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Terminator: Survival

The Best Game Never Played

Terminator: Survival (Action Survival / PC, PS3)

 

Introducing the Genre

Like all great games, this one combines genres in a new and interesting way. There are survival elements with shooter gameplay, a dash of stealth, and RPG character design, having victory dependent on some very tricky problem solving . Some elements seem taken from the old NES Jaws, the indie hit Spy Party, The Sims, The Ship, and the standard 3rd person shooter’s navigation and combat.

 

Introducing the Game

In the battle of genre vs franchise, I usually compare both. There’s never been a mix of genres to create a game like this, and all the games in the franchise never quite reached this level of emotional investment and recreating the feel of the movie as this one. This is a game that could only have come out now, with the high level of detail for cities, the city’s square mileage, store and building interiors, object physics, high polycount of models, destructible environments, and dense crowd AI. There’s never been a game that perfectly captures the terror of being against the world with the paranoia level of Slender, like this one, Terminator: Survival.

 

Gameplay

For a long time, I couldn’t imagine how to properly design or play a real Terminator game. What would make it a real Terminator game compared to any other shooter with a robot in them? How would you recreate the feeling and struggle of the characters in the movies?

The game is a mix between open world, sim, role-playing, shooter, and a unique cat & mouse mechanic, like a reverse-Assassin’s Creed. The city is yours to roam like a GTA clone, complete with bystanders and police. All the time, someone is hunting you.

Once you’ve made contact with a soldier from the future, you two are joined at the hip. When you’re on the run, you cannot just camp somewhere in a corner. Remember, being thrown in a hole somewhere for the rest of your natural life is just as good as being dead. You will never be able to do whatever it is that you do to help or threaten Skynet.

Both characters have basic survival needs such as sleep, money, food, water, sanitation, and entertainment. These are reminiscent of the gauges on each Sim from The Sims or for characters in the game, The Ship. The “needs” prevent you from just camping in one spot. Venturing out when you know you’re being hunted adds a certain level of tension.

There is a rich character creator capable of generating unique faces for you, your companion, the Terminator, and the random faces in the crowd. Just because you remember what each one looked like in the last game, it doesn’t mean they’ll have the same face in this game. Since some Terminators are based on real people, your protector from one game might be your nemesis in the next.

Besides cosmetic features, the character creation screen for your character has a skill set that reminds me of some pencil and paper RPGs. You pick skills to have some ranks already developed, the more you use your skills, the more they level up, but only marginally. You cannot max everything out, and there’s a point to that. Your character in this run through will be different from your last, your next, and the one from the player down the street.

Your companion, if you’re able to find them, are generally your opposite. If you created yourself to be some kind of soldier, then your partner is more of an intel/tech specialist. If you have absolutely no knowledge of first-aid, it’s a good bet that your protector will. This fosters a sense of cooperation, reliance, and ensuring that they are always valuable. A word of warning, if your bodyguard dies, then they are dead, that’s it. You should protect them while they are protecting you.

Like Kyle Reese said, it doesn’t feel pity or remorse, it will not stop until you are dead. This can actually work in your favor since a gun wielding maniac attracts it’s own wanted level. Once a T-888 has you in its sights, you can fight or flee. In the opening of the game, fleeing is usually the best option.

Terminating a Terminator is never a straightforward task. Like the movies, Terminators can soak up a ridiculous amount of small arms fire. All that really does is slow it down, force it into hiding to repair itself, or bring the police to bear on the both of you. Having a Terminator on your tail is like having a wanted level in GTA.

An infiltrator robot is of no use if large swaths of skin are torn off, revealing the metal underneath. Once you shake the terminator, it will be in hiding longer based on the amount of damage you’ve dealt. Enjoy the downtime.

In your downtime trying to collect money, food, weapons, and the necessities of life, try not to commit too many crimes. The police can chase after you just as easily as the T-888. If you get arrested, you’ll have to break out. Your resistance partner might be able to help. There’s a good chance that the terminator will hear of your arrest and come to shoot up the police station, just like in the first movie.

Well now you’re an escaped criminal. This is where you’ll be forced to change your appearance, just like the terminator if it had taken severe damage. Fleeing can be on foot can only work for so long. Unless the terminator is severely damaged and limping, a vehicle is usually the best chance of evading.

