Terminator: Resistance is not a refined game, nor is it revolutionary. At some points, it can even be rather terrible. But, despite all this, it has a certain charm to it, a can-do attitude and a dream that makes it a surprisingly enjoyable experience the more you indulge its quirks and rough edges.
You play as (and I had to look this up, even after beating the game) Jacob Rivers, a Dave Everyman who finds himself near the top of Skynet’s hitlist during the Future War scenario — the situation humanity would find itself in had the machines won. As a result, you can expect a lot of post-apocalyptic greys and soldiers wearing grubby clothing, as well as a lot of angry tin cans. Rivers isn’t a memorable protagonist at all, his character being the subject of a twist so telegraphed that it’s part of Mr Mime’s moveset.
The supporting characters are where things improve, Resistance even showing its RPG-lite mechanics with your interactions with them determining their fates. At the start of every sojourn into the game’s relatively open levels, you will be given side missions to do something for a supporting character, such as finding chalk or a boombox. These are rather straightforward and even give you some insight into these characters’ backstories, often tragedies about loved ones or a longing for a world long lost.
The main meat of the game entails you following the orders of your superiors, which usually boils down to a fetch quest. Resistance isn’t much of a challenge on the default difficulty, but can be trying when you first start off with ye olde weaponry that is like spitting feebly at the T-800. In the game’s first two hours, fighting them feels hopeless, and almost terrifying. The eponymous Terminators are faithfully recreated here, their malicious grins sending a chill up your spine if they get too close.
Resistance feels like a game made to appeal to Terminator fanatics, the main menu offering a desk-drumming rendition of the franchise’s iconic theme, as well as there being a tonne of little nods to the films. A diner, for instance, is a reference to where Sarah Connor used to work before her life was ruined in the original movie. The score, too, is a modernisation of the classic songs from the franchise, and is very much a banger. It’s total Terminator nirvana for anyone who’s stuck with the IP through the good times and the bad.
For everyone else, though, your mileage may vary. Resistance doesn’t particularly excel in any area: the visuals and animations scream low budget, the voice acting is incredibly hit and miss, and the shooting generally feels lightweight. The game also has a tonne of mechanics that it doesn’t give enough time to feel truly developed — just as you’re getting into utilising them all properly, the game is over.
Take crafting, for instance. You collect resources out in the world to help you craft ammo, medkits, and much more. The higher your crafting level, which you can improve by gaining XP from completing missions and terminating Terminators, the better stuff you can craft. However, unless you are entirely gunning for a Rivers who is a crafting god, you will likely only be able to take advantage of this upgrade for a brief time and then the credits roll.
On a similar note, certain upgrades feel a little hard to pass up, while others are very inessential. Owing to how hard the Terminators hit, most players will likely want to improve their toughness for better HP, whereas hacking and crafting can more or less be ignored as others take priority. Sure, you can opt for a different build, though the game simply isn’t deep or long enough for you to really notice the variety in gameplay.
Resistance does have one pretty original ace up its sleeve, which relates to how you can upgrade your guns. You will often finds chips on your fallen enemies with you being able to choose three based on damage, fire rate, clip size, and stability. However, they must follow a similar pattern in their design, so if your starting chip has a single line and a blob (it’s very hard to explain in words), your third chip must have something similar.
Before you can get to that point, though, you have to go through some rather perfunctory stealth to sneak past Terminators as you are hilariously underpowered compared to them. A bar at the top of your screen will tell you if they have detected, but don’t worry if they do — these machines are so stupid that you will wonder how they took over the world. Most T-800s will chase you for about five minutes, do the Travolta in Pulp Fiction meme when they can’t find you, and then go back to their routines. It’s insta-death if they find you early on, though Resistance is gracious enough to throw some more destructible enemies into the game to ease you in.
Once I had the proper firepower to take on the Terminators, that’s when I started to have a ball with Resistance, the game becoming a micro-budget version of Call of Duty with linear setpieces that featured lots of explosions. Whether using rockets to blow up a HK or shooting at the peahead of a big boy, Resistance can really be a guilty pleasure at some points with the refreshing simplicity of its combat.
It took me nine hours, give or take, to complete Resistance, and I was surprised at how disappointed I was that it was over. Sure, the game is poorly paced, its RPG elements are featherweight at best, and the overall presentation, whether it be the typos or the aggressively bland UI, is sorely lacking, but I was drawn to Resistance the more I played. I went from ironically enjoying its weirdness to just plain enjoying it at one point, the grand finale making me (respectably) headbang as I wreaked havoc with a minigun laser.
Some have suggested that Terminator: Resistance feels and looks like a game from an older generation, and perhaps that’s why I found myself so endeared by it. It’s hard to find AA titles like Resistance these days, games that try their scrappy best and often fall admirably short. Resistance reminds me of Homefront in a lot of ways, a rather straightforward, unoriginal game that I also couldn’t help but enjoy despite initial reservations.
For Terminator fans, Resistance feels like a must, probably the best video game based on the IP in many years. For everyone else, it might win you over if you can forgive its failings.
Steam key provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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Terminator: Resistance doesn't do much new, and it doesn't do much well, either. It's lagging in almost every department, yet when you put it all together, it's a charming relic that may just surprise you.
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