Videogames based on movie licenses have a well-deserved reputation for being terrible. While there are exceptions -- last year's X-Men Origins: Wolverine comes to mind -- Terminator Salvation isn't going to change anyone's opinion that these games should usually be avoided like a leprous prostitute with a gaping flesh wound. That's not saying Terminator Salvation is horrible, but it has all the characteristics of a licensed game. It feels rushed; it lacks any real innovations; and it just is not worth paying full price to obtain.
Of course, this game is based on the 2009 movie of the same name. The film tells the story of John Connor, who will eventually lead the resistance against Skynet, a network of machines that have become self-aware and attempt to snuff out humanity. The game takes place two years before the events of the movie.
The player takes control of John Connor as he fights alongside fellow Resistance fighter Blair Williams in an attempt to rescue a team of soldiers trapped behind enemy lines. As John and Blair move through the remnants of what used to be Los Angeles, they engage Skynet forces in the form of T-7-T Spiders, T-600s, Skin Jobs, Aerostats, and Harvesters.
Apparently, GRIN, the developers of the game, didn't want to or couldn't shell out enough cash to get Christian Bale to appear in the game as John Connor. (His role is voiced by Gideon Emery and the character looks nothing like Bale.) On the plus side, Moon Bloodgood does lend her likeness and voice to Blair Williams. Common, who plays explosives expert Barnes in the movie, also appears in the game.
Terminator Salvation is a third-person shooter ala Gears of War and, like that game, you're able to take cover behind various objects like cars and concrete dividers. Unlike Gears of War, however, taking cover in Terminator Salvation never feels like it's working as intended. Enemies still know where you are and you still seem take some damage from their weapons. The game does employ a "quick move" function that's pretty nifty. When using cover, moving the left thumbstick in the desired direction and pressing X will allow John Connor to run or slide to the next available area of cover on the battlefield.
Scattered throughout the landscape are various guns and ammunition pick-ups. The player can find and use an M4 Assault Rifle, a shotgun, an M249 MKII machine gun, a rocket launcher, an M79 grenade launcher, hand grenades and pipe bombs. John Connor can carry two weapons at a time, along with either a quantity of grenades or pipe bombs. Switching between the weapons is done by tapping the circle button. Throwing a grenade or pipe bomb is done by pressing R1. L2 brings up an aiming reticule and R2 fires the selected weapon.
Graphically, the game looks like it was intended for the last generation of consoles instead of current generation systems. The character models move very stiffly and, when they're speaking, their mouths open and close like ventriloquist dummies'. Some of the in-game cinematics are kind of cool but many times it appears that the game is either not displaying everything that you should see or it's doing so slightly out-of-sync with the events of the story. The game would also freeze up at random times. It didn't matter if I was completing an in-game objective or simply blazing away in the heat of battle, the game would just freeze without any warning at all. Thankfully, most of the battles are followed by an automatic save point so picking up where you left off when the game freezes is pretty painless. Unnecessary, but painless.
For a game that originally cost $60, there is a very real dearth of content in Terminator Salvation. The game's single player mode features nine "chapters" and only took me 4 hours to complete. Other than the single player mode, the only other feature is an offline co-op mode. Being that there are no incentives to play the game again, such as online multiplayer or even collectibles, I'll probably never take another look at Terminator Salvation. However, since I bought it used for $13, it made for a reasonable afternoon's entertainment.
If you're a fan of the Terminator movies, like I am, then you might be willing to put up with the game's many limitations and flaws and enjoy yourself like I did. But I would be doing gamers a disservice by recommending Terminator Salvation as anything other than a rental at best.