There could be frequent car chases, or you could use the car as an offensive weapon against the T-888, assuming you don’t have a swarm of police bearing down on you.

Killing it will involve recreating scenes from the movies, as in some kind of industrial equipment, high explosives, thermite, electrocution, crushing, acid, smelting, radiation, or freezing. Those are just some of the more obvious ways. Desperation and creativity may reveal some others. People who watched the TV series might be at an advantage.

 

Story

“… making this the third victim with the same name in as many weeks.” You hear on a news broadcast that three people with your exact first and last name have been murdered. In the future, the character you create is very important in some way. The specifics aren’t important. What’s important is that Skynet deems you valuable enough to target for termination.

Terminator: Survival expands upon the universe created in the television series and the first two movies. We’ve seen from The Sarah Connor Chronicles that John and Sarah were not the only targets of Skynet.

One terminator, or more, models determined by difficulty level between T-800, T-888, T-1000, or T-X, are sent back to terminate your character. There is also a human resistance member sent back in time to help you. How the game plays out, life or death for you or your companion, is up to you.

This game recreates the story conditions of the first movie. One terminator is sent back in time to terminate a very influential person in the future. Additionally, a resistance member, a very mortal one, has been sent back in time as a bodyguard. You’re outmatched, outgunned, and forced to flee. There are no offensive missions where you can really take the fight to Skynet and attack future Terminator assets like Cyberdine in Terminator 2, or several sites in the TV series, The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Perhaps if there’s ever a sequel, the developers will shoot for a T-2 vibe and allow you to plan attacks against Skynet, maybe meet up with famous characters like John & Sarah Connor, perhaps have your very own Terminator at your command.

 

Graphics

The developers had a grand vision that they were able to achieve with today’s technology. They were able to render a very destructible sandbox world in incredible detail. I think it’s fair to say that the Grand Theft Auto series set the bar in regards to sandbox cities. This raises the bar just a little more with the addition of the “flavors” of the city, industrial districts, commercial districts, residential districts, a port district, an airport, a stadium, destructible elements like storefronts, malls, gun stores, a military base, a police station, warehouses, construction sites, highways, insides of buildings, and more. There is a slight loading time in between some of the different zones, but that’s the trade off for the graphics detail.

 

Music

Bear McCreary, my favorite robot musician, delivers his signature style and emulation of the original Terminator themes. If you liked what you heard on The Sarah Connor Chronicles, you’ll like what you hear here. The music sets the appropriate mood for when you’re running, hiding, evading, or involved in an all out firefight.

 

Sound

This almost mixes with music, considering who was doing the score. Lots of drums, metal banging on metal. I think the soundfont from the series was used for most of the climactic battles. Voice acting is solid, especially the signature line, “Come with me if you want to live.” Gives me chills every time, no matter who says it.

 

Controls

I was surprised that this game was available for both PC and consoles. Navigating the menus reminded me of how Mass Effect dealt with interaction, weapons, AI commands, and such.

The combat easily shifts between vehicular combat and cover based shooting. When not drawing a weapon, interacting with the rest of the environment is fluid.

 

Multiplayer

This is one of the highlights of the game. It could have been a solid game without multiplayer, but developers went the extra mile. There is a multiplayer battle mode that allows you to play asymmetrically with up to two players as humans, and more as terminators. Or, another game type with terminator on terminator action. Depending on what team you’re on, you have a photograph of your target and must protect it, or terminate. The different models are available for play, T-800, 888, 1000, or T-X.

Single player pauses the game while you choose some options, but in multiplayer, it doesn’t. So you have to be quick. Also, the need for sleep is removed in multiplayer, it’s mostly played in near real-time.

There are a few default skins for your characters, just in case you want to be obvious, like Arnold, Robert Patrick, Kristanna Loken, Linda Hamilton, Lena Heady, and more.

It all takes place, single and multi-player, in the not too distant present/past. There’s no future or post-Judgement Day maps to play on, no bleached skulls and hunter killers(except in Mods). Maybe that’s being saved for a sequel.

 

Depth/Replayability

With the ever randomizing of character skins, every game begins unpredictably. There might be some games where you never meet your bodyguard. Some games might end quickly, one way or another.

The depth of the skill system gives you challenges and gameplay styles different each time, depending on your mood. One game might make you a perfect burglar, in another game you’re a wealthy philanthropist, in one you’re a hard boiled soldier with a computer hacker sidekick.

