For all its credentials, Skynet may be the least-evil sounding world-dominating AI ever conceived. The defense supercomputer did pancake the Earth with nukes and release an army of roboskeletons to kill us all, but we still think it sounds kind of like a British cell phone service.
Intimidating or not, you’ll fight Skynet head-on in Terminator Salvation, a game prequel to the upcoming film aimed at establishing the movie’s backstory. You play as John Connor, savior-in-training of the human resistance force as it retakes a ruined Los Angeles. In co-op, a second player joins as Blair, John’s apocalypse arm candy voiced by actress Moon Bloodgood.
Like GRIN’s other movie game (Wanted: Weapons of Fate) or a Transporter sequel, Terminator centers itself on being an attractive but straightforward third-person action title. The dev’s vision for post-nuke LA includes a lot of grassy patches crawling over a ruined cityscape, which really pops compared to the bevy of broken concrete we’ve seen in the destroyed world genre. In combat, Salvation leans on its cover system. Most encounters mean duck-rolling into protection, then blasting our shotgun at packs of flying aerostat scout ships or T-70s: crab-walking minigun bots that are one of the enemies unique to the game.
A bit of blind firing, leapfrogging between scenery, and lobbing EMP grenades, and we were on our way to the next skirmish. If you’ve got Gears of War in the back of your head, you’re not far off - Connor and Blair are accompanied by two squadmates for most of the campaign; presentation details like tapping a button to snap the camera on an explosion or event in the distance evoke Epic’s shooter more than a little.
As did the on-rails sections GRIN demoed for us. The first we saw slapped Connor behind a Jeep-mounted turret to bring a hunter-killer gunship to the ground by targeting its engines and weapon systems. On another, we stood at the back of a modified passenger train, flicking RPGs at moto-terminators with Blair while the robobikes tried to overtake our caboose. Watching our teammate fire and reload her RPG beside us made the section feel a little bit like a lightgun arcade game against the shooting gallery of speedy terminators.
Engaging moments like these seemed sparser than we’d hoped in Salvation, and we have a feeling its quality will come down to the mission variety GRIN is able to pack in. Since we don’t have the time-traveling energy spheres to find out if it’ll end up as another by-the-numbers movie game, we’ll hold out hope that Salvation’s solid art direction hints at the attention to detail we’ll see in May.
+ GRIN’s worked closely with the movie’s art directors to forge a visual style that matches the film, and having much of the movie’s voice talent on-hand should grant it some authenticity; cooperative campaign play sounds better than a forced competitive multiplayer mode.
– A speedy development schedule lined up for the film’s release might limit what GRIN is able to do. The build we viewed showed off only a handful of weapons and enemy types.
Feb 11, 2009