Released: 15 November 2019
Developer: Dlala Studios and Rare
Also Available For: PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5
The Terminator franchise (Various, 1984 to 2019) has quite a long history with videogame adaptations; every film in the franchise has been adapted to at least one videogame over the years and the franchise even crossed over with RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987) back in the day. Just as the movie rights continually get shopped around Hollywood, so too have the videogame rights done the rounds in the industry; in 2013, though, Reef Entertainment purchased the Terminator rights and their original plan was to create a videogame tie-in to the classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991). Poland-based developers Teyon came onboard to develop the game which, after a delayed North American release, was met with generally unfavourable reviews.
On August 29th, 1997, computer defence system Skynet became self-aware and initiated a massive nuclear strike against humanity, who form a fragmented resistance under the command of John Connor. After his entire unit is wiped out by a mysterious new infiltration unit, a T-800 Terminator, Resistance fighter Private Jacob Rivers is forced to ally himself with scavengers to survive and reunite with the Resistance and continue opposing their mechanical enemy.
Terminator: Resistance is a first-person shooter (FPS) in which you are placed in the role of Private Jacob Rivers, a Resistance fighter in the war against the machines in a war-ravaged future. Unlike many FPS protagonists, Rivers can actually talk, which greatly helps to flesh out the story and his characterisation, which is also dictated by the choices you make during the story.
In terms of controls, it’s all pretty standard FPS fare: A allows you to jump (which is mainly to clear some low obstacles or to hop out of some glitchy parts of the environment), B puts you into a stealthy crouch, Y sees you swinging a metal pipe in a melee attack, and you can press in the left analogue stick to run indefinitely. It takes some time for you to acquire a firearm but, once you do, you can hold the Left Trigger to aim, press in the Right Trigger to fire, and use Y to reload and, in a nice change of pace, you can hold up to four weapons at any one time. You can also throw a variety of explosives and other weapons by pressing the Right Bumper and bring up the weapon wheel with the Left Bumper to switch weapons on the fly (though be warned as this doesn’t pause the in-game action so it does leave you vulnerable).
The first portion of the game is extremely light on combat and is focused more on stealth, survival, and scavenging; Rivers can pick up a whole bunch of junk (or “Trade Resources”) and other items that are used in the game’s rudimentary crafting system to create explosives, Medkits, ammo, and other items but, while it is worth searching high and low and all around to find these items, you can only carry so many in your inventory and, to be honest, I never really found myself lacking for ammo and Medkits and such. In the early going, though, your greatest ally (besides your trust metal pipe) is your ability to stay out of sight; Skynet’s machines will detect you if they spot or hear you, so you must sneak around them and keep an eye on the Motion Detector bar if you don’t want to get into a fight. It’s easy enough to pick off the small Spider Scouts but, when the T-800s come onto the scene, you won’t stand a chance and they’ll hunt you down relentlessly, smashing through doors and choking the life out of you if you’re not careful.
To aid you in getting about during these vulnerable times, you can press in the right analogue stuck to use the Ultravision Goggles, which let you see through walls to a limited extent, point our nearby machines, and show you their health and current weapon (though, annoyingly, you can neither attack or run while using these goggles). You can also enter vents to get around, close and barricade doors to slow the machines down, and toggle a torch (or “flashlight” for you Americans) by pressing down on the directional-pad (D-Pad). A helpful mini map is located in the very clean and limited heads-up display (HUD) and you can bring up a bigger map of the immediate area, and a list of your current objectives and side quests and such, by pressing ‘Select’.
Eventually, you do acquire firearms which, like the enemies you encounter, start small and ramp up as the game progresses; you start off with a pistol and a shotgun battling smaller machines or drones, before eventually acquiring the iconic Phase Plasma Rifle and battling variations of the T-800s. Every time you destroy a machine, complete side quests or missions, or find notes and Skill Books you can increase your skills by spending experience points (XP) on one of three skill trees: Combat (which increases your stealth and allows you to utilise better, more powerful weapons), Science (where you can increase your lockpicking, crafting, and hacking skills), and Survival (which increases the size of your inventory, your health bar, and how quickly you level-up). The maximum level you can reach is twenty-eight and you’ll need to reach level twenty-four to unlock everything but, as long as you stay the course and engage enemies and complete your quests, that’s pretty easy to do.
