tiistai 18. lokakuuta 2011

REVIEW - Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: November 2003
DEVELOPER(S): Black Ops Entertainment, Taniko (GBA)

2003 marked a very important turn in Arnold Schwarzenegger's career. The former bodybuilder, later legendary sci-fi and action film icon became the Governor of California - also known as the "Governator" - in October. The movie featuring Mr. Schwarzenegger in his last starring role premiered in July, and it was another sequel to none other than his final breakthrough in 1984, as well as the first film in which his catchphrase "I'll be back" was first uttered - The Terminator. Back in 1984, games based on movies were very rare. In the early 90's, they became a trend. Terminator 2: Judgment Day spawned several directly licensed video games, which were all horrible, but Bethesda Softworks garnered in quite a bit of acclaim with their series of first-person shooters, released exclusively on the PC, which weren't directly based on any of the movies. Well, in 2002, Atari got their hands on the video game license of the Terminator franchise. After publishing an ill-fated action game by the name of The Terminator: Dawn of Fate for the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox, they moved on to the direct Terminator 3 license. First, they tried to repeat Bethesda's success in the 90's with a first-person shooter - also starring Schwarzenegger, in his first and last voice acting role. They failed miserably... but the "best" was yet to come. Just a week after the release of this version, Atari published one for the Game Boy Advance. No use asking why, I guess.

Chosen for termination

For just a brief fraction of a nanosecond, I
imagined I was playing vintage Fallout.
Now an adult, John Connor lives in hiding. Years have passed since what was supposed to become Judgment Day before his intervention. Unbeknownst to John, Judgment Day is inevitable. Although the Skynet of the future has given up searching for John, they're after his most trusted lieutenant, Katherine Brewster, and sent their most deadly invention yet - the Terminator-X - after her. An accident brings John and Katherine together, and suddenly John finds himself on the run once again, with Katherine's life to worry about besides his own. Luckily, the resistance once again counters Skynet's efforts by sending an old friend to John and Katherine's aid.

Let's start with the movie, which in my honest opinion was extremely underappreciated. OK, it was full of holes. OK, it was kinda stupid, all the way from the plot twists to the bone-dry, trendy humour, which there was a lot of. OK, it didn't hold a candle to the first two movies. OK, Arnie looked kinda old - which I guess he was. But, no matter how bad the movie was as a sequel, it was pretty good as a stand-alone sci-fi action blockbuster - I actually still prefer it over Terminator Salvation in many ways, and it was most definitely the best movie Arnold had done in nearly ten years; his career really hit a downward slope after True Lies. I know, I know, it isn't that hard to do a half decent flick after utter horseshit like Junior, Jingle All the Way and the God damn abysmal, blasphemous Batman & Robin, but still.

Lol'd at "Syknet".
Let's continue with the game. It breaks rules - even moreso than the movie. It reminds me of several other games - not good ones. It doesn't have a lot to do with the movie - and, even less with its home console version. Is it playable? Almost! Is it fun? No. I tried to compile a list of all the games I'm reminded of for one reason or another in my head, and tried to come up with one decent game on that list, but I couldn't. There are a lot of games there I've already reviewed, so it's easy to bluntly compare the game to such strapping titles as Predator 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and of course, every Terminator game I've played thus far - but I'm reminded of those because they share the same theme and policemen are just as oblivious to real threats to citizens and the environment as they were in the SNES version of T2. Predator 2 and the first Pirates game were both played from the same isometric angle, both of them were dull as hell, easy but incredibly tedious, and they simply tasted like nothing, not before, not during, not after. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is exactly the same as these two games, in every possible way. It's not the most horrible licensed game I've ever played, but words cannot describe how boring it is.

The graphics are not that bad. Lame, yeah, but technically sufficient, taking into account how awful licensed games usually look, even in this day and age. At least they toned down on the use of scruffy character stills unrelated to each other, which are prominent in most games, and opted for drawn portraits. The storyboard design is what sucks and reeks, the graphical design is quite close to home. At least the game looks the part. I've never heard Brad Fiedel's classic Terminator theme song, or the even more popular T2 remix in a video game... and I still haven't, not even a semi-faithful version of Marco Beltrami's T3 remix makes an appearance. The music's clearly influenced by the original scores, I just wish it'd be little less repetitive. Same goes for the game.

