What if we had a good Terminator game? That’s been a question ever since Bethesda developed and released The Terminator for DOS back in 1991, 5 years before Judgement Day. Whilst everyone might have their own favourite gaming interpretation, it’s fair to say that there haven’t been that many that have set the world alight, unlike Skynet’s efforts to wipe out the human race. The latest game has been developed by Teyon and published by Reef Entertainment, and despite the release timing, it has nothing to do with the latest film Dark Fate. Can the decoupling of the license from a movie tie-in provide an action packed jaunt through the Future War scenario? Or will a shoestring budget stop the studio from realising the full potential of Terminator: Resistance? There is no fate but what they make…
Set during the fight for humanity’s survival a number of years after the world has been destroyed, Terminator: Resistance has you playing as Jacob Rivers, a resistance member who finds himself saved from a T-800 in the nick of time by a mysterious stranger. The future of non-mechanical life on Earth is in the balance as the push for the destruction of the oppressive AI is in full swing. John Connor’s forces are split across north and south California as they try to find Skynet’s command core and put an end to the nightmare. Unfortunately it’s not going smoothly as the Annihilation Line gradually comes closer bringing death and destruction with it. The race is on for Rivers to reconnect with the resistance before the line reaches them, figure out who the stranger is that’s keeping him alive, avoid being killed by an infiltration unit, and help free the remaining survivors once and for all. With the odds stacked against him, he’ll need to use every trick in the book to stay alive.
What might come as a bit of a surprise is that Terminator: Resistance is more like an open world stealth game than an on-rails shooter. With the whole game set in California, several areas are selected to be freeform maps that are accessed in sequence, though are self-contained loops, and are relatively small. Each is sort of joined together by hideouts and bases, which is where the objectives for the main story and side missions are picked up. These are able to be tackled in any order when out in the field, and moving around the maps is purely down to how many enemies need avoiding and which is the easiest route to the destination. In the early stages Rivers has conventional weapons which can handle some of the AI army, but not the Terminator series. These hulks of metal are impervious to small arms fire, and this forces stealth gameplay. Creeping around the ruined landscapes, hoping to not round a corner into the sight line of a metal monster can be pretty tense.
There are a few tools to help though. One is a bit like nightvision that filters the gloom and highlights machines within a small radius. Using it means being able to see more and makes avoiding the enemies easier, but it also reduces movement speed and deactivates when offensive weapons are used. With a huge amount of scrap lying around there’s the ability to craft items so distraction devices can be created, alongside explosives like the ever trusty pipe bomb. Then there’s a hacking tool (in the form of Frogger!) which allows Jacob to take over turrets and make them friendly. If it’s not possible to take out a Terminator, it’s at least possible to fool it or get something else to do the job. It’s not too long into the journey though before energy weapons come on the scene and it’s finally possible to take the fight to the enemy on their turf.
With the open-ish level structure, NPCs that can be engaged in dialogue that in turn does have an impact on the ending of the game (as well as getting side missions from them), a steady skill tree unlock, there’s something other than simply blasting metalheads apart to focus on. That’s not to say the combat should be avoided. Sure, playing it stealthy can get the heart rate up, yet it’s infinitely more satisfying to take things head on. With no enemy respawning there’s a feel of progression through each zone, and moving around gets faster when there’s nothing hunting Jacob down. Not that it takes much to get them to stop them looking. They might be specialised human hunting robots, but they’ll give up on a search when you’ve crouched behind a car 20 feet from them. It reduces the threat somewhat in the open areas, but forces some thinking about hiding places for the narrow interiors because face-to-face they are lethal
This being part of the Terminator franchise and specifically tied to parts 1 and 2, there’s plenty for the enthusiast to pick up on. All sorts of easter eggs make an appearance: from part of the back story to the events of Kyle Reese being sent back to 1984, to choosing a dog’s name, and even to unnecessary sex scenes in the end stages of the game. The latter are weird, out of place and very much in keeping with an 80’s style action film, which Terminator: Resistance very much is; it’s just a bit odd as they don’t progress any of the plot so are completely superfluous. The low budget presentation here means the team have been pretty frugal with location design and enemy modelling, so don’t expect a lot of variety on display, and you will revisit areas, yet it manages to evoke the right feelings of trekking through a ravaged LA looking for any sort of hope that things can be changed.
Graphically it’s a bit dark and has a bland colour palette, and the character models aren’t as polished as its contemporaries, though it runs smoothly for the most part, and with an option to uncap the framerate on console. With this option ticked I saw very little performance impact until saving and loading happened in the background at the same time as enemies were getting taken out. The audio and voice acting are good too, with the former creating ambience in the deserted LA with plenty of creaks and rending metal sounds that make you think a Terminator has snuck up on you. Likewise, the NPCs put in a decent performance and there’s plenty of disastrous tales to listen to as you engage with them more. This character build works really well in establishing exactly how bad things have become and why it’s amazing that anyone has any hope left.
With the right tonality, solid if not revolutionary FPS mechanics, AI that’s menacing rather than clever, and a half decent story that pulls you along and keeps things interesting for about 10 hours, Terminator: Resistance ends up being a little bit of a surprise. It’s clearly not a AAA game, the short nature of the credits and low personnel count attests to that; but it doesn’t mean it’s a mess. Everything works even if it’s not always explained that well, there’s a lot of different gadgets and items to juggle, and some RPG-lite elements to keep building the skills. It doesn’t skimp on that side of things, and you could argue that there’s too much that’s not needed. Fans of the series will like the expanded universe, more experienced FPS gamers will find it too simplistic and lacking nuance. However, the price will be the main sticking point here, especially with the release happening alongside some of the high end titles in the run up to Christmas. It’s a good AA £30 game, not a £50 AAA title. That’s just too high a price and means that you might not be back.
A PS4 review copy of Terminator: Resistance was provided by Reef Entertainment’s PR team, and the game is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC for around £50.