Once you become better equipped, your combat options become much more versatile and you can be much more proactive against the machines. Still, you can’t just go in all guns blazing against rooms full of T-800s and may have to content with multiple different enemies in a single environment, meaning you’ll have to switch between staying out of sight of HK-Aerials, picking off Silverfish with your sound decoys, and blasting T-800s in the face from behind or around cover. If worst comes to worst, though, you can always try to run past enemies but a lot of the time your objectives are directly tied to clearing areas of enemies. Luckily, other Resistance fighters are often on hand to offer back-up (or be invulnerable human shields) but make sure they don’t steal your kills (and, thus, your XP in the process).
It’s not all sneaking about and combat, though; often you’ll need to use a lockpick to open doors. Lockpicks can be found and crafted and you’ll need a lot of them as they tend to break on the harder games and because the controls are so finicky; basically, you have to rotate each analogue stick to find the sweet spot, which can be tough the first few times but then either you eventually get into the rhythm or the game just decides to let you win (though you can also try to force the lock, which is generally easier despite the higher risk of the pick breaking). You’ll also make use of a hacking device to hack turrets (which is super useful as they’ll attack other machines on your behalf) or open doors, especially in Skynet bases and facilities; these mini games are basically a horizontal version of Frogger (Konami, 1981) and see you moving a small, 8-bit dot across moving pathways while avoiding collisions.
One of the big mechanics of Terminator: Resistance is the emphasis on story and character interactions; you’ll talk to a wide variety of non-playable characters, from scavengers to children and other Resistance fighters and commanders, all of whom have their own stories and opinions. Often, you’ll be asked to pick from a couple of options and what you choose depends on how close your relationships with these characters grow and the endings you’ll get. As there are no Achievements tied to these interactions, you can simply skip through all the dialogue and pick whatever you want and the only real consequence will be that some characters live, die, or fuck you depending on how well you do. These NPCs will also set you optional side quests, which are generally easy enough to accomplish so it’s worth taking the time to complete them if only to take in more of the game’s environments and earn some more XP; in fact, there’s only one point where you absolutely will fail one of two side quests as you’re given the option of killing a man or sparing him, which is a bit of a black mark on your record.
Graphics and Sound:
In many ways, Terminator: Resistance does a fantastic job of recreating the look, feel, and atmosphere of the Future War scenes of the first two Terminator movies; environments are a mess, with bodies, skulls, debris, wreckage, and smashed up cars and buildings all over the place. Every area is a bleak, desolate location where humanity is holding on by the skin of its teeth, with rundown interiors, gaping holes, exploded buildings, and all kinds of post-apocalyptic horror strewn all over the place. In a common issue with the Terminator films, though, it’s odd how many buildings are still standing, vehicles still work, and technology that still operates with little issue but, for the most part, it definitely sets the mood for the game and works best in the night-time sequences.
The best thing about this is when the game includes references to the first two films; you’ll spend a lot of time in Pasadena, a common location from the films, including paying a visit to Big Jeff’s (Big Buns is even standing right outside of it) and what appears to be Miles Dyson’s house, and, while Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t make an appearance, a body in the hospital bares more than a little resemblance to Robert Patrick’s T-1000. The desolation of the world is juxtaposed with Skynet’s smooth, shiny, horrific technology; Skynet encampments can be infiltrated here and there and large mechanical prisons and structures are all over the place, all of which are highly technologically advanced and stand out from the misery and suffering of other recognisable environments, such as the Resistance base.
Sadly, though, while a lot of the environments look great, they’re very drab and grey and, while the T-800s and other machines are faithfully recreated, character models look absolutely dreadful; they, and the game in general, resemble something more suitable for the Xbox 360 and I can imagine people who paid full price for the game were quite disappointed with these graphical features. Since story and character interaction is a big part of the game, it’s very noticeable during gameplay even with the comparative lack of cutscenes and no amount of awkward first-person sex scenes can really save that.
I also noticed a fair amount of graphical issues, such as renderings and items popping up and a delay in them loading properly and, as if some long load times weren’t bad enough, I also had a weird moment where the game crashed on me. There are also some odd grammatical errors in a lot of the dialogue sequences (“you’re” instead of “your”) but where the game excels is not only recreating the bleak Terminator mood and allowing you to take part in the penultimate campaign against Skynet’s defence grid but also in the use of music and sound effects ripped straight from the films. The ominous T-1000 theme, especially, stood out to me as a highlight during the more action-packed moments and the iconic “duh-duh-dun-da-dun” plays frequently throughout the game, which never gets old, though I found the user interface to be a little too boring and simplistic.
