Explosions! Robots! Post-apocalyptic gun battles! One of the most iconic monsters in movie history! Good grief – we haven’t the foggiest idea how the Terminator Salvation movie turned out so bad, given what it had to work with. Sadly the dubious quality of the video game comes as no surprise at all. The thing about spin-off video games, you see, is that unless they’re adapting something that’s been around for ages – like the inexplicable game versions of The Godfather and Scarface – the developer’s biggest priority is to get it out of the door as fast as possible to cash in.
And, while Terminator Salvation’s flash intro sequence may fool you into thinking that this is a high-quality product, that’s just a glossy Arnie skin stretched across a rickety metal skeleton of lazy gameplay. As human resistance fighter John Connor (Christian Bale refused to let his likeness or voice be used in the game, but given his lack of screen presence that’s no bad thing), players are tasked with blowing up the robot menace using a Gears Of War-aping system for hiding behind cover.
Sensibly, the game holds back on the actual terminators at the start, instead throwing in big spidery things and miniature planes to destroy. But these enemies are severely limited in variety and intelligence – and coupled with the ludicrously tiny and linear levels, this leads to very little opportunity for complex tactics and varied gameplay. Repetition kicks in within the first hour and doesn’t let up until the game is completed a few scant hours later. Brevity is almost a virtue, then, but only because it limits the tedium. And yet the game still manages to outstay its welcome.
The one big selling point for the Terminator Salvation game is that it is a prequel to the film, explaining the events directly prior to the flick. Which is great, except that everything that occurs in the game – beyond introducing a couple of the movie’s characters – is so utterly inconsequential that it adds nothing to the experience. Worse, the link between movie and game only accentuates the embarrassingly leaden cut-scenes, none of which ever live up to the promise of the intro. It’s hard to believe that Gears Of War offered better gameplay, more immersive graphics and infinitely more cinematic cut-scenes back in 2006. Play it once, if you must, but you won’t be back. Available in stores.