The beginning of Terminator 2 Judgment Day makes us think ‘wow this would make an awesome video game setting’. For those of you who haven’t seen it (or have forgotten it in the wake of Arnie’s more glandular role in Terminator 3) it essentially sets the scene for an apocalyptic final battle between man and machine. It’s taken a few years but Hollywood has finally decided to elaborate on the events that came before (or followed, depending on your take on the space time continuum) the original Terminator films with Terminator Salvation. Cue big summer blockbuster. Cue big summer blockbuster video game tie-in.
If a third-person 3D shooter movie-tie in appearing on your iPhone conjures up images of shonky visuals and hastily thrown together gameplay mechanics, open your eyes and take a look. Terminator Salvation is beautiful. It’s clear Gameloft has concentrated its efforts on creating an authentic battlefield. Partially crumbled buildings show their skeletal iron struts, burnt out cars lie riddled with bullet holes, light shines down through the dust of a passing helicopter; this truly is one of the best looking titles we’ve seen on Apple's fledging console. The over the shoulder viewpoint will give you plenty of scope for ingesting the many wonderful visual touches of Gameloft's post-Armageddon world, but don’t expect to be standing still long enough to fully appreciate them. The emphasis is on running from cover to cover blasting the circuits out of anything vaguely robotic along the way, and subsequently you’ll find yourself tearing through levels at a frighteningly speedy pace. The default controls are set up to facilitate all this charging about with a virtual nub controlling movement and the rest of the touch screen controlling aim. While the proactive auto lock may irritate more die hard shooter fans we found it just right for the tempo of the game; an emphasis on headshots means sharp shooting is still rewarded over point and spray tactics.
As much as we enjoyed the Terminator setting we couldn’t help but feel it was holding Gameloft back from creating what could have arguably been one of the finest handheld shooters to date. The attempt to follow aspects of the film means Terminator Salvation is an incredibly short-lived experience - the game will probably take you around an hour and a half to complete even on the hardest difficulty setting. With no multiplayer and few added objectives it offers a pretty lackluster experience in terms of replayability.
But it is an intense experience. From the closing of the intro sequence to the rolling of the final credits it’s a hell of ride. If the campaign had been longer and Gameloft had thrown in some team deathmatch or online co-op we’d potentially be looking at the best game to come out of the App Store to date. As it stands Terminator Salvation is still very much worth the attention of anyone looking for a solid third-person shooter and deserves at least some recognition as a first-rate movie tie-in that does real justice to its Judgment Day heritage.