Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Terminator: Dawn of Fate (Playstation 2 and XBox, 2002)

 This is on the shortlist for BEST Terminator game of all time. Which is a lot like being Toughest Male Model, but just roll with it. This game really is outstanding if you're a fan of the Cameron-directed parts of the franchise. It shows us more of the Future War (2029 version) than most other games, and it's obvious that the designers really cared about what they were doing. It's full of attention to detail; right off the bat it makes use of BGM from the war scenes in the first movie for the title screen and menu themes. Let's have a closer look.

I go with Derek as a name, since the relatively-unsung Derek Reese was the best character from the short-lived TV series.

There are ten chapters in this game. Each one takes roughly 40 minutes, so it isn't a long game by any means. That said... HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THAT TERMINATOR SKULL

 The intro cutscene shows us some PS2-rendered future war scenes. They're about what you'd expect, with lots of HKs and plasma beams flying by.

Aerial HKs are, to this day, one of the best machine designs in cinema. They're practically MADE to be a boss in a video game.

On the right is John Connor, complete with scar. On the left is Justin Perry, the captain that Kyle Reese served under in Connor's resistance. Not sure if they mentioned him in the first movie, but Reese definitely talks about him in the original screenplay for the movie. I never imagined Perry would have tattoos all over his head like Bam Bam Bigelow, and suspect the designers of this game took some liberties with this.

A T-800 walks right into the room where Connor and his squad are. If this is one of their bases, they really need to work on their security.

The T-800 OPENS FIRE! This is like being in a modern American high school!

The T-800 gets defeated by Connor and his squad via cutscene (too bad, could have been a sweet first boss), and we get our first exposure to the codec. This is the primary means of communication in the game.

And you finally gain control. You're one of Perry's soldiers, which means you sometimes work directly with Kyle Reese. You also bump into John Connor himself every so often. It's really cool. All things considered, it does NOT take much to make a good Terminator game, and it baffles me that so many companies have had trouble doing it.

Right away, I find myself struggling with the camera a bit. That's the main problem with this game. It isn't too big of an issue most of the time, but there are definitely points where it gets irritating. The controls are third-person, over the shoulder, and you have no control over the camera. It moves from one fixed location to another as you run around.

 The first enemies you face off with are T-400s, or "clunkers". They're as slow and clunky as they look. The game also has T-500s as it goes on, then jumps to much more durable T-800s.

It's rare to see early terminator models in anything, so this is pretty cool. There are two schools of thought on Skynet's machines. One is that Skynet started out with drones that humans had built, then developed terminators from the ground up by itself. Primitive designs were the order of the day until the human resistance forced Skynet to start improving on battlefield machines. This school of thought is followed by this game, as well as Terminator Salvation. The other school of thought is that Skynet pretty much went right to the more advanced designs of HKs and plasma weapons early in the war, using blueprints of these things left by humans. Hence why the rifles are "Westinghouse" and whatnot. This school of thought may or may not be followed by the original movie.

So did Skynet build machines from the ground up, evolving primitive 'bots over time to become sleeker and more powerful, or did it have sweet chrome mechs right from the get-go? Who knows.

 Even though the T-400s have plasma rifles (seems like a waste of weaponry), they don't do much damage to you. Also doesn't make much sense that Skynet would be using these things as its main foot-soldiers in a time when it has T-800s developed and usable, but... whatever works for the gameplay. Sometimes you can man a turret (seen here) and blast through a bunch of T-400s as they slowly lumber towards you.

In addition to various guns (both traditional ammo and plasma-based), you have some sort of electrified baton to melee-attack enemies with. A lot of the time it's more effective than guns against these enemies.

As the game progresses, there are some outdoor levels with interesting scenery. They absolutely nailed the future war theme in this game.

 T-500s are a bit tougher than T-400s. You can switch to a first-person mode to shoot an enemies more accurately, but you can't move while you're in first-person so it isn't all that recommended.

One thing that really stands out about this game, for me, is the boss fight with an infiltrator T-800 midway through. It's an extremely intense battle, with the T-800 stalking you from room to room in a claustrophobic ruin.

As the fight goes on, the Terminator takes more and more battle damage until it's mostly exposed skeleton. This fight is creepy, intense, and probably the high point of the game.

Unfortunately, later battlefield T-800 endos that show up don't have the same punch as that infiltrator. Most of them aren't too bright and don't take much more damage to bring down than the earlier fodder enemies.

Most of the game involves carrying out missions in the ruins, but the 9th and 10th chapters send you to attack Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. This is the location of Skynet's mainframe (inside of an old NORAD superstructure). In other words, you take part in the raid that ends the war, which is really cool.

In the interior of Skynet's pyramid, you battle a Ground HK mano-a-mech. This is another amazing 'bot design that lends itself extremely well to a boss fight in a game.

The boss fights in this game tend to always be excellent. Much like those Star Wars games for the Super NES, this game seizes the opportunity to show us a few enemies that we haven't really seen before in the Terminator universe.

The final area takes you right to the Skynet core, where you find the Time Displacement device and help send Kyle Reese back in time. For fans of the original Terminator, this game is a godsend in a lot of ways. It gets everything right; the only issues are the camera and the fairly short length.


  1. Damn this is good stuff. Glad you finally got this game and hope you get more like it.

  2. Reading this after Shadows of the Empire it almost feels like a sequel to that, strangely enough.

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