Enemies and Bosses:
One thing I really enjoyed about Terminator: Resistance is that, unlike some other games I could mention, you never had to fight against human enemies (though you can kill any of the really shittily animated rats you find for a Trade Resource); it’s fitting that, even though the human survivors don’t always agree or even like each other, they’re still united against the common, prevailing threat Skynet poses.
Instead, you’ll battle a range of mechanical enemies; the first you’ll encounter are the Spider Scouts, which are small spider-like machines that zap you with an electrical blast if you come too close but are easily smashed into junk with your lead pipe or some pistol bullets. Scout Drones hover overhead and protect their vulnerable “eye” with their armoured flaps and Armoured Spiders scuttle about and blast at you from their twin guns; again, the key here is to target the red eye when it’s exposed and shoot from behind nearby cover. Silverfish pose a bit more of a problem as they pop out of their metal hidey-holes and roll at you in a suicide run (you can coax them into destroying themselves, though, with a sound decoy and they’re easy enough to pick off with a shotgun).
Eventually, of course, you’ll come up against the Plasma Rifle-wielding T-800s; these horrific mechanical endoskeletons patrol around and relentlessly clomp after you to blast you to smithereens or crush you to death and must, initially, be evaded or put down with pipebombs until you acquire Plasma Rifles of your own. You’ll also encounter slightly different variants of these machines which utilise flamethrowers, more powerful Plasma Rifles, or even dual-wield weapons, though they’re often indistinguishable from each other beyond the number of weapons they use and the colour of their laser blasts.
Terminator: Resistance is surprisingly light on boss battles; you’ll have to hack into and destroy Skynet outposts by overloading the main console and will come up against larger versions of the T-47 Walker every now and then. These like to fire rockets or plasma blasts at you but, because they’re so big and clunky, it’s pretty easy to pick them off from a distance and from behind nearby cover and it’s definitely worth doing for the XP and to take them off the battlefield. Later on, though, you’ll have to battle them alongside other machines and multiple Walkers at once, though your more powerful weapons and explosives will turn the tide in your favour.
You’ll also do battle against the T-850, which is the infiltrator model of the T-800, covered in human flesh, and wields a far more powerful Plasma Rifle. The T-850 can also absorb a great deal of punishment (with more and more of its exterior suffering damage as the fight goes on), retreats behind cover and out of range, and even throws pipebombs at you from a distance. Eventually, you’re left to finish it off by yourself, which can be a daunting battle but it’s also ridiculously easy to trick it into going around in circles around parts of the environment. Later in the game, you’ll be stuck in a narrow corridor with only a few pillars for cover and trapped in the burning remains of the Resistance base but, in both cases, you’ll have access to far more powerful weapons to make short work of the T-850.
A persistent threat in many of the game’s missions is the iconic HK-Aerial; similar to when you first encounter the T-800, at first all you can do is hide when this flies overhead and you can only bring them down when you get your hands on a rocket launcher and the game’s more powerful plasma weapons. One of the standout boss battles is against the titanic HK-Tank; though completely stationary, it will unleash a barrage of plasma shots at you if it spots you and you’re forced to desperately run around the ruins of the environment, grabbing rockets and stunning it with shots to its head to score a damaging blow at its exposed generator. It’s quite a harrowing battle, made all the more tense by waves of different machines that distract you from your main objective.
Terminator: Resistance is at its most enjoyable when you’re out in the field trading shots against a variety of metallic machines and the game’s final mission is all about that. Loaded up with the most powerful weapons, with a Resistance-piloted HK-Tank at your back, you’ll blast down every single variant of Skynet’s forces as you help to smash through the defence grid, including T-800s, T-850s, HK-Aerials, and another HK-Tank, all of which are reduced to mere cannon fodder by this point thanks to the weaponry at your disposal and makes for a thrilling conclusion to the game.
