Preview: Terminator Salvation (Xbox 360)

Does the Terminator license finally gets it’s gaming saviour?

Recently, I got a chance to see an almost final build of Terminator Salvation. I was handed a controller and told I was only allowed to play the first 8 chapters, which I did. So, how is it? Does it impress or does it leave me disappointed? Well, this is only a preview, but here are my thoughts so far…

The game takes place between Rise of the Machines and Salvation, so it’s not directly linked to the film….it’s an odd choice, but I guess that way they can avoid spoilers being leaked from the game about the film. It handles like any third-person shooter, but it has some differences that help it stand out from the crowd.
Instead of being just a Gears clone, Salvation makes you strafe around enemies using cover. Some enemies can only be disabled from behind, so it’s important to keep them distracted while you attempt to sneak behind them and fill their weak spot full of lead. You do have a squad with you, but you can’t control them. There is co-op included which will definitely improve things for you to work as a team and disable these machines.

The weapons in the game are fairly standard ones like assault rifles, shotguns, rocket and grenade launchers, and there is plenty of ammo to be found. The enemies are varied, while some of them are actually undefeatable until later in the game…so you have to run from them just like in the classic films. I found that even on Easy, it’s quite tricky at parts. The spider enemies can whack you down for a one-hit kill and your health bar won’t fully replenish until after a fight. So you have to be extra-careful, it’s not like Gears where you can just hide behind cover and wait for your health to come back, so it adds a bit more realism to it.
During the 8 chapters, there were some on-rails levels which were entertaining and actually, quite difficult. It’s impressive for a movie-license game and perhaps proof that games based on films can actually be good…providing they don’t follow the story. If there is any complaint to be had about Salvation, it’s that it all becomes second nature after a while. You go to a room where machines spill into, you try and flank them to disable them, move on and repeat. It’s not always like that, but you will sense a pattern after a while, so you’ll pretty much know what to expect next.

In terms of visuals, Terminator Salvation looks impressive. Sure, not everything is destructible and there are plenty of invisible walls to be found, but overall it looks great. Voice-acting is also well done and almost film-quality. I’m actually surprised at how big the production values are for the game, I wasn’t expecting much.

In my short time with the game, I got pretty far and wonder just how long the game is. Chances are that I got fairly close to the end, but I hope not. The game handles well and I want it to last a good 10+ hours, but wherever it does or not remains to be seen.