Then there’s difficulty levels which determine what model of Terminator is sent at you and how many. In one game you might try to destroy it or them in new and different ways.

Multiplayer gives the game a great party value to play with friends cooperatively or competitively.

Lastly, MOD support, at least for the PC, means this game can have unlimited depth.

 

Personal

The PC version is obviously superior, if only for the MOD support.

Bear McCreary may or may not be an actual robot. I suspect he is, since his career seems to have been tied to robots for a very long time. Bear composed the music for the re-imagined Battlestar: Galactica, with humans at war with the robotic Cylons. He scored Dark Void where humans are at war with a mysterious robotic race. Mr. McCreary accepted the gig since he was inspired by Capcom’s robot war epic Mega Man 2 when he was younger. Lastly, he did the music for The Sarah Conner Chronicles. So, robot? To be determined.

Creating my character’s skills and adding points into things like my finances reminds me of picking my job in Oregon Trail.

 

Boiling it Down

Recreating the terror of the Terminator movie in a game, perfectly.

Mega Man: The Power Wars

The Best Game Never Played

Mega Man: The Power Wars (Fighter-Brawler MOD / PC)

Introducing the Genre

In the late ’90s, MOD tools were the big hot thing to include with every PC game. Unreal had an editor that let users easily import skins and design levels. Quake III was the same way. Some dedicated users designed Total Conversion (TC) packs for older games, making an unlicensed new game around the old engine. Duke Nukem 3D came bundled with it’s Build 3D engine for players to edit and create their own levels. Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Warcraft II, and Starcraft all came with their own map editors. Half-Life was probably one of the most famously modded games. Several of the mods went on to become stand-alone products that could be bought in stores. Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat were both originally mods of Half-Life that became unbelievably popular. Half-Life 2 comes with it’s Source Development Kit (SDK) tools, as well as any other Source games like Alien Swarm.

Introducing the Game

One of my favorite games of all time that I will swear by until the day I die will be One Must Fall: Battlegrounds. I loved the original game, it was the only fighter that I was ever really good at. I went out of my way to go download extra hard add on tournaments. When I heard the sequel was in development, I followed it very closely. I was fortunate enough to be in the beta test and when I heard there were going to be mod tools for the game, my mind started spinning, overwhelmed at all the possibilities. This was the game that sparked my interest in 3d modeling as a whole. I learned to model as a result of this game. It was all so I could make this mod. Since the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to share my ideas for this game. This mod would have been a sequel to the Mega Man arcade games The Power Battles and The Power Fighters. I had several of the items made, some partial models, and a title screen that read, Mega Man: The Power Wars.

Gameplay

The Power Wars was supposed to be a mod for One Must Fall: Battlegrounds using its mod tools. The tools, unfortunately, never fully materialized and I was left a little disappointed. The gameplay wouldn’t have changed much from the brawling of OMF:BG, though there would be particular additions needed to make it uniquely a Mega Man game and not just a skin.

OMF:BG featured interactive arenas with hazards and power-ups. I’d include power-ups from the Mega Man series such as energy pellets and weapon pellets that would fill the focus meter. I created a Met model, those little hard hat-wearing guys from every Mega Man game. Populating the arena occasionally with low level familiar baddies would be a hazard. I also would have included bladers, and Mega Man’s most deadly hazard: spikes!

OMF had unlimited continues, though I would have liked to have a limited number of lives, replenished by extra 1-up helmets that randomly rarely spawn or drop from enemies interfering with the combat. That tension and mortality was always a constant consideration in the back of my head in every Mega Man game.

Every robot in OMF had a projectile weapon. Most characters in the Mega Man series have some kind of arm cannon, which would replace the basic projectile for every character (down, up, punch). Using the energy from the focus meter, a charged shot would be fired instead of the normal blast.

Instead of mixing and matching pilots with robots, like OMF, there would be fixed characters with their own stats. I planned to include Mega Man, Bass, Protoman, and Sniper Joe from the original series. Then X, Zero, and Vile from the X series. Eventually I’d probably have added Duo, Yellow Devil, King, Dynamo, Axel, and Sigma. Or, offer entire “tournaments” made up of each of the 6-8 robot masters from each game.

