Game Review: Terminator Resistance
Honest question: how long has it been since something good came out of the Terminator franchise? To me, 18 years (never watched the Sarah Connor Chronicles). That’s right, mid 2003 gave us Terminator 3 which was the worst Terminator movie ever made…at the time. While it’s not a great movie, it is mostly passable, and it doesn’t disrespect the franchise lore too much. Arnold makes a comeback, and the action is entertaining. Every Terminator movie since has failed to recapture what made the original films so great and has fallen deeper and deeper into the Hollywood thinktank that releases soulless, increasingly woke sequels for quick cash. Given everything I just wrote, it is understandable that I went into the game Terminator Resistance with absolutely zero expectations.
Tech stuff first, I played Terminator Resistance: Enhanced Edition on PS5 in performance mode, which has a frame target of 60fps at 4K. In outdoor areas, the game largely hits that target. In indoor spaces, especially when fire is present, it struggles hard. This game chugs terribly in corridor settings when terminators are present. As far as the resolution goes, it probably is 4K most of the time. The image is very sharp and crisp. But high resolution alone does not make good graphics. Terminator Resolution runs on Unreal 4, which is a robust game engine capable of producing near photorealistic graphics. Terminator Resistance does not come close to pulling this off. The game visuals look like they came from a cross generation game, which it is, but not this current cross generation. PS3 to PS4/ Xbox 360 to Xbox One cross generation visual quality is exactly what we have here.
Terminator Resistance is a first-person shooter but is also an RPG. The shooting mechanics are similar to that of Call of Duty but leans heavily towards stealth. By that, I mean it is not a run and gun style action game. You can’t really dodge incoming attacks, you are not very fast and Terminators literally have robot aim, so you need to take cover. In the early game, it is often best to sneak around enemies rather than engage them in combat. The stealth is pretty basic, mostly based around line of sight. Thankfully, despite being robots, terminators have a rather short memory. If you are detected, you can run and hide and the terminators will stop pursuing you and go back to minding their own business after a while. There are light survival mechanics, crafting & healing items a plenty, as well as a quartermaster who you can buy gear from. Dialogue is a big focus and your choices do affect how the story plays out. Ripped straight from Fallout, the end game narrator reveals how certain in game choices affected characters after the credits roll.
For the reasons above, most game critics hated this game and you might think I do too. Poor performance, dated visuals, and lack of original gameplay ideas is an automatic 6 or 5 out of 10 for the guys who get paid to do this. But this game is a classic example of the disconnect between game journalists and the actual gamers. It is a lot like cult classic movie scores on Rotten Tomatoes (see Event Horizon), the audience has a generally favorable score where the critics hated it. Come to think of it, my favorite games from the PS3/ Xbox 360 era were Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, and Skyrim. All three of them looked rough up close and performed horribly by modern standards. Frame drops, stuttering, screen tearing up the wazoo. What makes a game great goes far beyond presentation. I often wonder if critics complete their reviews with some generic form. Don’t check enough boxes and it gets poor scores. Game has no soul but looks pretty and runs well, A+. I encourage you to read these reviews and try to tell me that I’m wrong, but I don’t think you’ll come away with that opinion. I enjoyed this game quite a bit. It is not a masterpiece, not by a longshot, but I do think it’s worth your time and hard-earned money despite some obvious flaws.
Teyon is a small development studio. They do not have the same budget as Activision studios or developers owned by EA, especially for a game that is tied to a movie IP. For this reason, graphics and performance are not up to par with AAA games of this generation. Gameplay itself is really nothing groundbreaking either. It has all been done before and done better, but this studio absolutely accomplished what they set out to do. They made a fun game that immerses you in the terminator universe while paying homage to the original movies.
The first thing this game gets right is the setting and atmosphere. The Terminator universe is not a bright and cheery place. It is a gritty warzone with destroyed buildings, rubble, and terminator strongholds. It is an extremely accurate depiction of the glimpses of the future war you get in Terminator 1. There is an abundance of that oh so nostalgic 1980’s retro future sci-fi tech. Low-fi computers, pixelated thermal vision, purple and red plasma firing guns are all here in full force. Teyon did not take any creative liberties with enemy design either. The terminators you fight look and even act exactly like their 1980’s movie counterparts. Top it all off with a 1980’s esq score and you feel like you are in the Terminator universe.
The next thing this game gets tight is the main character. You are a resistance soldier in a war against merciless killing machines (literally). You make choices to try to save the people you care about, and they are often difficult ones. Do you save the doctor by lying to her about her husband being alive, or tell her the truth and doom her to a horrible death? Do you risk life and limb to retrieve toys for the only child in your camp? Do you get your mechanic friend kicked out by revealing that he isn’t qualified to be there to save him, or do you cover for him to save your friendship? You have very human choices to make that have dire consequences for the world you occupy. Being a normal human soldier has gameplay implications. You are not the Doom Slayer, Master Chief, or Kratos. You can’t tear robots apart with your bare hands, eat plasma for lunch, or out sprint enemy rockets. You need to take cover, pick your battles, and scavenge all available resources to get by. As you progress, you learn how to take out terminators more efficiently, how to efficiently craft resources, and manage your health, but you are never in a power fantasy scenario, perfectly encapsulating what being in the resistance would have been like in Terminator 1.
While it is not groundbreaking, the gameplay itself is passable. It plays like a hybrid of Fallout 3 and Call of Duty. You scavenge, sneak, talk to NPCs to flesh out their stories and gain side quests circa Fallout but the shooting is the responsive cover based stop and pop of Call of Duty. Neither element is as good as its inspiration, but the combination is fun enough to keep you engaged. As much as I like movement and skill-based shooters, this was the right call. You are not meant to play like a terminator, you are the resistance. While this may not be the most innovative approach, it is the most immersive.
Any good movie tie-in needs to have fan service. Terminator Resistance delivers in spades. You hear about John Connor throughout the entire game, but you meet him at the end and complete the last mission together. The end game monologue mentions Kyle Reese, the real protagonist of Terminator 1, and Arnold’s Terminator character being sent back in time, exactly how it happens in the movies. You encounter terminators with plasma miniguns, a clear reference to the iconic Arnold scene in Terminator 2, and you can even use the same style shotgun. What Terminator Resistance does not do is fan fiction. You don’t team up with Arnold to stop the war from happening, become a cyborg terminator hunter, or take over SkyNet. The developers respect the franchise too much to do so, even though it is often the easy thing to do. They created their own story without contradicting the pre established lore of the franchise.
In totality, Terminator Resistance is a quality Terminator experience. This is something the fans have been lacking since 2003. It is an immersive love letter to the Terminator 1 & 2 that is ultimately fun to play. Made by a small studio with a limited budget, this easily could have been a dumpster fire, but they managed to build something greater than the sum of its parts. I give it a 7 out of 10, it has flaws but it is worth your time. If you like Terminator, this is a must. For a price tag of 25-35 dollars, it is worth a purchase if you are into games like Fallout, Rage, or older Call of Duty games. It is not for everyone, but it was certainly for me.