (GB), 78.75% (GEN), 60.75% (SNES)

The Sega Genesis version has a whole different storyline, and it is closest to Frank Miller's original.

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