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you explore the game’s various bleak or ruined environments, you’ll pick up all kinds of junk and other items that can either be used to craft useful resources or traded with other survivors for ammo and weapons. When you destroy machines, you’ll be able to loot them for weapons, ammo, items, and chips; these can be grafted to the Plasma-based weapons to power them up, increasing their fire rate, ammo capacity, handling, and damage output, but must be placed in a specific order so that they actually work.
Weaponry is largely tied to your current level, the progression of the story, and how you unlock upgrades through the skill tree. At first, you’ll have your lead pipe, pistol, shotgun, and rapid fire weapons like the uzi and machine gun but, eventually, you’ll be able to wield a far more powerful Plasma Rifle that will even the odds against T-800s and Skynet’s more powerful machines. A major plot point of the story is the acquisition of the VSB-95 plasma minigun (as seen in the first film) and, while you can eventually wield this beast of a weapon, you can also acquire other plasma-based weapons, such as a sniper rifle-esque gun and more powerful plasma weapons. The most powerful of these don’t require reloaded but will overheat if overused, which adds an extra dimension to combat as you’ll be left vulnerable while waiting for the weapon to cool down but can blast the machines to smithereens in seconds on the flip side.
Rivers can also utilise a number of sub weapons, such as pipebombs like in the first film, decoys to take out Silverfish, and more powerful explosives. You can also pick up and craft Medkits to replenish some, or all, of your health and also acquire (or, again, craft) a series of stimulants that will give you an edge in combat by temporarily slowing down the action or increasing your attack and defence. Then there’s the so-called “Termination Knife”, a specially crafted electrical shiv that will instantly dispose of a Terminator if you manage to sneak up behind them for an instant kill move.
Terminator: Resistance features twenty-five Achievements for you to earn, most of which are tied into story progression. Although there are four difficulty modes, no Achievements are tied to them so you may as well play through on ‘Easy’ to sweep them up, but I’d advise upgrading your lockpicking skills to the maximum as quickly as possible as you can miss the ‘No Hope’ Achievement otherwise. Other Achievements include setting off a boombox to annoy an NPC, destroying the T-47 in Pasadena, and simple things like hacking a device or crafting items so it’s pretty easy to get all of the Achievements on offer.
Sadly, there’s no a lot of incentive to replay the game beyond reliving some of its more entertaining moments; when you finish it, there’s no ‘New Game+’ mode and, while you can reload previous chapters to try out different dialogue options, endings, and grab a few missed Achievements, none of your skills or weapons carry over. There’s also no multiplayer option but the Steam and PlayStation 5 versions of the game does allow you to download “Infiltrator” mode that puts you in the shoes of the iconic T-800 and sets you against the human resistance. Presumably, this mode will eventually come to Xbox as well and I can only hope that, when it does, it comes with some new Achievements.
Terminator: Resistance is probably the best and most accurate Terminator videogame ever made; it perfectly captures the atmosphere and mood of the first two movies and recreates some of the dread and tension of the first film alongside the action and desperation of the second film. Numerous references and allusions to the first film help to emphasise the legitimacy of the title, which does a much better job of continuing the franchise than the last movie, and the game does a great job of bringing the machines to life even without some of the more iconic celebrity licenses. Sadly, though, the game’s graphics, character models, and glitchier moments let it down; it feels like a step back, technologically speaking, and, while it’s not a game-breaker, it was noticeable. It’s also little more than a fairly bog standard FPS; the stealth elements and tenser moments of the early going were an interesting change of pace and I was happy to see that the crafting system was nice and simple, but there’s a lot of extraneous collecting and some wasted potential here and there (particularly in the branching story paths) that also bring the game down a bit. Without the Terminator name attached to it, it would be little more than another unremarkable FPS title but, as it is, it’s enjoyable enough if you pick it up cheap.
Could Be Better
Have you ever played Terminator: Resistance? If so, what did you think of it and how do you think it holds up against other Terminator games and FPS titles? What did you think about the game’s graphics and its attempts to recreate the look and feel of the Future War? Did you enjoy the stealthier sections or are you more a fan of the more action-orientated parts of the game? Do you feel like it failed to properly live up to its potential or do you think it’s decent enough for what it is? Would you like to see more Terminator games in the future and which Terminator videogame is your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Terminator: Resistance, feel free to leave a comment below and be sure to check back in next Sunday as I’ll be celebrating Judgment Day!