Terminator: Resistance review: a first-person shooter out of time
I'll be wack.
I played Terminator: Resistance as a slut.
This was not something I expected to be able to do in a Terminator game, and yet here we are in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, struggling to survive the war against the machines, with a right thirst on.
There are dialogue choices to make in this first-person shooter from the people behind the terrible Rambo game of 2014. At one point I was presented with the opportunity to have sex with the woman who leads the resistance faction you're fighting for. She wanted me to kill someone for her. I wasn't so sure I fancied doing that, in part because I dreaded the prospect of playing yet another mind-numbing away mission. But, she said she would make it worth my while. Then, a dialogue choice presented itself: press heart to bang (I'm paraphrasing), or walk away? Press heart to bang!
So she led me away, by the hand, to a room down the bottom of the bunker, where there was a bed. A nice bed for post-apocalyptic Los Angeles! And then, in first-person, we did it, her last-gen face all up in my grill, groaning and writhing. A minute later we finished. "You're dismissed," she said, pushing me out the door. I tried to get back in, but the door was locked. What, no time for a quick spoon?
I felt kind of bad about sleeping with the boss because all throughout the game's terrible campaign I'd had my eye on Jennifer, my one true love, a woman who found it in her heart to flirt with me minutes after she had a terrifying encounter with a metal head. Jennifer is the woman I was supposed to fall in love with. Had I cheated on her? Maybe.
And then, towards the end of the game, just before the big battle with Skynet, I tracked Jennifer down to a particularly beautiful moonlit bit of rubble. There we talked, electricity in the air (or was that a Terminator going back in time?). But I felt guilty. Just a few hours ago I'd slept with the boss. I should tell Jennifer. I should hold my hands up. But the game would not give me the option to confess. Then, a dialogue choice presented itself: press heart to bang (I'm paraphrasing again), or walk away? Press heart to bang!
Another first-person sex scene with video game graphics that wouldn't look out of place on the early days of the Xbox 360. Jennifer groaned and writhed. She took her beanie off for the occasion, which was a nice touch. Her Oblivion face and mouth moved about as if being tugged by an off camera puppeteer, and all I could think of was, is this what Kryten would look like if he was doing it? And had hair?
"I think I'll stay here for a while," she said after we'd finished. And there she lay, on her side, on the floor, rubble all around us, the moonlight spread across the concrete. She is fixed in place, like a statue. I tried jumping on her. The game wouldn't let me shoot her. Nor could I blow her up with one of my grenades. Jennifer is unmoved. What, no time for a quick spoon?
These two encounters are the only memorable bits of Terminator: Resistance - and that's because they're inexplicably cringe. The rest of the game, which leads directly into the beginning of the first Terminator movie, is so generic that it has dissolved in my memory like a Skip on my tongue. This game, clearly hamstrung by a budget the makers of Call of Duty would spend on a single explosion, reminds me of the mediocre shooters of the last generation of consoles, the Legendary: The Boxes and Turning Point: Fall of Libertys of this world. Movement is a turgid chore. The sprint feels like it's on a second delay, and there's no mantling. Shooting feels like pissing in the wind. The visuals are so dated they may in fact have come from 29th August 1997. And the Terminators... oh god, what have you done to the Terminators? These killing machines should be a terrifying AI. One alone should be enough to send a pack of resistance fighting running for their lives. The Terminators in this game walk slowly forward, shooting in your direction, and then fall down when you've painted them in enough red and purple plasma. These things are the brainchild of Skynet, an A.I. so advanced it came to the conclusion that it should nuke its creators into oblivion. They're supposed to be super smart, and yet on the battlefield they cannot flank.
There's so much about Terminator: Resistance that is so weird, too. I mean apart from the sex scenes. The skill tree system is as generic as I've seen in a video game for a long time, and I ended up unlocking all but a few of the skills by the time I finished the campaign, so what's the point of it? The lockpicking minigame is a direct rip of the lockpicking minigame from Bethesda's Fallout games. I mean, it's exactly the same. It even lets you force the lock, with a percentage chance of success tied to your lockpicking skill level. The hacking mini-game is Frogger. Frogger! And there's a character called Colin (don't worry, he's a dick).
I see what the developers were shooting for: large, semi-open world levels in which packs of Terminators patrol and tension and anxiety are around every corner. But the enemies carry so little threat you end up charging about shooting anything and everything that looks metal just to speed up proceedings. Quests involve you going out into yet another grey, ruinous environment to get something or take a picture of something else and that's about it. Side quests are clearly marked on your map. Exploration feels pointless because you learn early on that there's nothing interesting to discover. There's a tonne of crap to pick up, and at first you think, oh, perhaps there's a scavenging / survival mechanic here, but none of it matters in the end. The game wants you to consider playing stealthily, but this just prolongs the pain. Better to kill all the Terminators and their robot buddies and be done with it. When you do engage, there's little more to do than point and shoot. The boss fights, which are very video game boss fights, are uninspired. Only one mission is set in an environment that does not look like the future bits in the first two Terminator films. There's some green! Shame about the gameplay, though.
It is a surprise, I suppose, to find this Terminator game tries to set itself up as some sort of Fallout-style shooter with an emotional, character-driven story. There's a hub with NPCs to talk to, and when you return from missions the NPCs sometimes have something new to tell you about themselves. There are dialogue choices, backstories and side quests to pick up. Say the right thing and a character will appreciate it. You'll get different cutscenes and endings depending on your decisions. But it's all so generic that it's hard to care. The voice actors are doing their best but the dialogue they're working with is wooden. You play a soldier so by the numbers that even now, after playing as him for 10 hours, I cannot for the life of me remember his name.
I am hunting for positives and I guess there's decent fan service for Terminator fans. You get an Uzi 9mm. At one point you get to name a kid's dog and can pick from Max or Wolfie. You go to the hospital Sarah Connor was holed up in during the events of Terminator 2 and find a note from Dr. Silberman. One of the people the Terminators have killed during their experiments is clearly the person the T-1000 was modelled on. You even do a riff on the John Connor resistance shelter hero walk from the opening scene of Terminator 2.
And, I suppose, it's cool to see a game deal with the events that led up to John Connor sending Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor from Arnie. But these snippets of fan service cannot save Terminator: Resistance from its dark fate. The 10 at most hours it'll last you are best avoided. As I finished the campaign I thought to myself, am I nostalgic for a really shonky double-A first-person shooter from the Xbox 360 era? And then I came to my senses and realised the answer is no. No I am not. Not when it costs fifty quid.
It's a shame, too, because even as the Terminator franchise slips further into irrelevance with the release of each new movie, this universe remains perfect for video games. I'd love to see a developer do to Terminator what Creative Assembly did to Alien and create a survival horror experience where you desperately try to fend off a single Terminator as it hunts you down. Or maybe even something along the lines of the Resident Evil 2 remake, but instead of Mr. X stalking you, it's Arnie. It feels like the developers of Terminator: Resistance had this thought, too, but couldn't see it through. At the beginning of the game, when you've only got non-plasma weapons at your disposal, the T-800s carry a real threat and you're forced to play stealthily. The best level in the game, set inside a hospital in which Terminators perform horrific experiments on humans, is a stealth mission that approaches nerve-wracking. But as you progress through the campaign, level up your character and upgrade your plasma weapons, you overpower the enemies and it's downhill from there.
Ah well. A pipe dream, perhaps, unlike the nightmare that is Terminator: Resistance.