The ingredients to make a respectable first person shooter should come from the finest sources. You need a fresh storyline, strong, memorable characters, sweet weapons, unique environments, and a pinch or two of really cool sound and graphics. Unfortunately for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, a few of these ingredients were left out. Not to say it's inedible, it just has a rather funny aftertaste. It just goes to show that the number of chefs you have in the kitchen doesn't always guarantee a great product.
The Terminator franchise is beloved by many, including myself. The first two movies are considered classics by most sci-fi fans, so it was no wonder there was some speculation as to whether the third installment would be anything more than a forgettable summer popcorn flick-- especially without the former director. Well, if you've seen the movie then you no doubt have your own opinion about it. Apparently, Atari loved the whole idea, so they signed on to publish the videogame based on the movie to coincide with the release of Terminator 3 on DVD. Not to place all their eggs in one basket, they recruited the help of no less than four development houses to work with them. The resulting product is somewhat of a disappointment and consists mainly of some mish-mash FPS elements, more CGI than you can shake a plasma rifle at, and lots of real-time scenes from the movie, along with a few sparse third-person fighting missions, usually against the T-X Terminator.
The story doesn't follow the movie all that closely, and in fact, if you've not seen the film you may well be lost, finding yourself playing the game just to play the game, having no sense of why your doing anything. Admittedly though, you really don't need much of a story here, as the game in large part just has you shooting Terminators and various other robotic enemies, while running from point A to point B. The story also takes place in the past, where you'll find your typical array of shotguns, rifles, and mini-guns. However, artillery is the most fun in the future, where you'll find plasma rifles, hydrogen bombs, and other cool widgets. You play, for the first time in history, as Arnold Schwarzenegger in arguably his most popular role as the T-850 Terminator, which is definitely one of the biggest redeeming qualities in the entire game.
I'll admit; this is one repulsive-looking game. The post-apocalyptic future is especially so, with drab washed out colors and hardly a sense of where one wall ends and another begins. Objects blend in with one another, and the only way to spot some tiny hole in the wall that you have to squeeze through is via a lot of squinting, which will undoubtedly give you a migraine before long. The enemy models are pretty poor, and most of the Terminators just stand there shooting at you until you mow them over with something. The enemy model animations are stiff and clumsy, and there is a serious lack of variation to them throughout the game.
The weapons themselves are pretty cool, especially ones of the future, and there seems to be quite an abundance of them scattered throughout the levels. It's the ammo you have to worry about. In some places, ammo is in short supply, so you'll find yourself running helpless in the Terminator infested streets looking for some, all the while getting pelted by high-flying robotic laser blasts, which will have you cussing all the way to your grave. Don't think for a second you can rely on your squad of teammates either, as they're about as helpful as a dead corpse. Hit detection is a little off as well, as I can be standing and blasting away at point blank range of a Terminator and not be able to touch him, having to push back about a foot or two before it drops.
The sound effects are decent for the weaponry, and are convincing and pretty effective. Laser blasts and explosions sound as realistic as you would imagine. The dialog is fairly tight, and the voice-over work is solid, thanks in large part to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who voiced his own character. However, all you hear from him in the entire game are one-liners such as fantastic?, excellent?, and affirmative?, so it gets extremely repetitive. How many times do you really need to hear Arnold Schwarzenegger say lock and load?, I mean, really? The music is okay, and you do get to hear the Terminator theme song, but not in the actual game, which is disappointing.
There are a handful of missions where you get to fight the T-X Terminator via fisticuffs, but they are short-lived. It's a shame too, because by the time I was doing some hand to hand combat I was so relieved to be doing something other than shooting robots that it was actually relaxing. No matter, as you only have a very limited variety of attacks to use anyhow. One of those fight missions happens atop a moving crane, which was a rather exceptional mission, despite it being extremely short. In fact some of the missions in the game are so short you wonder why it's even a mission at all. Speaking of being short, the game won't take you long to beat, as I soared through the first eighteen of twenty-two levels in around three hours, and I'm not the greatest when it comes to first person shooters.
To round it all off, there are some bonus features to unlock, including a couple of arcade classics in Centipede and Missile Command, and some boring movie stills and photo's, which aren't really worth unlocking, since you can see all of that stuff on the actual DVD. It does include a playable demo of Terminator: Redemption, if you want more of the same.
Yet despite its many flaws, I was strangely connected to this game. Maybe it was the very well done CGI cut scenes, or maybe it was just the fact that I was finally getting to play as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines leaves a lot to be desired for sure, but does have some redeeming qualities that will appeal to Terminator and FPS fans alike. If you can get past the general ugliness of the graphics and some stiff animations, you'll find a decent FPS to waste some time with. However, rent this one before purchasing. You've been warned.