Developer: Black Ops
Release Date: November 11, 2003
In retrospect, it's probably all my fault.
Upon first booting up Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, I noticed that a 20-minute video feature was included, showcasing the creation process of the game. I decided to watch it, and as I did so, I let it hook me. The authentic voice-casting, the wonderful looking CGs, the ambition conveyed by the developers and the stars to tell an actual story encompassing the movie and then some…
…blocky-looking fighting system and muddy FPS gameplay shots that would only be shown for one-point-five seconds in between CGs and interviews…
…okay, those looked pretty horrid. But they couldn't constitute the entire game, could they?
Yep. This is all my fault.
It's all my fault, because I refused to believe the little voice in the back of my head that was screaming, "Hey! You're going to be seeing that for 90% of the game! Turn back now! Now! Before the consequences make themselves known!"
The little voice in my head is never wrong, you know. However, I defied it, and I paid a most heavy price. After two hours of play, I was physically ill. I do not joke, I do not kid about this. I had a horrible headache, and was slightly nauseous; and this was with my television's brightness setting turned up almost as far as it could go. Ugh.
At any rate, T3 is a first-person shooter which aims to "meld" this genre with fighting games. (To "meld", in this case, means to interrupt the normal FPS gameplay in order to tack on mini-fight sequences, and go back to the shooting when the sequence is over. 100% scripted, 100% predictable. Yee-haw.) You play as the Terminator himself; yes, himself, the one voiced by Arnold, the old T-850 model; not ever as the good Terminator, the T-X, the one that made the movie unique. Still, playing as the old clunky model adds a good amount of challenge-or so you would think.
Arnold is given a variety of weapons, in the starting missions of the game, that can easily cause mass destruction with a single shot. Challenge is minimal as you blast through with plasma rifles, chainguns, electricity guns, sub-machine guns, and multi-rocket launchers; use SAM (surface to air missile) launchers on ground targets, and use pulse rifles that can kill just about anything (think BFG9000, only without the mess and blinding green flash). This is all on the game's default difficulty setting. Whether or not this is due to the fact that the first bundle of nausea-inducing missions are set in the technological, post apocalyptic future Los Angeles, or simply a case of weapon design overkill, is anyone's guess. However, it makes for some very repetitive gameplay, as all you must do is auto-target and shoot as quickly as possible, at targets that pop like bubbles. (On the plus side, I now know what a graphically juiced up rendition of Ken's Labyrinth would now be like; not that I ever cared to begin with.)
Oh, you will get hit, but there is little strategy in making sure you don't. The few times you will get hit will be when you're facing overwhelming odds, such as fighting multiple tanks by yourself.
Upon first glance-as well as several subsequent ones--T3 wants to be Halo very, very badly. It shares roughly the same control scheme, modified to suit a player's extra needs, right down to pressing R2 to fire your weapon.
The bad news is, nobody told the developers that using a shoulder button to jump is a pretty bad idea. The good news is, the controls are configurable. The worse news is, no matter what buttons you switch around, everything's pretty clunky; shifting your point of view can be done a very disorienting light-speed; and, in 95% of cases, all you need to know is how to use the auto-targeting button, which either makes fights really easy or really frustrating depending on which weapon you're using at the time. Some weapons don't like auto-targeting, you see, and will continue to misfire unless you aim manually. Oh, it's a wonderful world.
The game does contain a rather nifty feature: "Terminator Vision". By pressing the Select button, you can see the world through a Terminator's eyes, with all the statistics flying around regarding what objects you look at. Sadly, this is useless when trying to actually fight foes; it's best used to see thorough smoke, which there isn't much of.
The game takes place in muddy-looking environments that hurts one's eyes. The level design still gives me nightmares; it is nigh-impossible to find your next objective without looking at the map screen, which will point out the exact position you need to proceed to by way of a little tiny star on the map schematic. Without this star, you will be forever lost, because caverns, tunnels, and entryways are hard to find due to the fact that everything looks like backdrop. Everything.
What do I mean by this? I mean that there will be a tiny inconspicuous looking door on the far side of a room, that looks like it's part of a wall-wait! It magically opens when you go near it! Wait a second! The passageway you've been looking for is directly around the corner from a pile of rubble that looks like it's been pasted onto the polygon textures--or maybe even the landscape itself! Who'd have thought? I was truly wishing for an option to let me move around while the map screen was on, simply so I didn't have to do so much looking around myself and straining my eyes to see whether or not Obscure Little Corner Number 12 was where I was supposed to be headed.
You want music? No, you don't. Everything's generic action meanderings as far as background music goes, and it's barely noticeable. Your music, instead, will be the bangs and rattles of a hundred weapons from both you and your enemies. I hope you like that, because it'll be sticking with you for a long time.
The game tries to go out of its way to provide "replay value"; however, they're all forgettable still pictures, the occasional video, and hidden copies of two old Atari games, including Missile Command, which I found in a hidden building that I'd accidentally blown up.
The game allowed me to take a quick breather from, you know, saving the future, to let me play it. I'm glad it did, because I then found out that Missile Command is more fun than T3, and much, much easier on my eyes. After twenty minutes of playing it, I finally decided to get back to the game, whereupon I was instantly blinded by horrible textures again.
I have a confession to make: I never made it to the past. I never got to the time machine, therefore John Connor will have to get himself out of trouble. Perhaps the T-X accepts bribes; that's all I the advice I can give him at this point. After about six (Five? Seven? Time and mission boundaries are both meaningless in this title, it would seem) "prequel" missions and God-knows-how-many "objectives" and fetch/rendezvous quests, I couldn't take it anymore. The game will not be entering my PS2 again.
If this picks up after I get to the past, I apologize. I apologize, that is, for the fact that somebody has to play upwards of ten agonizing missions just to start playing the movie that the game was based on-something that someone buying this product might actually care about. Fighting the forces of Skynet could have been a great bonus, or a great way to extend the story; I don't disagree with this. But when the execution is this painful to experience… no. Just no.
This is a great game to give to somebody you don't like.
It's Revenge In A Box.
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