It has been just short of a year since the last game to bear the Terminator 3 namesake was released, and it's probably safe to say that the last thing most players were clamoring for was yet another Terminator 3 game. This is primarily because the last set of T3 games to come out--Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines for the PS2, Xbox, and GBA, and Terminator 3: War of the Machines for the PC--were nothing short of awful. Evidently, however, Atari clearly felt that the T3 license still had legs, and the publisher has shown its faith by bringing out Terminator 3: The Redemption for the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube. It's actually rather funny, as the name The Redemption seems all too apt when describing this latest Terminator title, because it turns out that this one is actually pretty good. That's not to say that the game is particularly special, but it's a more than serviceable shooter with its share of strong points, which is good news for Terminator fans.
Like last year's games, The Redemption somewhat closely follows the plot of the Terminator 3 film, in which yet another cybernetic agent of the evil Skynet has been sent back in time to kill off John Connor, the future hero of the human race in their war against the machines. You again play as Arnold Schwarzenegger's model 101 T-800 Terminator, sent back to the past to protect John and save the future. All of this is probably pretty obvious to anyone who has seen the movie, but in an interesting twist, Redemption actually takes a couple of liberties with the plot of the film. We won't give away any of the new plot points, but it seems like many of them were put in to help stretch out what is, in essence, a two-hour long story. It works to a degree, though the new story points are a tad silly. Then again, the whole Terminator plotline has always been a bit goofy to begin with, so these few slightly unbelievable sequences don't seem out of place.
From the get-go, T3: The Redemption may seem like just another generic third-person shooter, but in actuality, it's actually a combination of a third-person shooter, a rail shooter, and a driving game. All three types of play are spread throughout each of the game's 14 missions, and some missions even require a combination of two types of play within the same mission. One moment you'll be running through the postapocalyptic war zone of the future, punching and shooting nasty T-900s on foot, and the next you'll be commandeering one of the vehicular machines by punching your way into its central circuits and driving around the level, destroying anything that comes into your path. It is with this level of variety that T3 finds its highest level of success.
Moreover, each of the three core styles of gameplay is implemented fairly well, if a bit simplistically. The third-person action stuff is probably the least enjoyable of the three, though that is not to say that it's bad. Controlling Arnold is easy enough, despite the fact that he moves rather slowly (though realistically, for a big, clunky cyborg, we suppose). The combat is pretty rudimentary, consisting of some very basic hand-to-hand attacks that can be strung together, as well as a few different gun types you can use throughout the course of the game. Most of the combos are pretty button masher-like, in that only a couple of them actually serve a specific purpose, like one that lets you draw energy out of a downed Terminator to help boost your health, and another that lets you take the weapon of your fallen opponent. The rest are just quick combos that can be strung together out of practically any combination of button presses. The weapon combat while on foot usually just consists of locking onto an enemy, shooting, and then running away periodically if that enemy happens to be heavily armed.
The driving and rail-shooting portions of Redemption are, fortunately, significantly more interesting than the on-foot portions. Rail-shooting missions tend to be pretty static in terms of objectives, usually placing you on the roof of a car or hanging outside of a helicopter, and then charging you with the task of shooting attacking vehicles as they come at you or blowing away enemy Terminators. Depending on the mission, you'll sometimes have a secondary weapon at your disposal, in addition to your typical machine gun, shotgun, or laser cannon, such as a grenade or rocket launcher, which allows for a bit more in the way of impact. Furthermore, in some of the missions where you're attached to the car, though you won't be controlling the car itself, you do have the ability to make the car change lanes, revealing a few alternate paths as well as the ability to dodge attacking vehicles.
Driving missions are perhaps the most varied of all. In one mission, for example, you'll be driving a hearse in the infamous graveyard scene, attempting to ram a SWAT van in order to knock the officers out of it, while also trying to keep the villainous T-X from jumping on top of the van. In the next mission, you'll be driving the same hearse, but you're now trying to keep the T-X off of your car by making hard turns and driving through side routes with obstacles that send her flying off. Other driving missions involve a fair amount of shooting, whereas others simply involve trying to keep up with an enemy vehicle. The driving mechanics, though very simple and mostly without any real crash physics, are still fun, and considering how many different types of driving missions there are, it's doubtful you'll find yourself bored with them.
