“I’ll be back” are the famous words once uttered by a cybernetic Arnold Schwarzenegger. In that same fashion, so is another Terminator game. Set amidst the aftermath of Judgement Day – the day the machines rose up and slaughtered their human masters, Terminator: Resistance remains in the past. Constructed with poor AI, an under-utilised world and visuals straight from a bygone era, Terminator: Resistance tries its hardest to propel itself forward. Ultimately, it remains a precursor of interesting ideas portrayed in the blandest way imaginable.
While this is not a direct movie tie-in, it is worth noting that the release of the game coincides with the new movie to the ever expanding franchise – Terminator: Dark Fate. The plots remain completely separate, with Terminator: Resistance taking place in a post-apocalyptic world after the machines have taken over. Much like many other Terminator properties, you’re being hunted and your role is to work with the resistance to decipher why and figure out how to fight against the impending threat.
If the story sounds like a rehash of past Terminator media, that’s because it is. With such a wealth of opportunity to expand the lore, especially with the Judgement Day setting, it’s unfortunate that Terminator: Resistance remains a carbon copy of past installments. This same criticism can be easily attached to the gameplay as well, which plays as a concoction of many open-world games, but with none of the soul that embodies these worlds.
Essentially, this is a Terminator RPG. It gives you the illusion of an expansive adventure, filled with choices and consequences to your actions, but the game is a fairly linear affair with a few semi-open areas to give you a sense of freedom. Much of your time will be seen navigating repetitive looking environments with no real sense of identity. If you want a paint-by-numbers apocalyptic wasteland, then this is the place for you. The world plays out like a “who’s who” of open-world RPGs. Enjoyed lockpicking in Elder Scrolls? Get ready to do it here. Wanted more of the crafting system of Far Cry? Yep, you’re covered. Wanting to romance characters like in Mass Effect? You can, and you don’t even have to remember their name.
It all feels like a concoction of games that presented these ideas better, by incorporating elements like these to detach itself from just being another shooter.
Terminator: Resistance attempts to break up these moments with a home base, which provides the means to expand relationships with other resistance members in an attempt to get them into bed – I wish I was joking.
This is the main crux of the problem. Everything in Terminator: Resistance feels like a road block from what everyone’s price of admission is – killing Terminators. This is a game that happily blocks me from engaging in this cathartic release, but happily let’s me get my end away in truly cringe inducing scenes which made me want to remain celibate. It can be said that it’s trying to make you care about these characters, to make your mission all that more rewarding. But every character is a cookie cut caricature of post-apocalyptic badasses that it all remains rather two dimensional.
When the shackles are released and you’re free to engage, this is where Terminator: Resistance feels more comfortable in its own exo-skeleton. Combat lacks any sort of weight, but is serviceable. The sound design of each weapon is great though, with plasma weapons hitting those 80’s nostalgic chords like a perfectly orchestrated synth.
Enemies can range from barely any threat to “oh, sweet god, how are we going to do this!?” – there’s no middle ground. Critical points are available on tougher enemies, but can be so hard to hit that spraying and praying is often the more viable option. The classic T-series of Terminators appear later in the game and provide that much needed tension, as early encounters feature generic spider-bots and turrets to compete against. No topless Arnies here!
The option to either face these foes head-on or stealthily is a welcome option, but the enemy AI is so basic that it boils down to not really mattering. An awareness meter will alert you of your presence, but once spotted enemies can be tackled so easily that it eliminates any threat. Various sections are injected to give that sense of claustrophobia, and when you’re punished for being spotted this is Terminator: Resistance’s combat at its finest.
Progression is built around a levelling up system, complete with experience that’s awarded for fighting and exploring. Terminator: Resistance constantly rewards you for your actions and actually maintains a skill tree which feels vital for progress. Here you can upgrade a variety of options such as your lockpicking skill to attempt harder locks or increasing your backpack to contain more materials. Every time you level up, the choice of what to upgrade actually bears some weight, which can often be rare in role-playing games of late.
Crafting is also encouraged to keep yourself well stocked against oncoming threats. Here you can craft grenades or even health packs to assist you through the treacherous areas. Later on you’re provided the means to upgrade your own weapons, but this is presented in a horribly convoluted way. Upgrades are built up of three components, each of which must marry up to the adjacent via their symbols. It’s an overly complex process that is unnecessary for a game that clocks in under 10 hours. Having a redundant weapon upgrade system is a shame, as the contrast of character upgrades is finely tuned and meaningful to your quest.
Much like how an aftermath of war against the machines would look, Terminator: Resistance is an ugly, barren wasteland and that’s not a compliment. For a game that is based upon a future where machines have overthrown the human race, everything points to a graphical style from the early Xbox 360 days. It’s bolstered by a nicely crafted lighting system, but the rest of the environments remain a relic of the past. Initially I thought the game ran out at 30 frames per second, so when I entered a new area and it doubled to 60, that rang alarm bells that the whole game needed more time to cook.
Sound is also hit and miss. Though the classic theme, weapon sounds and 80’s synth riff through the air, a truly awful use of character dialogue encouraged me to mute it altogether. Whether it’s bad sound mixing or a genuine directorial choice, dialogue often peaks to the point of distortion which makes everything appear underdeveloped. Though Terminator: Resistance isn’t by any means a triple A title, quality control is paramount, especially when representing a wider franchise.
While not an abomination enough to go back in time and terminate the developers for creating it, Terminator: Resistance on Xbox One does nothing to create an identity for itself. Much like the machines in the game, the whole campaign feels manufactured using resources from other games that did it better – five years ago. It’s a game that is directly stuck in the past, waiting for Judgement Day to arrive and blast it out of mediocrity.