GDC 2009: Terminator Salvation Hands-On Impressions

We get behind cover as John Connor in this adaptation of the fourth Terminator movie.

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SAN FRANCISCO--If there's one thing science fiction has taught us, it's that robots will pretty much always turn evil and try to kill you and your loved ones. The Terminator franchise has been driving home this point since the first film arrived in 1984, and soon that sentiment will be echoed in the upcoming third-person shooter Terminator Salvation. The game is currently being developed by GRIN, the folks behind Bionic Commando Rearmed. At the Game Developers Convention we had the chance to pick up an Xbox 360 controller and take a spin through a pair of levels that showcased some on-foot and vehicular combat.

You play as John Connor, though Christian Bale's likeness hasn't been carried over from the film.
You play as John Connor, though Christian Bale's likeness hasn't been carried over from the film.

The story in the video game adaptation of Terminator Salvation is set two years prior to that of the film. It tells of John Connor's rise to the ranks of resistance leader in a postapocalyptic vision of Los Angeles. In terms of gameplay, Terminator Salvation takes on the form of a third-person, cover-based shooter where your enemies are those legions of T-series robots that have taken it upon themselves to end humanity. The first level we saw was titled "Thank Heaven" and featured Connor leading a squad to an evacuation point through a mess of urban rubble.

We started the level equipped with a fairly standard assault rifle, but a few moments later we managed to acquire a shotgun. The latter proved much more useful against the low-flying droids buzzing in the sky. These little guys made up the first real threat of the game, and though not too strong, their quickness and quantity made them a formidable enemy. One of the later enemies was a big, hulking robot that looked like a heavily armored spider. This foe requires a bit of teamwork between you and your AI teammate since one person has to distract it while the other sneaks up behind its weak point. The rest of the enemies you'll encounter are a mix of familiar robots from the movies--like the infamous T-1000--and a few others designed specially for the game.

The next level we saw was an on-rails section that had us firing a turret gun from the back of a truck racing along a demolished freeway. The goal was to keep a school bus filled with survivors safe from the Moto-Terminators (evil robots that look like motorcycles) cruising behind us. The action was quick-paced and proved to be a decent challenge, as we accidentally blew up the school bus on more than one occasion due to an overly anxious trigger finger. Because Terminator Salvation supports co-op, this section could have been played with a second player on another truck, and those poor survivors could have had a better fate.

As of yet, Terminator Salvation hasn't been given an official release date. The film is scheduled to arrive on May 21, so you can expect the game to be released right around then. Although we played the Xbox 360 version, the game is currently in development on all major platforms.

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