Terminator Salvation is a third-person shooter based on the new movie of the same name. Developed by Gameloft, Salvation is one of the most impressive game apps to appear on the iPhone yet. You play as both the human resistance leader John Connor and a Terminator series newcomer named Marcus Wright as they take on evil super-computer Skynet and its army of Terminator machines. You’ll destroy dozens of T-1 to T-700 Terminators as you make your way from L.A. to San Fransisco on foot, truck, and even on the back of a Terminator-motorcycle. The game does a good job of following the movie version of Terminator Salvation without giving away any significant plot points, so don’t feel like you need to experience one before the other.
The controls for Terminator Salvation are incredible. Keep in mind this game is 3D. The machines will come at you from all angles, and you’ll need to be able to move, look, and shoot at the same time. How’s that even possible on a touch-screen device, you ask? Prepare to be impressed: To move, there’s a virtual directional stick on the lower-left; To shoot, a virtual fire-button on the lower-right; and to look around, Gameloft programmed 3 different control mechanisms, based on personal comfort. You can simply drag the screen around, which is the default, use a directional “wheel” placed around the fire button, or even use the accelerometer by physically moving your iPhone. You can change weapons in the upper-right, and the menu button is in the upper-left. The control scheme will require some practice (for those of us that are used to analog sticks), but it works very well for being touch based. Thankfully, the game isn’t that difficult, even on harder settings, so once you get used to the feel of things you’ll be partying like it’s 2018. Personally, I found the accelerometer super-fun and yet super-difficult to kill robots with. Start on easy and stick with the default controls or the wheel to build your skills.
Visually, Terminator Salvation also gets very high marks for an iPhone game. Everything is rendered in full 3D. Environments are a little grainy and have rough edges, but these settings are highly detailed and feel massive for an iPhone game. Load times are far apart and remarkably quick considering the amount of data being processed. During loading you’re shown detailed specs on various T-models and what their unique weak spots are. One thing to keep in mind is that the game is a big memory hog. If you notice things getting laggy, you may have to restart your phone before you play this game. If you’re like me and always just sleep your iPhone, the game may end up slowing down or even crashing. After a quick restart however, gameplay is nearly smooth as silk. Gameloft included important details such as a guiding arrow to your next object and a visual indicator of where you’re getting shot from. Weapons fire and explosions are satisfying, as are character details and animations. Although unfortunately you kind of have to squint to get Connor to look like Christian Bale. Drat.
Salvation packs some truly fun, albeit short, gameplay. It drags you in the moment the tutorial starts and doesn’t let you go until it’s had a good workout. I didn’t want to stop playing because the game kept sending me new and fun challenges. The only complaint I truly have about the game is that it’s only 8 missions, takes about 1.5 hours to beat, and the machines’ AI was pretty simple. The “hacking” minigame is fun but also a little too easy for my tastes. Another unique detail is that there is no health meter. You might die a few times, but with regenerative health and infinite continues from checkpoints, getting shot a little bit isn’t a big deal. Vehicle controls are excellent and it’s truly criminal that there are only two levels with the truck. Thankfully, you can go back and replay any mission you’ve previously completed. I would like to have seen about 20 levels for the entire game, and maybe even some multiplayer, but I understand about development costs and timelines for a movie tie-in like this. Even with the few levels and the relatively dumb robots that somehow managed to take over the world, this game is awesome fun. Gameloft packed in lots of replay value in the form of achievements and an unlockable extreme difficulty setting (allowing you to play as a Terminator!). Salvation gives you get a glorious taste, and then it walks away. Is it too wishful to hope for an expansion?