Dawn of Fate is a cinematic masterpiece. Every moment of the game is
saturated with a brooding, ominous, downright scary atmosphere. The
levels are punctuated with finely rendered cut scenes that immerse you
in the futuristic nightmare world of the film. For Terminator fans, this
could have been the game that made us a part of one of the greatest
sci-fi stories of all time. If only the game itself wasnt absolutely
The story is
that of humanitys final showdown with Skynet. You must face down HKs,
hordes of endos, and fully disguised infiltrator cyborgs in order to get
Kyle Reese to the time displacer so that he can travel back to 1984, act
like a lunatic, get arrested, save Sarah Connor, and father a
revolution. Reeses allies in this fight are Justin Perry, a tattooed
uber-soldier; Catherine Luna, an armored femme fatale; Alexander Stone;
and the man himself, John Connor.
In terms of
presentation, this game is working overtime. The developers went to
great lengths to accurately portray the somewhat cheesy, low-budget, yet
thoroughly awesome post-apocalyptic landscape James Cameron created in
the first film. This is it, from the sleek HK design with their purple
laser beams to the skulls crunching beneath the treads of tanks.
hurt that the graphics are terrific. The quality of the cut scenes takes
this game to a level that challenges the special effects of the film.
And these aren't your typical between-level flash and sizzle cinematics.
They are story driven scenes that are peppered throughout the game. The
in-game characters and environments are quite good. Special effects like
lighting, shadows, laser blasts, explosions, the sheen on the metal endo-skeletons,
are all impressive. The only drawback I can think of is Reeses head.
The programmers werent allowed to use the likeness of either Arnold
Schwarzenegger or Michael Bein, but they went a little too far when they
traded in Reeses movie star good looks for a grizzled freak sporting a
Dragonball Z knockoff hairdo.
The sound is
top shelf. First of all, they incorporated the original theme music into
the game. It says something that this familiar, foreboding, electronic
score, along with a big T and a number in a teaser trailer can get
your blood pumping, and it makes all the difference here. Also, the
voice acting is very solid, lending credibility to the story.
atmosphere is amplified by the twitchy, ammunition-starved gameplay that
makes you wary of what lies around every corner. The gameplay, in
theory, is actually fairly well conceived. It is a third person action
shooter with ten massive levels. You begin each mission with a few
simple goalsescorting John Connor through a war zone, for example.
Then, through exploration or contact with other characters, you add more
taxing assignments, all while taking on an onslaught of merciless
machines. There are several kinds of weapons and explosives at your
disposal, and adrenaline boosts when you need a temporary rush of power.
At the end of each level you are able to use Skynet Tech Points that are
acquired in the field to purchase upgrades to your health, armor, ammo,
The game all
but disintegrates on the level of gameplay execution, however. Every
level of performance is flawed, beginning with a horrible camera system.
The game tries to implement a fixed position camera like that of
Resident Evil, but cant make it work at all. The levels are divided
into way too many angles, which are all extremely limited. I swear that
nine times out of ten I couldnt even see the enemies that were
attacking me. This is unacceptable in any situation, but it is
especially brutal in a twitch-fest action game like this. The camera
angles are also extremely incongruous. One shot will often be followed
by its exact opposite perspective. So, you can be walking down the hall,
pressing forward on your analogue stick when poof, the camera jumps to
the other side, forward becomes backward, and you run into a wall. Or
worse, you are running away from a group of robots when the camera
shifts and you inadvertently turn around and run right into them.
There are two
methods of target acquisition in the game and neither one works
particularly well. There is the lock-on method, which lets you lock onto
a target and hold it while you dodge and strafe. Problem is it never
locks onto the target you want. More often than not it will lock onto a
guy across the hall while the guy right in front of your face is beating
you senseless. Sometimes it will even lock onto an enemy that is
protected by an obstacle, who you cant possibly hit anyway. Letting go
and pressing the button again will not necessarily move your reticule to
the next target, either. The other method is switching to a fixed first
person perspective, but it is too slow and unresponsive to do much good.
insult to injury, the game really doesnt follow the same logic as the
action in the movie, either. If Reese couldnt take out a single
Terminator on his own, you wouldnt expect him to survive being trapped
in a room with a dozen of them. I know; an action game like this pretty
much requires that you do battle with multiple opponents, but couldnt
the programmers have used the actual infiltrators a little more
sparingly? They are just way too easy to take out. Consider that your
characters have hand-to-hand combat moves and carry plasma batons. The
plasma baton, which is basically a glorified cattle prod, can kill a
Terminator with only a few hits--or one good stab if the robot is down.
You can knock one on its can with a good sweep kick, then stab it with
your little electric stick and the fight is over. Imagine how exciting
that movie would be: Reese travels back in time, kills the Terminator in
two swift moves, knocks up Sarah, celebrates with a burger and fries.
The Xbox and
PS2 versions of Dawn of Fate are virtually identical, with no difference
in levels or special features. The only differences are those that we
have come to expect from the two systemsthe PS2 suffers from a loss in
textures, a slow down in frame rate when the action gets crowded, and
longer load times. The Xboxs processing power and hard drive win every
I wish I could recommend this game for Terminator fans who would at
least want to experience the story. However, as is the case with so many
other prequels, I believe the back-story involving the defeat of Skynet
works better as exactly thata back-story. After all, when you remove
Sarah Connor from the story, as love interest or mother figure, it loses
its heart. Kyle Reese and John Connor become stone-faced soldiers,
servants to the war against the machines. How involving can it be to
watch cold-hearted warriors face off against soulless robots and an
advanced AI computer? Theres little in the way of the human condition
to latch onto here. And when you mix that with a camera system that
makes walking in a straight line impossible, a targeting system that
actually wants to kill you, and a combat system that works against the
driving dynamic of the story, Terminator: Dawn of Fate becomes, in a