Long-suffering Terminator fans have endured a series of repeated manglings of the licence at the hands of game developers who just didn?t ?get it?. Star Trek followers put up with the same abuse of their cherished license until Raven Studios built the excellent Star Trek: Elite Force on the Quake III engine four years ago, breaking a consistent chain of crappy Star Trek games. And after having suffered through Terminator: Dawn of Fate and the movie-release cash-in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, patient Terminator fans and general gamers alike have finally been rewarded with a decent title that is tough enough and worthy enough to sport the Terminator name.
At the heart of it, Terminator 3: Redemption is an arcade-style action game, successfully blending several different styles of gameplay. Portions of the game play as a third-person shooter, in which you stomp through levels as Arnold?s T-850 Model 101 Terminator, guns in hands, blasting enemy terminators of the wheeled, tracked, and multi-legged variety. You?ll engage in hand-to-hand combat, combo-fighting style, to steal weapons from (or rip the cybernetic hearts out of) enemies and commandeer stationary gun platforms and parked vehicles. And that?s where the core of the game really kicks in. Huge portions of this game are spent driving, and driving extremely fast; in some of the levels, such as those set in the post-war machine future, you?ll think you?re playing some hellish version of Outrun where you are obligated to shoot everyone you pass. The game really catches the flavor of the gun-blasting car chases from the films, and one level specifically pays homage to the harley-versus-towtruck scene from Terminator 2, where you roll after your enemy on a police cycle, shotgun in hand.
Gameplay mechanics are inventive, with the terminator?s red-monochrome ?scan vision? being a means through which to inflict extra damage through improved targeting. Since it makes things !&%$@#* ed difficult to see, in reality, the player will tend to save it for those shots where extra punch is needed, such as in boss fights. A reward system has been implemented in which points won through a level can be spent to improve features of your scan vision (longer usage time, more damage, and so on) and unlock various treats such as concept art, additional cutscene movies and cheats.
Where the money really shows is in the game?s presentation ? loving attention has been paid to recreate the feeling of a true Terminator film. Extremely good CG-animated cutscenes cleverly dovetail the game levels (and a whole additional chapter in which your terminator is thrown into a machine-dominated future where humans have been exterminated) into the storyline of the last movie, and the authentic Arnold character model (his actual voice was recorded for in-game quips and one-liners, though a voicealike-actor was used for the animated cutscenes) even recreates his body language and Terminator walk and stance. Level designs are solid and textures are clean and high-res, and sound effects and music are blended well to give a true action-film feeling. An additional bonus is a co-operative multiplayer mode, in which two players play on the same screen as a pair of helicopter gunners clearing a path through enemies for the Terminator; this gameplay mode is very reminiscent of the T2 arcade game from thirteen years ago, and gamers old enough to remember that particular quarter-driven addiction will enjoy at least a brief visit with the co-op mode in T3: Redemption.
The game is relatively short, with four story chapters each sporting four to five missions each, and it is difficult ? the Los Angeles-based missions are all exclusively driving missions, for example, and almost require you to completely memorize the level layouts and patterns of enemies if you want to survive. Adjustable difficulty levels might have been an improvement for the more casual gamer out there, as some of the missions will have you cursing in frustration as you reload the level for the twentieth attempt. The difficulty never feels ?cheap?, however, and the well-designed levels reward the player who takes alternate paths and uses the resources available to him within the game. Less emphasis on driving-based missions and more gunplay and hand-to-hand combat might have been the crowning touch on this game, but as it is, it?s still a good blend of action. And, of course, some Live support with some sort of car-combat mode would have been stellar ? racing Hunter-Killer tanks at sixty miles per hour through wrecked cities while trying to blast other players off their rides would have been magic. Still, T3: Redemption focuses on what it wants to be, and it does it very well. Terminator fans have a reason to smile, and this game is money well spent for them.