With the monumental box office failure of Terminator: Dark Fate, many critics are espousing the idea that the franchise is done, and has been ever since the release Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Theirs is a plausible argument, if only because every film since the James Cameron directed sequel has underperformed both critically and commercially. Yet, despite the overwhelming lack of fanfare that has greeted each and every entry since Terminator 2, the fact that the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, the S. M. Stirling trilogy of books, and the J. Michael Straczynski series of Salvation comics all take place after T2, and are all highly regarded many years after their initial release, suggests that there is still plenty of material to explore in the Terminator universe post Judgement Day.
With there having been a number of games in the Terminator universe (most notably the Bethesda developed titles in the 90’s), like the Terminator movies, it’s been a while since we’ve had a standout Terminator game. And whilst the new Teyon developed Resistance game is ultimately a low budget title (unlike its 2019 released Dark Fate movie counterpart), it more than makes up for its lack of monetary production values by having an immense amount of heart. Indeed, one of the more perplexing questions which I had after I’d completed the game was wonder as to why the Dark Fate movie was afforded such a high budget ($185 million), whilst the Resistance game never got the same level of monetary care. Indeed, this lack of attention even boiled down to how little fanfare the game received prior to its launch, with Resistance merely being announced 2 months prior its release, as opposed to Dark Fate which was announced as going into production 2 years ago.
Yet despite these initial misgivings, Terminator: Resistance positively soars as a game and demonstrably showcases what can be achieved when a passionate developer is set loose on a project. And whilst comic book legends like Rob Liefeld have attempted to explain Dark Fate‘s abysmal box office performance by suggesting that the franchise died as a consequence of his generation’s inability to pass down their love for the franchise to their children, it’ll be interesting to see as to how gamers respond to Teyon’s effort after it became widely known that the developer was responsible for the botched handling of another action movie IP – Rambo: The Video Game – with both games also sharing the same director (Piotr Latocha).
Despite the developer’s publicly derided track record, it soon becomes abundantly clear that a lot of effort has been put into the game. From Brad Fiedel’s repurposed soundtrack as well as all the arranged homages that are in keeping with the tone of his iconic synth based score, to the depiction of a Future War that many fans have been clamouring for ever since they first caught glimpses of it in Terminator and Terminator 2. Indeed, it’s startling to realise exactly how much effort has been expended in realising a post apocalyptic Los Angeles in which you play the role of a Resistance soldier by the name of Jacob Rivers, a lowly private whose role in the war against Skynet takes on increased importance as you progress throughout the game’s 12-15 hour campaign (because I took my time).
With the opening sections of the game requiring you to outrun and sneak past T-800 units, the game captures much of the intensity of what made being stalked by a relentless killing machine in the first movie so terrifying. However, after acquiring Ultravision goggles, a lot of this tension soon dissipates as you find yourself being able to see terminators behind walls and are therefore able to map out your terrain and sneak past them accordingly. And it’s this form of “Detective Mode” which ends up scuppering what little tension there could be, as whilst the use of Ultravision goggles isn’t mandatory, they’re convenient to use so as to see oncoming terminators, and one soon forms a habit and becomes increasingly more reliant upon the device as you find yourself having to traverse areas where there is inadequate lighting. Indeed, whilst “Detective Mode” was certainly useful in spotting terminators, it also ended up masking the detailed textures, and it wasn’t until much later in the game that I realised exactly how beautiful the desolate environmental locales were, especially when they were illuminated by the moonlight. And with no terminators about, the ruined buildings also came to have a more sombre tone and character as one was allowed to reflect on the scale of destruction that had been wrought down upon them.
At the same time, and whilst the T-800 units are certainly a formidable threat and must be avoided early on, the game takes on a much more action packed affair as you come into possession of plasma rifles – with the resultant effect being that the once terrifying terminators end up becoming mere cannon fodder afterwards as part of an elaborate shooting gallery. And whilst these “power ups” lead to a more adrenaline charged change of pace, the change in tone is arguably an unwelcome one, as the terminators in Resistance aren’t as intelligent or as ruthless as the terminators that were originally depicted in James Cameron’s movies. Indeed, the AI shortcomings of the T-800’s become glaringly obvious as they are unwilling to follow you down shafts despite having you in their line of sight.