What is perhaps most surprising about T3: The Redemption is actually how difficult it is. The mission objectives presented to you before each level are reasonably intuitive, but it will usually take you at least a few tries on each mission to get the hang of exactly what you need to do to survive. Adding to the difficulty is the sheer amount of ways you can die throughout most every mission. Be it an onslaught of enemy machines or a seemingly unstoppable attack by the T-X, there is no single mission in the game (save for, perhaps, the very first one) that is likely to be beatable on your first try. In fact, some missions are likely going to take you about a dozen tries to beat. While this does lend itself to more frustration than fun, the missions themselves are usually good enough that you will want to keep coming back to try again. Just don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting to occasionally chuck your controller across the room in despondency.
There are also a couple of other key gameplay elements in Redemption, such as the infamous "scan mode." As you may have seen in the Terminator films, Arnie has the ability to go into a mode of infrared vision, complete with all sorts of nifty head's-up display statistics and information. In Redemption, scan mode translates into a temporary shift into the infrared style of display that actually helps you do more damage to enemies. Essentially, the excuse for doing more damage is that the mode makes your shots more accurate, and the excuse for you having limited time and effectiveness with the scan mode is that your circuits are somewhat fried at the beginning of the game, or something like that.
As you go through each level, you'll earn "terabytes," which are basically points you can use to level up Arnold in categories of energy rechargability, scan mode length, scan mode charge time, and scan mode damage. You earn terabytes based on level-completion time, enemies killed, secrets found, and so on and so forth. If so inclined, you can also go back into levels you've already beaten and try to earn more terabytes. It's basically just kind of a cheap way to try to extend the game's longevity. However, if you're one of those people who really like to get 100 percent on every game, Redemption provides you the opportunity to do just that.
Another couple of additions that help squeeze a little more bulk into Redemption's package are a two-player co-op mode as well as a plethora of film footage. The co-op mode is really just a very simplistic rail-shooting mode where you and your friend each take up one side of the screen and then just shoot the hell out of whatever comes your way. It's not really that interesting of a mode, honestly, and it is only worth a couple of play-throughs, at most. As for the film footage, it's a lot like the situation with last year's Rise of the Machines. The game mixes its own computer-generated scenes in with real film footage, and you can access any of the film footage later on. Of course, if you own the DVD, you can access all of that stuff anyway, and the DVD footage is much, much better than what the game has to offer, so this isn't really much of a bonus at all.
Graphically, The Redemption is a pretty good-looking game. You won't find a lot of aesthetic detail here, as a lot of the level designs, textures, and things of that nature aren't exceptionally high in polish. What the game does do well, however, is capture the sort of chaotic nature of the many chase and action sequences. When you've just hijacked a Skynet vehicle, and you are shooting through this postapocalyptic war zone at top speed, the amount of laser fire, number of enemies onscreen, and other things going on in the background all come together to actually make you feel like you are inside a postapocalyptic war zone. Even the stuff in present time works just as well, as some of the chase sequences re-created from the movie are quite tense, thanks to all the action going on onscreen. The CG cutscenes the game provides are well-produced, though the few in-engine cutscenes that pop up from time to time are rather ugly, by comparison. If you want to choose between the three versions of the game, you'll probably want to go with the Xbox version, as it predictably looks the best, which is about the only deciding factor between them since all the versions play identically.
Once again, Arnold Schwarzenegger lends his vocal talents to Redemption's script, though in a strange twist, he apparently only does about half of his character's dialogue. Presumably, once his gubernatorial duties got in the way, the developers were forced to hire the quickest available soundalike to handle the rest of the dialogue. To say that this substitute actor is merely subpar would be something of an understatement. Fortunately, this is really the only blemish on the game's audio. The remaining voice work, though not the work of the real actors from the film, is competent enough. The soundtrack is made up of plenty of music that sounds like it was ripped from the movie, and the in-game sound effects are actually pretty top-notch, further adding to the chaotic atmosphere of the action.
In the end, Terminator 3: The Redemption manages to serve up a nice variety of ways to shoot the hell out of a lot of cyborgs as well as to keep things fresh and interesting throughout its relatively short, but still enjoyable 14 missions. Though you may be thoroughly disinterested in anything bearing the Terminator name at this point in time, due either to last year's lousy crop of T3 games or the amount of time that has passed since the film's release--or both--if you still have any interest in all things Terminator, or are even just a fan of good old-fashioned shooters, T3: The Redemption is most certainly worth a weekend rental.