Ah-nuld layin' some smacketh down.
Ah-nuld layin' some smacketh down.

In honor of John Connor, we take a look back at some of the highs and lows of the digital representation of the Terminator franchise.  James Cameron’s dream of Future War has been dragged through the mud by a number of videogame companies, but a select few have shown that Skynet is worth blowing up once or twice.  Take a stroll into the time bubble for a few of these gaming installments.

Continuing our coverage of past Terminator games, this installment brings us the best and the worst utilizations of this film license.Read part two of our Terminator game retrospective after the jump!

Terminator: Future Shock – PC (1995)

Back when putting games on a CD-ROM was special enough to warrant a sticker on the cover.

Released in December 1995, Future Shock was part of a popular trend of great 3D first person shooters released on the PC.  While Future Shock gained positive initial interest among PC gamers, better games like Heretic and the all mighty Duke Nukem 3D were just around the corner.  The story, which must be taken as an alternate timeline, has Skynet bombing civilization in 1995.  Flash forward to 2015, and a scar-less Colonel John Connor is leading a Resistance attack on a human concentration camp.  Your self-named character escapes captivity to join the Resistance, and you spend the better part of the game taking orders from Connor.  It’s up to the player to take out a human processing camp and put an end to Skynet “Death Camps”.  Apparently, in this incarnation, Skynet got its inspiration on base engineering from the Empire, as all these locations look similar to the Death Star.  An eager young Kyle Reese even tries to join you on one of your infiltration missions.  Action varied from your typical run and gun to even commandeering an HK to disable Skynet gate defenses.  The game may look bland and visually boring now, but the gameplay and graphics still compete with the awful console game released years later Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

Terminator: Dawn of Fate – PS2, Xbox (2002)

Too bad beneath this nice cover lies a crappy game.
Too bad beneath this nice cover lies a crappy game.

I tried very hard to like this game, but Dawn of Fate ultimately fails to give players an experience worth struggling through.  Dawn of Fate once again tells the story of Kyle Reese’s journey through the time displacement field leading to the events of the first film.  The game introduced new types of terminators, but the programmers must have had little imagination because they resemble walking Legos.  Many of the battles are in tight quarters and to make matters worse, the (at many times) static camera made it damn near impossible to see what was hitting you.  Connor and his top lieutenants will task you with pulling a lever, but said lever will be so insignificant in the background that it is invisible to the naked eye.  Instead of the Resistance using common sense and shooting Skynet forces from a distance, Kyle Reese instead opts to take them on in one on one combat with an electric baton.

The story, on the other hand, is engaging.  Kyle, as he described in the first movie, thinks he has destroyed Skynet at the Norad bunker.  SPOILER The truth is that Skynet has transferred its consciousness to an orbiting satellite END SPOILER.  Terminator fans might find it hard to get used to the altered designs for popular characters, as Kyle Reese has a misshapen head and the T-800 Arnold has a goatee.  While the story is interesting, the gameplay alienates the player so much as to not make Dawn of Fate worth a look.

Terminator: Rise of the Machines – PS2, Xbox (2003)

A game so bad the company apologized for it.
A game so bad the company apologized for it.

Hollywood has been known to royally screw up popular videogame properties: Mortal Kombat II, Street Fighter (twice), Doom, Dead or Alive, Mario Bros. (actually, that one is debatable), and many other others.  Videogame developers, in turn, f*ck up popular film properties for good measure.  In the effort to get the game out on time, a publisher will churn out a cheaply done, rushed product (with most of the money having gone to licensing).  Rise of the Machines, based off the movie of the same name, is a perfect example of this.
The ability of the programmers to cut corners is clearly seen throughout the game.  For example, one in-game cinematic features the T-800 Arnold model carrying a wounded Resistance soldier to a large sewer pipe.  Assuming that the programmers couldn’t think of a way for Arnold to carry a wounded soldier and climb down a ladder at the same time, they decided to not put in a character animation at all.  Instead, the soldier seemingly falls from Arnold’s arms down into the sewer pipe, and the T-800 himself slowly floats down to the ground.

Early on in the game, an older Kate Connor orders Arnold fend off against Skynet forces in order to flip a switch in an engineering room.  Arnold will have to find the switch among the sea of muddy textures and big blocks (which must be turbines).   If Arnold shoots an opposing endoskeleton skeleton, the character will break apart into pieces (sans explosion) or disappear altogether.  And with all these horrible textures and lack of animations, the game still suffers from intense slowdown.

The game is excruciatingly awful, however, many of the CG sequences are well done and contain some good ideas.  Rise of the Machines opens with a reprogrammed Arnold holding out his hand to Kate Connor and saying, “Come with me if you want to live”.  Another sequence pits Arnold against an identical Skynet controlled version of himself (unfortunately, the fight that follows is a terrible push and shove match).  In addition, this is the ONLY avenue for fans to see how Arnold kills John Connor in the future, albeit the sequence itself is not very creative.   Furthermore, for the first time, Arnold provided his voice and likeness for the character.  After the release of the game, Atari would later publically apologize for making such a broken product and were making another project to redeem themselves…

Terminator: Redemption – PS2, Xbox (2004)

Finally, a Terminator game that doesn't suck!
Finally, a Terminator game that doesn't suck!

Redemption is a true oddity, a remake of a game (that came out a year prior) and a movie licensed product that is actually really fun.  Opting out of the first person shooter perspective of Rise of the Machines, Redemption is a third person action game that constantly diversifies the action for the player.  Retelling the events of the third movie once again, in 2032, a T-800 is captured by Kate Connor and subsequently reprogrammed to fight for the Resistance.  A nifty opening sequence has a naked T-X assassin taking out Resistance soldiers as she makes her way to the time displacement bubble (which also looks cool in this game).

Arnold can shoot endos from a distance or use objects from the environment (a stop sign for instance) to beat them down and stab them just to be sure.  No health pick-ups necessary, as your character would reenergize his power cell automatically by getting close to power lines.  The T-800 would commandeer a Resistance vehicle and could leap off the car and “tap into” Skynet tanks along the way.  Every once in a while, the player was also given the chance to shoot a rail gun on a helicopter (which made the action turn to strictly on rails).  The two player co-op game also featured the same gameplay.

The graphics are crisp and sharp and the diversity of vehicles/circumstances make this a fun and challenging experience.  Unfortunately, Arnold does not voice his character in this game.  Instead, a comparable sound alike is used…and some of Arnold’s lines from last year’s Atari installment are recycled here.  Sans a few glitches and the intense difficulty in later levels, I definitely recommend this one.

What about you out there in IoM World…any good Terminator games you can think of?