It's by the third hour that I'm starting to geniunely question whether Terminator: Resistance has time travelled from the past with a directive to murder my capacity for pleasure. Like that of Square Enix's The Quiet Man last year, it is 2019's last gasp of a video game; consistently, exhaustingly mediocre, but never bad enough to be ironically entertaining in any feasible regard.
Despite itself, I managed to play all eight hours of Terminator: Resistance through to its end (I had a mate round, we were bored... don't ask), but watching the credits roll felt like wading through the wreckage of a downed battleship, confronted by a singular question; what in the name of Kindergarten Cop happened here? I'm still trying to figure out the answer.
Terminator: Resistance is developed by Teyon, the team who previously gave us another adaptation from the 80's action scene with Rambo: The Video Game in 2014. That first-person shooter was also a famously abominable mess, so the news that the studio would be tackling Terminator for its next project wasn't particularly inspiring. Still, the game's early trailers presented something that was at least committed to invoking the DNA of its source material, and the idea of a shooter set during the Future Wars against an army of T-800s certainly sounded interesting.
The Terminator timeline explained – the events of every movie in chronological order, including Dark Fate
Unfortunately, Terminator: Resistance executes its assigned targets about as effectively as Arnie's original silent assassin, but let's start with the good stuff first, as genuine credit should be awarded to Teyon for making Resistance look, feel, and sound like the original Terminator movie of the '80s.
The authenticity is genuinely impressive, with rich visuals and a synth-heavy soundtrack that feels especially polished for an independent production. I also admire the idea of a Terminator story that, like Terminator: Dark Fate, wisely ignores the events of everything post-Judgement Day and ingrains itself into the relatively unexplored events of the Future Wars, before eventually revealing a surprising amount of connective tissue to Schwarzeneger's own adventures in present day Los Angeles.
In that regard, Terminator: Resistance is the best Terminator game I've ever played, but given the series' historically poor record when it comes to interactive entertainment, that's an admittedly low bar to clear. The majority of previous Terminator titles are cheap mobile spin-offs made specifically to capitalise on the release of each new movie, after all, while the licensed tie-in shooters for both Terminator: Salvation and Terminator: Rise of the Machines were horrendously dull in their own separate ways.
Resistance follows in that tradition, using its Hollywood license as a free pass for hopelessly generic game design, one that seems to borrow liberally from a limited pool of other titles and genres. Like that of Metro: Exodus, you'll be exploring a collection of small, open zones with different objectives scattered around the map. Similar to Telltale's The Walking Dead series, you'll travel around a desolated America amongst a band of unlikely comrades, with key story moments marked by binary decision making on the part of the player.
There's lockpicking mechanics lifted directly from the Skyrim school of stealth and subterfuge, a crafting system that wouldn't look out of place in most run-of-the-mill survival games, and not one, but two horrendously awkward first-person sex scenes that play like unexplainable leftovers from the mid-tier shovelware scene of decades past. A lot of Terminator: Resistance's writing feels like it belongs to another era too, in fact, ranging from meat-and-potatoes macho man protagonist Jacob to jokes about gingers not having souls (yes, really).
Return to sender
Despite its title, you'll spend comparatively little time actually resisting terminators in Teyon's campaign either. Much of the combat takes place against mechanised spider drones, and when the titanium terrors finally do show up, it turns out they're just as dumb and easy to kill as every other enemy you've been fighting this entire time. The relentless, all-powerful, near indestructible machines of the movies are nowhere to be seen, replaced by buttery cannon fodder that fall apart after a few well placed shots of a plasma rifle. Resistance had one of the greatest movie monsters of all time on its hands, and it endowed them with all the threat of a clay pigeon.
My biggest gripe with Resistance, then, is the same one I have with almost every other Terminator game thus far. It completely misses the point of James Cameron's original concept, which itself began life as a slasher horror following the director's fever-induced nightmare about a knife-wielding metal monster. It's worth pointing out that Bethesda's 1995 Sega Genesis title, The Terminator: Future Shock, is widely considered to be the only adaption to have successfully captured the genuine fear factor of the T-800, but video games have advanced immeasurably in the 25 years since then.
The idea of an Alien: Isolation-style survival horror experience, in which a single T-800 (programmed by cutting-edge AI) relentlessly hunts your player down across an open world, has been floated online on multiple occasions in recent years, and for good reason – it feels like a concept that would do justice to the legacy of the license. Terminator: Resistance meanwhile, has all the window dressing of the real deal, but a peek inside the shop itself displays nothing but an empty room, one devoid of the pulpy staying power of its source material.
Check out the biggest new games of 2019 still on the way, or watch the latest episode of Dialogue Options below.