torstai 3. helmikuuta 2011

REVIEW - The Terminator (1990)

Genre(s): Action / Platform
Released: 1990
Available on: GEN, GG, NES, Sega-CD, SMS, SNES
Developer(s): Probe Entertainment, Radical Entertainment, Virgin Interactive, Mindscape
Publisher(s): Virgin Interactive, Mindscape
Players: 1

James Cameron's The Terminator should've been crowned the movie of the year in 1984, 'cause that's it was. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of the most original and terrifying movie villains of our time, The Terminator changed science fiction as we knew it, and it's a milestone in both the action and horror genres as well. In 1990, rumours of a sequel to The Terminator began circulating, and unfortunately, so did video game licenses based on the first film. First, there was a 3D game exclusive to the PC, produced by Bethesda Softworks. Then, Probe and Virgin collaborated on a Sega Master System platformer, on which each subsequent game was more or less based. Mindscape was in charge of the games for the Nintendo systems... and by these two releases, I'm once again reminded why Mindscape has always deserved a spot on my list of video game companies to be bombed to the ninth plane of hell.

Come with me if you want to die

In the year 2029, a war between man and machine is raging. A human resistance group led by one John Connor has become more than a nuisance to Skynet, an artificial intelligence controlling the machines. Skynet sends a Terminator, a cyborg assassin, back in time to 1984 to eliminate John's mother Sarah and prevent the man from ever being born. The resistance follows suit and sends one of its own, Kyle Reese, to intercept the Terminator and save the future of Sarah Connor and her unborn son.

I don't even have to play the game. I just have to plug in the unfortunate NES and put the even more unfortunate cartridge in to feel inevitable bad vibes coming on. That is, if I ever paid for total horse shit; no one in the right mind would, so let's just be honest to ourselves and choose the ROM file to disgrace our emulators for good. I've played a lot of bad licensed games as of late, and I don't believe anything will come along very soon and outlast games like Bram Stoker's Dracula, Friday the 13th, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and especially Attack of the Killer Tomatoes when it comes to utter suckfests, but The Terminator on the NES isn't a whole lot better than any of these games, either. The most unbelievable thing about it is its release date. The game was released in late 1992. Think of how advanced some NES games were back then. And then look at this... a game that could've easily been made when the movie came out. It's that ugly. And generic. And bad.

Someone puked on my screen.
It looks like an advanced and detailed game... on Atari standards. In other words, it looks absolutely horrible. Some of the more "detailed" backgrounds are a mess and force you to play an awkward game of Where's Waldo?, with Reese being Waldo and the enemies being the extra items to be found. Most likely you won't even spot the grounded enemies before catching a bullet in your foot. Even if you do, you have a lot of work ahead of you if you're planning to hit them, but that's another thing that relates to gameplay. The music is virtually non-existent, and Brad Fiedel's immortal Terminator theme song is nowhere to be heard. It's kind of a relief, though; I wouldn't want to botch the greatest movie theme in history by putting it in a historically bad game like this.

So, you play as Kyle Reese, for the duration of the whole game. Your first mission is to infiltrate Skynet and find a device to travel back in time to the year 1984. There, you need to find Sarah Connor, and protect her from the Terminator at all costs through all sorts of mishaps like an impromptu visit to the police station, and then crush the metal monstrosity in a hydraulic press. Then, you can go on with your new life in 1984, have sex with Sarah all you want and have John and a lot of other babies, right? Yeah, that's what the game is about. From the start it's kind of depressing to play as a guy you know to die in the end. Well, in the game Kyle Reese doesn't die. He destroys the Terminator all by himself, and who knows, maybe the great war will never take place. Stranger things have happened... you just beat the game, right?

See, that's virtually impossible. The controls suck the hairiest ass you've ever seen outside of a Turkish sauna. The B button is used for jumping, and A for firing your weapon or throwing grenades - I thought Alien 3 was the only crappy movie license on the NES to break the A/B rule, but it wasn't. Well, at least in Alien 3, the controls responded to some degree, and in that game, your character didn't always get down on one knee to fire his weapon, or into any random direction. In that game, enemies had some degree of artificial intelligence; they didn't just walk into chasms for no apparent reason, or follow your moves like you were controlling them in addition to your lead character. The enemies are not stupid, they're complete retards, and getting past them is easy. What's hard about the game is the fact that it's impossible to control.

