Release Date: November 18, 2003
The Terminator trilogy has spawned a number of console and arcade video games, most notably the light gun shooter based on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. None of these games were anything special, though they did fairly well sales-wise. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that - regardless what Terminator fans think about this - when the public at large thinks of The Terminator movies, they think of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not a single Terminator game has featured Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role, even though he was on the side of the good guys in the second film - until now, that is. The new Terminator 3 games all feature "The Governator" (overused joke… I know) as the main character! Still, star-power may make this game sell wonderfully, but it has almost no weight on the quality of the gameplay. Let's take a look at how it stacks up.
The game doesn't do much to explain the current setting of the series, as the developers obviously crafted this game for an audience that has already seen the film on which it is based. If you haven't seen the movie but (for some reason) want to play the game, I recommend you keep your video game spending money in your pocket and go rent the movie. I didn't see the movie when I picked up this game, which did a lot to keep me from fully enjoying it. It is not very story driven, but it is more enjoyable to know when references to the film are being made. I'm going to make my intentions with this review very clear right here: there isn't much else to keep you playing this game.
Rise of the Machines is yet another blurry, awkward isometric Gameboy Advance release. Frankly, I am becoming extremely aggravated with the seemingly constant stream of quickly thrown together isometric GBA games hitting the market in the past few years. Games based on movie licenses seem to be the most notorious offenders in the isometric category, Rise of the Machines being one of those games.
The controls do what these games almost always do - badly mimic 3d first person shooter-style controls. Rise of the Machines gives you three different modes of controlling your character, toggled by pressing the L button: Run, Strafe, and Walk. The Run Mode is by far the most useful of the three, as the game is much too fast paced to use either of the two latter modes. As a matter of fact, Strafe and Walk are so thoroughly useless I'm not sure why Atari even included them. Since the game does not feature a very solid method of aiming at enemies, strafing is ineffective if you plan on destroying the enemy you are evading and walking is much too slow to use at any point in the game - the Run Mode isn't especially fast in the first place.
The game is very simple in presentation: an arrow points the way to the next objective. You, playing as "Ahhnold" (a Terminator), kill everything that gets in the way of your objectives. The formula doesn't stray from this formula one bit, which makes the game feel like nothing more than a fetch-quest with guns. At least Animal Crossing had insane characters to keep you interested while you were doing mundane virtual "chores" - Rise of the Machines has flat, boring characters telling you where to run off to next.
Before each mission, a briefing explains a few details about what is going on, and while these are very well made, they aren't too relevant to the game itself. The objectives are so simple, you don't need to pay attention to a word of any of this games' mission assignments. Besides, if you haven't seen the movie, these briefings won't make an ounce of sense in the first place! Atari (as always) seems to be fairly honest with their intentions: get the game thrown together, make sure everybody who saw the movie buys it. They aren't trying to make something that's extremely fun to play here, they want to cash in on a lucrative license.
Rise of the Machines looks like every other isometric action game on the Gameboy Advance: slightly blurry environments and extremely blurry character sprites. The feel of the movie is not captured in the game very well at all, except in the well-drawn portraits of the characters. Unlike many other movie-to-game conversions, there are no shots taken directly from the movie to be found here. I am glad Atari chose this approach to the character portraits, as faces taken directly from films almost always feel out of place in video games; this is especially true on the Gameboy Advance.
The sound is nothing special. None of the music does much to stick out, as it is all boring, repetitive, and very poorly made. This is yet another Gameboy Advance game that pretends we're still in the mid-1990s music-wise. Konami's Castlevania series has shown us what is possible sonically on the GBA, so why haven't other developers become wise to what the system can do? Actually, I can answer that: sales show that the public at large could care less what a game sounds like. It's sad, but it's the way of things, I guess. The sound effects, at least, are somewhat up to par, but they could be better. It's amazing how many times gunshot sounds have been used in video games, yet on the GBA, developers still use silly muffled popping sounds to represent a bullet firing from a barrel - Rise of the Machines gets the sound done nicely. Perhaps it could be improved, but with the obviously low production values of this game, I shouldn't be expecting much more.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is yet another Atari-published game based on a movie license; yet another badly made isometric Gameboy Advance game; yet another below-average action game. Why developers don't put their hearts into what they create, I'll never know. It's obvious that Rise of the Machines was not a labor of love. Perhaps in the future, when games are much easier to develop and all gaming platforms have evened out technology-wise, the developers will be forced to shine in order to get sales. Today, this is not the case, and I'm sure Rise of the Machines, as bad of a game as it is, will do wonderfully on the charts. Such is the way of things.
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