Ultimately, Teyon have tried to emulate the hi-octane thrills of Activision’s Call Of Duty series, and this is evidenced by the combat feeling nice as well as a plethora of scripted events that are dotted throughout the campaign. And with a more gung ho approach, the developer has also tried to ensure that the campaign remains interesting throughout by having various enemy types, with you taking on plenty of Skynet’s drones that were already featured within the first two movies (including the HK Aerials and HK Tanks), as well as more unfamiliar types where Teyon have obviously used artistic license (such as Spider Scouts and T-47’s). And then there are the T-800 series variants that you find yourself squaring off against (including the T-808’s, T-820’s, T-825’s, and the T-850 infiltration unit), although their AI levels are pretty similar to the T-800 base units.
But even with a more gung-ho approach to the campaign, Teyon haven’t forgotten what made the first two Terminator movies so special, and whilst Terminator: Resistance certainly wears its Future War inspiration on its sleeve, it also takes the time to explore the more human elements as portrayed on film – including the weaving dialogue as part of a nuanced narrative that stays incredibly faithful to the lore. Indeed, whilst playing the campaign, I was often struck by how much thought and consideration had gone into the game, and how much emphasis had been placed in recreating moments that wouldn’t look out of place in the first two movies – including the similarly styled underground bunker that housed Kyle Reese and which sees you meet desperate survivors that just want their nightmare to end. And it was during those moments that I was most reminded of games like Metro: 2033 and The Last Of Us, as whilst both games certainly manage to capture the bleakness which the human race faced as part of a desperate post-apocalyptic future, they also ensured to give each character a personality so as to make their “Future War” wasteland more fleshed out and real.
Maybe it’s my fondness for abandoned places (and post-apocalyptic imagery) that compels me to explore the worlds in the Fallout and Metro series, or maybe it’s the Future War setting which Resistance takes place in that endears me towards the game. Either way, while I was certainly enamored by the world, I also enjoyed witnessing certain nods towards the Terminator franchise. Whether they be easter eggs such as seeing the carcass which Robert Patrick’s T-1000 was modelled on, or following the adult John Connor as he walked down the very same corridor as shown during the beginning of T2, it’s pretty clear that Teyon definitely did their research and crafted a compelling narrative that pays homage to the first two movies. At the same time, Resistance also takes cues from more modern gaming franchises, and there is plenty of scope for gamers to explore in a quasi open-world where the player is encouraged to salvage and craft items. As part of this, the game also has branching storylines and depending on your choices, encourages multiple playthroughs so as to get the “best” ending.
“There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.”
Even though Terminator: Resistance is an immensely enjoyable experience that stays faithful to its source material, I couldn’t help but wonder as to what could have been achieved if Teyon had actually been allocated more time and resources. Because whilst a lot of care and fan-service has certainly been applied to the game, the game’s low production values are brazenly apparent and often appear at odds with Teyon’s lofty ambition. Indeed, as an example of this, character models are basic and the frame rate often stutters. At the same time, the £40 price-tag implies a AAA product, yet the game often looks more like a mid-tier title.
But even with strapped resources, Teyon certainly punch above their weight, and ensure to deliver a game that fulfils Terminator‘s Future War potential. And whilst it is disappointing to see the James Cameron produced Dark Fate movie retread familiar ground, I was actually impressed by how fresh Teyon’s take on the Terminator universe was. Indeed, and especially taken into consideration Resistance‘s budget and developer pedigree, and also bearing in mind that James Cameron hired an arsenal of writers to continue the franchise (including Josh Friedman of the much vaunted Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles), I actually had a much better time playing Resistance than watching Dark Fate (which in itself happens to be the best Terminator sequel since T2). In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Resistance is a truer sequel to T2, and gives fans a much more convincing continuation of the Terminator saga. It’s just a shame however that whilst Dark Fate‘s box office performance has “terminated” any possibility of any more films occurring, the lack of fanfare surrounding Resistance has also probably dented its ability to have a decent stab at the market.
In closing, Teyon have crafted a worthy follow-up to T2 and should be proud of their accomplishment. For whilst the commercial fate of Terminator: Resistance is uncertain and isn’t being helped at all by a mainstream media that is hell-bent on wanting to bury the game with its agenda laden “reviews” – including Eurogamer who spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about two minuscule scenes that are hardly worth talking about within the overall context of the game. And even though the game may not justify it’s £40 price-tag, Terminator fans would be doing themselves a immense disservice by not picking the game up and giving it a chance when it drops to £25 and below. In fact, I’d go so far as to state that I would love to see what Teyon do next, and sincerely hope that they get another crack at the Terminator franchise by crafting Resistance DLC episodes and sequels in future.