To say there are invisible walls, or impossible jumps present is an understatement. They're everywhere. You might even make a jump out of pure luck and see Reese stand on the very edge of the platform for a second, before inexplicably falling down. The controls are as stiff as trying to break solid rock with your bare hands, so don't even dream about adjusting your jumps. Whether the game lets you survive a jump or not is, once again, dependent on sheer luck. And, about three out of five times, a successful jump into the semi-unknown lands you right into the arms of a Terminator. Or under some pipe that leaks out some sort of radioactive substance which does more damage than any attack by a big T.

Go pick on a vehicle your own size!
Well, let's say you make it through the first stage and into the first vehicle stage, which shows another side of bad gameplay in The Terminator. You need to somehow dodge a Hunter/Killer's attacks and shoot it down, with a machine gun you simply cannot control. The only things you can do are speed up, slow down and shoot, with just a slight hope you'll hit the thing with a gun that shoots into all different directions. With a gun like this, you wouldn't even hit a phone booth from the inside. Well, if and when you finally make it to 1984, and are able to finally begin the game, you'll notice that you don't have any weapons at first. This is where I ultimately fucked up. Melee and unarmed fighting in this game is ten times worse than trying to get any weapon to work or shoot in the direction you want it to. "You are terminated - try again", says the screen. Oh well, since I don't have anything better to do, I'll do it. Wait a minute... I'm back in the future. You're telling me I have three lives to spare throughout the whole game? Foock yoo, ahsholl!

The Terminator is a brilliant example of a game that makes me want to discard the whole "Challenge" rating from the fray, since sure, it's hard, it's damn near impossible to beat. Getting to the main arena of events is an accomplishment in itself. However, if the controls were even decent, we wouldn't have any trouble with the game. But they aren't, they're horrible. The developers had no sense of physics at all. I'm suddenly reminded how even a total fucking waste of time like Total Recall had its good moments, or any other shitty game in which we actually controlled Schwarzenegger's character instead of a character that accidentally blew himself up. OK, maybe The Terminator's better than Last Action Hero, but still. Jesus.

Graphics : 3.7
Sound : 3.5
Playability : 3.3
Challenge : 4.0
Overall : 3.5


The SNES version differs from the NES version in many ways, but the two versions have two things in common: the order of things is the same, and they both suck.

The graphics aren't much to look at. It's 16-bit run 'n' gun at its most basic. The opening credits look awesome, though - they're exactly like the opening credits in the movie, and they make believe we might have a decent game on our hands until the truth smacks us one. The music... well, there virtually is none, but just about every action has an accompanying sound effect, a very noisy and annoying one.

Once again, we're in control of Kyle Reese, first in the future, and I guess the idea's the same; to infiltrate Skynet and find the means to travel back in time. First, there's a very straightforward run 'n' gun stage that's ripped straight off Contra, without the fun though, and then the vehicle stage in which you need to shoot at H/K's. This time, you are in control of the machine gun, but the control sucks ass.

Have you ever tried to jerk off with both of your
arms in a sling? That's easier than controlling
this shit.
Let's just talk about the first stage and get this piece of shit out of the way. So, it's poor man's Contra, an eternity of it. Just run forward, try to dodge any Terminators, bullets and mines that come your way and try to keep in mind that this isn't The Legend of Zelda; just because you keep seeing the same background over and over again, or the stage seems to go on forever, doesn't mean you're heading to the wrong direction. After all, there's just one direction for you to take. It's just that damn boring. The Terminators have non-existent artificial intelligence. They just shoot, regardless of whether you're in their line of fire or not. The only way to keep pushing forward unscathed is to take a few steps, duck, shoot, take a few steps, duck, shoot, and occasionally shoot a guy camped on a higher platform. Of course since you can't shoot straight up, you need to step into his line of fire to have a clear shot at him. Foreground items prevent you from seeing all the mines, and Terminators might jump at you from holes in the background whenever they so wish. Fun, isn't it?

When you make it to the vehicle stage, the game is practically all over, the vehicle controls are simply so bad. Fortunately, the game isn't interesting enough for me to keep pushing on, 'cause I would lose my mind if I had to start this crap all over again. The basic run 'n' gun gameplay's not as bad as in the NES version, at least the controls are a bit more responsive, but it's boring, and the turret control just takes the cake. I'm never touching neither one of these games again.

Graphics : 6.0
Sound : 3.0
Playability : 3.5
Challenge : 4.5
Overall : 3.7


GameRankings: 56.83% (GEN), 70.00% (Sega-CD), 60.50% (SNES)

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