The Warlord robot from OMF:BG featured transforming parts that changed his basic set of moves. I imagined this same mechanic would play into any of the Mega Man characters for switching weapons, or for merging with Rush and Treble, or summoning Eddie and Beat.

Story

OMF:BG tells its story at the beginning of every round. There’s a little pre-fight banter between the characters. The story wouldn’t have broken any new ground. It would have played off of the same relationships each character had already established. Bass is struggling to prove to Dr. Wily that he’s the only robot he needs, and he’s more powerful than Mega Man. Protoman is fighting to watch his brother’s back, as well as wipe out that cheap copy, Sniper Joe. Mega Man takes it upon himself to stop all of Wily’s robots, just like he’s always done. Of course, the struggle is told through the battle and through the player.

Graphics

The graphics would be only as good as I would make them. I planned to keep the polycount low, for the sake of speed and accessability on as many systems as possible. I had no idea exactly how fast the game would run once I added all the details, so low was the safe bet. By now, I’m sure most systems can handle if I added more detail to each player model.

Music

Mega Man is pure Capcom at its best. There’s something about Capcom’s music that is so memorable. Mega Man’s opening themes, Wily’s Castles, Protoman’s whistle, ending themes, or certain stages. I have a large collection of Mega Man themes, originals and remixes, in my music library from OC Remix, VG Mix, and The Sauce. I have no musical talent myself, so I’d ask permission from some of my favorite artists, Injury, DJ Dan, Star Salzman, AE, Game Over, and The Megas. Boss fighting themes, game overs, boss select, all would have both a new and familiar feel.

Sound

I planned to sample the Mega Man sounds from their original sources. I was going to use whatever sound files I could capture from the Mega Man X sound test mode, or whatever files I could find online. I’d like to use the highest quality samples from the SNES Mega Man 7 or the Playstation Mega Man 8.

Controls

I’d have made the choice to have kept the same OMF:BG control scheme. In most reviews, the control scheme is one of the most heavily criticized points. To me, it seemed perfectly natural and intuitive. There’s never been any game like it, so there’s never been any control scheme like it. It needed to be unique.

The OMF:BG control scheme would give each character a previously unknown level of control. Jumping, high-jumping, rolling, evading, air dodging, blocking, 360 degree freedom of movement, 8 different basic attacks with 8 additional aerial attacks, and a plethora of easy to execute special moves. Each character, although very similar in appearance, would have a unique fighting style that helps to establish their identity.

Multiplayer

Mega Man games have never really been about multiplayer, but OMF: BG certainly was. One of the unique selling points of this game was the fact that there could be an indeterminate number of total combatants. It could be a one on one battle, or a one on two, two on one, or tip the scales and make it two on ten. Players can host games online or on the local area network, making both the original game and the mod perfect for LAN parties. The OMF:BG format of multiplayer would offer something I’ve always wanted to see, a chance to see Mega Man and Protoman fighting back to back against Wily. Power Battles and Power Fighters had that, but it needed to up the ante, scope, and scale. Imagine if the pair had to fight all 6 robot masters from the first game, simultaneously, in a fully 3D environment?

Depth/Replayability

The original OMF:BG had a nearly infinite level of depth. The addition of multiple opponents, as many as your system could handle, then adjusting their varying levels of difficulty, then considering their robot/pilot combo made sure you would always be challenged. That’s not even considering human opponents or allies thrown into the mix.

This Mega MOD wouldn’t have such an infinite level of depth, though I hope the general level of fun would be enough to keep players fighting. The inclusion of unlockable characters like X, Zero, and Vile, might extend the lifespan of the game for a while. Additional DLC like the Mega Man 1 bosses, Mega Man 2 bosses, and so on, would do the same. It might also keep me too busy developing to play the game much. Regardless, the Mega Man games have a lasting charm and I still replay them on occasion. Hopefully this game would have the same staying power.

Personal

You can see some of the finished and partial models for the mod on my other site.

OMF:BG is one of the best fighters or brawlers ever made. The level of control it gives each player is still unmatched.

This game and mod are the reasons I began to learn 3d modeling, so that when the mod tools eventually came out, I’d be ready.

I also had a Gundam Wing mod in mind and a 90% complete modeled and textured Deathscythe. That would have been the Gundam game I’d been waiting a decade for.

Boiling it Down

A Mega Man fighting game that I’ve always wanted to play, and the treatment that I believe the character deserves.