Successful product designs are often copied in the gaming industry. While many fantastic games take their cues from previous classics, there are also many lackluster clones that do little to advance the genre--or even fail to execute concepts as well as their predecessors. Terminator 3: War of the Machines falls into the latter category. As a team-based shooter with vehicles, the game strives to recapture the magic of Battlefield 1942 in a sci-fi setting but fails miserably.
Terminator 3's problems start with its graphics. While it includes a mix of contemporary and postapocalyptic maps, the map designs are poorly devised, which cuts into the gameplay value. You'll find that many bases have only one approach angle, and many pathways lead to dead ends, which creates a lot of wasted space on the maps. The character models offer a decent level of detail, but they animate extremely poorly. Additionally, it appears that the developers have neglected to include death animations. When you kill an enemy, it stiffly falls over on its back or face. (If you can just imagine pushing a mannequin over, you have a good idea of what death animations in Terminator 3 look like.) While this might be excusable in the case of killing one of the Skynet robots, there's no explanation for why the humans of the Tech-Com faction fall over in this manner. Perhaps the worst aspect of Terminator 3's graphics comes when you play as one of the sentient Skynet machines. As a robot, your viewscreen is bathed in an annoying red glow that makes it difficult to see. There's no way to shut this gimmick off. Perhaps the developers thought that forcing you to see through rose-colored lenses might fool you into thinking Terminator 3 isn't a horrible game.
Terminator 3's sound effects are probably even worse than its graphics. Explosions, machine guns, and assault rifles are extremely subdued, while the voices used for in-game communication are wooden and lack any emotion whatsoever. The laser blasts from the Skynet weapons aren't any better and sound very cheesy.
As mentioned, there are two factions--the sentient machines, known as Skynet, and the humans, who are called Tech-Com. Each side has a small handful of classes that include basic roles, like snipers and heavy weapons specialists, but the Skynet side does offer a few interesting classes that are unavailable to the Tech-Com side. One of these is the infiltrator, which looks like a human, carries human weapons, and has the ability to drive human vehicles. The infiltrator is not as sneaky as you might think, though. If you're on the Tech-Com side, running your cursor over an infiltrator will immediately reveal it to be an enemy, thus making its ruse transparent and ultimately rendering it as rather useless. Skynet players can also spawn in as a tank that's armed with dual miniguns, or they can spawn in as the FK vehicle, which is a small hovercraft that's armed with lasers and missiles. The FK is the most mobile unit in the game, but it lacks the ability to capture bases.
There is one special unit--the original Terminator, as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Tech-Com player with the highest frag count can choose to respawn as "the" Terminator, who combines the faster foot speed of the humans with the tougher armor of the Skynet machines. Unfortunately, the current California governor doesn't say much of anything aside from "It's time." and "I'm back."
The game's vehicles feel like an afterthought. For the most part, they're all variations on a theme. You've got the dune buggy with a machine gun mount, the burned-out car with a rocket launcher mount, armored personnel carriers with laser cannons, and so on. Other than the Skynet FKs, there are no airborne vehicles. The vehicles aren't much fun to use anyway, so you probably won't be spending much time driving. Even smaller cars, like the dune buggy, accelerate slowly and handle like pigs. We also managed to get vehicles stuck on top of burning trash cans and in first-story window frames, which should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect from the physics in the game. Terminator 3 seems to also have trouble with collision detection. Enemies don't react to taking fire, and, in many cases, rockets and lasers will actually blatantly pass right through character models and hit the ground behind them.
There is no single-player campaign in Terminator 3: War of the Machines. From the menu, you're simply presented with a list of the game's 12 maps and are given no other options. You aren't allowed to play against the computer in team deathmatch or mission-based modes, as, apparently, the game's AI is programmed to only handle the termination mode, which is basically the same as Battlefield 1942's conquest mode where teams battle for control of various bases on the map. You can't even set a specific time limit for single-player games! The bot AI is decent enough at deciding which bases are appropriate to attack, but they offer very little challenge as far as actual fighting goes. Any experienced shooter player should easily rack up an astronomical number of kills. It's also worth noting that the bots don't use the vehicles much, and when they do, they have a lot of trouble navigating even the simple maps.
On the multiplayer side of things, there are very few people playing online, and there are no dedicated servers available. For a game without a meaningful single-player mode, it's shameful for Atari to not have set up even a single dedicated server for the game. At any given moment, you'll find two to five Terminator 3 servers, which seem to all be hosted off of someone's personal computer. In our experience testing online, we frequently found our pings spiking up over 700ms, which makes aiming just about impossible. Even if you're lucky enough to play at a steady 100ms ping, the hit detection hardly works at all.
It's not often that we run into a game that has so little redeeming value, but Terminator 3: War of the Machines fits the bill. With its lackluster graphics and sound, poorly designed maps, shoddy network code, and no online community support whatsoever from its publisher, Terminator 3 should have been terminated long ago in the production process. Unfortunately, no one had the guts to say "Hasta la vista, baby!" to the project.