Whenever a piece of The Terminator property gets made, it gets buzz.
We're enamored with the apocalyptic world, one where machine attempts to
reign over its human creators. A brief glimpse of it was shown in the
blockbuster Terminator 2. As spectacular as computer graphics have
improved since the now decade-old movie, the brief glimpse in the
beginning still stirs us into thinking: what a great game that one
short sequence could have made. That's exactly what Terminator: Dawn
of Fate is about. However, ten minutes into this game and you'll begin
to notice something is horribly wrong with Fate. It looks great and
promising but in the end, it's like the ten-minute sequence we saw in
the film-merely a glimpse of what could be done.
Fate, a third person action game, has all the material to succeed. All
of the weaponry, environments and creatures (save for the humans) are
picked out straight from the movie. Where the movie provided no
material to work on, some convincing extrapolation is employed by the
artists and developers. The lighting effects, in particular, mirror
some of the slick production values in the movies themselves. Skynet is
as fearsome as it was on the silver screen.
But all of this is for naught when the entire game suffers from
jarringly dysfunctional camera direction. Fate plays out from fixed
camera angles. I'm not particularly a fan of it because often times, I
find myself walking in one direction and the director or developer of
the game decides to throw a more 'cinematic' angle that puts aesthetic
qualities above gameplay ones. The result often hems you into a
position where you can't see the enemy or as you're moving backward, you
suddenly find yourself moving forward into enemy fire. The frustration
with Fate is that it does this all the time. Time and time again, you
find yourself throwing the controller up because suddenly the camera
angle changes. It interrupts the flow of the action and prevents the
battles from getting into a good rhythm. And to be quite honest, most
of the camera work is without reason. They don't make the game look
better and they certainly don't make me play better.
Curiously, there is one mode in the game where you can put yourself into
first person view. For some unbeknownst reason, you can't move after
putting yourself in first person, thus effectively making this a
sniping/survey mode. Why couldn't the entire game be done in this mode
instead? Or, at the very least, the developers should allow some
choice. This 3D engine, though suffering from some horrible direction,
is undoubtedly capable of interchanging between the two vantage points.
The textures, environs and artistry are a joy to behold and would be
more entertaining if it were actually functional.
It's a shame too because the sound effects are well done. But the
authenticity only goes so far. Fate takes place in a time before Kyle
Reese, the hero in the first Terminator movie, is sent back to protect
Sarah Connor. It's still early enough in the movie plotline that humans
have certain bases. They aren't as scattered or disorganized as alluded
to in the movie. Your job is to help the humans get access to this time
machine to facilitate the setup for the events in the first film to
occur. The missions themselves are intriguing and the tie-ins to what
happens in the movies are undoubtedly motivation for you to slog through
the anemic camera angles.
There are minor complaints I have about the movie tie-in though.
Despite all of its licensing benefits, Fate is missing all of the stars
from the movies. The voice work that is left is weak to say the least,
even though every word will be deliciously lapped up by fans of the
franchise. Michael Biehn, the real-life actor for Kyle Reese, may not
be in shape to play his youthful role again but he has done work with
games before (Tiberian Sun) and I was a bit awe-struck that he doesn't
appear in the game. Some cameos from actors of the subsequent movies
would have helped too.
In the end, only the weary faithful will be keeping this title. It
suffers from too many technical problems to make it a playable game. In
turn, these technical problems prevent Fate from creating a good pace of
action. True, there are moments where you'll identify with what
happened in the movie. When that actually happens, either the horrid
camera or a subsequent lapse in level design (let's push a button
because that's how cyborgs that are skilled with electronics operate)
will push the title back down to mediocrity.
The pity of it all is the enormous potential. I can't recall a
well-done action game based on the Skynet vs. human mythos in recent
memory. The immense enthusiasm in seeing a third title made for this
cinematic franchise is testament enough that surely, a good Terminator
game is almost guaranteed to succeed. This, however, is not it. Like
the short futuristic sequence in Terminator 2, it is purely a glimpse of
what could be done. And to paraphrase a recent holiday movie, a glimpse
by definition is an impermanent thing.