The flamethrower's a surprisingly good
weapon, considering that I always thought
getting burnt into a crisp only made the
machines more aggressive.
You're given a lot of fancy tasks to be done in this game, but they're all the same. Blow things up, kill a lot of folk, run around like a moron, not necessarily in that order. The first two things might be considered the only things the Terminator does well, but they could've made it all a little bit more interesting, like add in some puzzle-solving based on the Terminator's skills of tampering with other machines, for example. No, there's nothing like that. Just running around - or through - unnecessarily long levels that have empty spaces for obstacles (ooh, I love those, a vintage sign of a hastily done game), a gazillion seemingly immortal SWAT members for enemies and the occasional appearance by the TRULY immortal T-X to colour things up, and a lot of folks barking orders. John and Kate seem to be much more aware of what's happening and why than the Terminator, while it was just the opposite in the movie - they had no idea what was going on, and even the Terminator didn't tell them before he was specifically asked to. At one point in the game, John specifically tells the Terminator to follow him and Kate down into the crypt in which Sarah is buried, and once inside, John asks "Terminator, what are we doing here? This is where my mother is buried!" Hilarious. It's also hilarious that everyone keeps addressing the T-850 as "Terminator", like it was his name or a racial slur of some kind, and talking to him like he's human. Since when did praise for a job well done mean shit to a cold machine?

Generally, the controls are surprisingly good, the game being isometric and all, but the invisible corners you might get stuck on as easy fodder for enemy cannons will make your life miserable all the way from the beginning of the game. Disregarding the occasional magic bullet that goes straight through enemies and breakable objects as a tiny glitch this one time, aiming in this game is made exceptionally hard by the camera angle alone. Auto-aim occasionally wakes from its slumber, but it sucks balls, especially when you're trying to stop the enemy swarm instead of a single enemy, by destroying a portal device; the auto-aim goes straight to the nearest single enemy. Also, any ammunition for a primary weapon you pick up will change your current weapon to that particular weapon, except when you're carrying the minigun. Look, a little thought for the player's wellbeing! That's good.

The SWAT members act more like the
Terminator than the Terminator himself.
One thing that does remind me quite a bit of some old Terminator games is the fact that very few of the events took place in the movie in any shape or form. Atari pulled the same stunt Mindscape did with the absolutely horrible The Terminator for the NES way back when, and built the whole first half of the game around the Terminator's infiltration to Skynet HQ and his search for the time machine housed there. Even when things approximately start going as the movie dictated, there are some really, really strange occurrences, like SWAT members chasing the Terminator all around a desert upon his arrival - John's already barking some orders at him and the T-X's already pestering him - and like the Terminator driving one of those future cars on the streets of L.A., trying to stop the T-X's crane. I guess the vet truck from the movie didn't have enough street cred for this "exciting, explosive action game", so they decided to botch the fact known since the first movie that nothing non-organic passes through the time warp intact. What does brand authenticity matter when you've got street cred to worry about?

Besides driving a car, you're mandated to take control of a turret every once in a while, to destroy large constructs (or bosses) that block your way to your next linear objective, and you can also remotely control small H/K's. What sounds pretty cool isn't - the H/K, once controlled by you, is utterly destroyed by one single lucky shot by an enemy. Usually, though, enemy fire is incredibly easy to dodge just by moving, it's so slow. Hell, I got through the whole graveyard mission without firing a single bullet except when I absolutely had to, to get rid of visible obstacles, and I survived by absorbing only two - and I absorbed those two bullets because of bumping into those INvisible obstacles I mentioned.

The graveyard scene. Not only was it actually
in the movie, it's my favourite scene in it.
Upon losing a life, you respawn right where you did it. Upon losing all your lives, including those plenty of extra ones you need to survive all the sudden deaths mostly brought on by falling crap in a confusing environment, you always get to start from the beginning of the mission, and there's a generic password system. Terminator 3 is an incredibly easy game, and once you've beaten it - which will only take little over an hour if you're fast about it - it's given you its all, which really isn't a lot, not even for the most dedicated Terminator fanatic, which I consider myself to be. I was entertained by the game for a few minutes, more than several of the titles in this franchise combined, but after a few more minutes, I was just wishing for an end to this bundle of bore. When the credits finally came up on the screen, I felt like I'd just wasted seven or eight hours of my life for the taste of warm water, while in reality only about 85 minutes had passed. The game might not be the worst one around in the usual sense - it's just worthless, rewardless, boring, a waste of time. Which is worse: being an utter abomination from end to end like The Terminator for the NES, or a basically playable, but a thoroughly stale and boring game which you can just piss through like Terminator 3 for the Game Boy Advance? Personally, I don't think there's that much difference.

Not only does a game have to reach a standard nowadays, it also has to exceed it by a damn lot to really have some meaning in the world. As far as gameplay's concerned, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines comes surprisingly close to the most basic standard of an action game, but in terms of entertaining the player, it's just hopeless, a piece of useless merchandise released for the sake of God-knows-what. 

SOUND : 7.0


GameRankings: 49.06% (GBA), 39.17% (PS2), 41.09% (Xbox)

The game was supposed to be ported to the Nintendo GameCube at a later date. Even most of the promotional material for the game was done, but due to the poor reception of all three games that were already released, the plans were cancelled.

Atari developed another first-person shooter based on Terminator 3, subtitled War of the Machines, for the PC. The game was released less than a month after this one, to even worse reviews.

Atari's third game based on Terminator 3, a third-person action game called Redemption, was released in September 2004 on the GameCube, the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox. It was received fairly well by critics, but it sold poorly.

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