Developer: Play Mechanix
Publisher: Raw Thrills
Release Date: 2010
Alright, let's look at the game that redefined the rail shooter genre!
Let me tell you one thing and one thing only (disregard the other 1,200 or so words in this entry): This game is absolutely fantastic. Just when you think rail shooters couldn’t do anything more with themselves, Play Mechanix shows up and drops a smash hit. You’re going to encounter an insane amount of enemies onscreen at any given moment, so the game gives you an opportunity to survive. Enemies that are about to attack will have a red outline, which is a great indicator that’ll really help you out. And, you may be thinking, “But, Dustin, doesn’t this make the game too easy?” Oh, goodness, no, my fine people. Though you aren’t left completely in the dark about who’s about to shoot you, you still have to be quick enough to actually do something about it (which gets increasingly difficult as the game goes on).
This game, like many other Play Mechanix shooters, uses the “bullet-time” method for bosses. I’ve personally never been a huge fan of it, but it does allow boss battles to be much more fair than in other rail shooters. I also believe that bullet-time is better used in this game than any other Play Mechanix game (but that could just be because I’m a massive fan of this title). It’s at least better used than in Jurassic Park Arcade, but we’ll get to that in a later review.
Speaking of fair, Terminator: Salvation is very fair in the difficulty department. The difficulty scales itself in exactly the way it should, and by the end of the game, you’re going to be on the edge of your gosh darned toes just trying to keep up with everything. If nothing else, Terminator is hectic, it is epic, and it is…well, I suppose nothing else rhymes with “hectic”, now does it? Listen, what I’m trying to say is that this game is wicked cool, and you need to spend all of your hard-earned cash on it if you ever see it (which you will, because it sold like hotcakes).
I’m not going to try to compare the content in an arcade game to console games, because that’s seriously unfair. I mean, come on—do you really think people want to stand for hours playing one game at an arcade? No, of course not, which is why they’re usually over in under an hour (unless it’s one of those classic games that loops forever). With that understood, let me just say that this game packs a real punch when it comes to content. While most rail shooters are over in less than 30 or so minutes, Terminator: Salvation can take around 45 minutes, and each of the three missions are pretty gosh darn substantial in and of themselves. I know that I always play this one (I’ve completed the game three times), because I can get a fully-fledged game at a fair enough price.
It’s no secret that controls are a big part of what makes arcades unique. Granted, the light gun is nothing new when it comes to arcade shooters, but this game goes the extra mile to help it stand out. Beyond some wicked force-feedback (which has become a standard in the arcades, but Play Mechanix and Raw Thrills always take it up to a ridiculously awesome level), the guns also have a really nifty reload feature. You don’t have to shoot off-screen—just slap the clip on the bottom! I know that I personally enjoyed this addition to light gun controls that (as far as I know) hasn’t really been done all too much before.
One thing that I will mention is that, like all modern rail shooters, there’s a reticle onscreen. I know that this is a technical requirement (because arcade games don’t use CRTs anymore), but I wish I could still just aim and shoot with no guide. I don’t know why I’m even complaining about this, seeing as how there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s not even really a problem in the first place!
I’m a bit divided on this one. On one hand, the polygon count and lighting effects could have used a little work. It’s not bad per se, but it just feels like it could have used a little...more. I'm one of those "gameplay over graphics" proponents, so it's cool! Anyway, this game does do one thing extremely well in the graphics department: It renders huge environments and a crud-load of onscreen enemies with no drop in framerate whatsoever in glorious HD. Add that to the fact that the art style is incredibly atmospheric (especially the vehicle sequences, where you watch a world of destruction at the hands of robotic nightmares), and you’ve just made up for any possible polygon problems (alliteration, people).
I personally have only played the 42” Deluxe version of this game, so I can’t speak for the 32” Fixed Gun cabinet and the insane Super Deluxe 100” cabinet. This is what arcade games have come to people—bigger is a thousand times better. Anyway, the 42” version is really fun. Like I said, I really love the light guns they used for this game, which already makes it super-wicked. Of course, Raw Thrills and Play Mechanix never stop at just super-wicked. To make it mega-wicked, they put a replica T-600 on the marquee and slapped a bunch of menacing side-art all over the darned thing. It may not be the most over-the-top cabinet we’ve seen come out of the past decade of arcade games, but it’s definitely great. Just imagine how much I’d love the 100-inch version. I salivate at the very idea.
Though there have been some fantastic soundtracks to come out of the arcades (House of the Dead, people), great music hasn't always been a real hallmark of (American) arcade games. You can barely even hear the music from your game that well when playing in that environment, so some games have had an excuse. Unless you’re playing a Japanese game (or CarnEvil), you’re not likely to find any music that’s particularly stunning. (Sound systems, on the other hand, can’t be matched by home consoles, unless you have an expensive setup.) Terminator: Salvation, however, is saved by great music. And yes, I know the game just uses remixed versions of the music from the films (mostly T2), but hey—the music’s good, isn’t it? That’s better than we get from most arcade games these days!
Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of this game. I’m able to see the flaws (namely in the graphics department), but dare I say that this game is probably the absolute best thing you’ll ever see from the rail shooter genre for a long time. It’s incredibly fun and fair, it’s full of content, and everything about it makes you feel epic. Terminator: Salvation is one of those licensed games that will ascend from the property it’s based on and be judged on it own merits for years to come. Children years from now will ask what the biggest and best arcade games of our time were, and we’ll instantly refer them to this game. There are even some fun touches in the game, like shooting a T-600 in the face as you enter your initials for a high score. So, do I recommend it?
I’m sorry, but is that even a question?! Of course I recommend it, gosh darn it! This game is fantastic! Keep up!