This article contains vague spoilers for Terminator: Resistance and a fairly massive one for Terminator: Dark Fate.
The Terminator series finds itself in a weird place in 2019. What should have been a rambunctious return to form with Terminator: Dark Fate, a soft reboot starring Arnie himself and featuring James Cameron back at the helm in a producing role, vastly underwhelmed at the box office – even going so far as to divide a large subset of the Terminator fanbase by killing off John Connor in the opening scene. Yet another planned trilogy of new films has since been brushed aside, leaving audience members wondering where the state of this once great sci-fi franchise now sits.
Does the answer lie in video games? Some creators seem to think so, as evidenced by Terminator: Resistance, a recently released first-person shooter that serves as a prequel story and takes place entirely in the original timeline’s ravaged future. It’s a little rough around the edges, shall we say, but it’s clear that developer Teyon didn’t have a lot of time or money to work with. The resulting experience might not be a great video game overall, but it’s certainly a fun ride that lovingly pays tribute to the first two films in the franchise.
Whereas some Terminator games feel the need to directly set you on the events of the films or cast you as a hulking T-800 model, Resistance opts for a slightly different approach. Here you play as a new character in Jacob Rivers, a battle-worn resistance soldier that soon finds himself targeted for termination. What’s so important about Rivers and why does Skynet want him dead? All these answers and more unravel over the course of Terminator: Resistance‘s 8 or so hour campaign.
Let’s start with what Terminator: Resistance gets right. The actual future setting you explore is arguably one of the truest depictions seen yet of the war-torn L.A. first described by Kyle Reese in the original Terminator and then briefly glimpsed again during the prologue of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. You’d be surprised just how poorly other incarnations of the series have adopted the look of this future war, with 2009’s Terminator: Salvation most notably trading the blue hues of Cameron’s original vision for a brown and gritty wasteland desert. That wasn’t fun to look at for 90 mins, was it? The developers behind Terminator: Resistance recognised this, faithfully fleshing out such iconic locations as resistance shelters and the dried-out Hollywood Hills.
Most of your time spent fighting through these environments is dampened a little by how repetitive the buildings appear, but it’s somewhat forgivable given the bleak sense of atmosphere required. This doesn’t work for every game, don’t get us wrong, yet it’s hard to imagine the life of a resistance soldier fighting on behalf of John Connor’s Tech-Com unit being any other way. Moments of action are broken up by sections where you visit hideouts and converse with survivors. And while most of the dialogue is pretty cheesy and straightforward, Terminator: Resistance does a decent job at having you care for these new characters that deepen the franchise’s lore.
It’s a shame that the same can be said for the game’s general gameplay flow, which boils down to an endless list of rinse-and-repeat fetch quests. Terminator: Resistance very much feels like a game out of time in this way, dropping you in a series of hub-like areas and having you gun down hordes of Terminators in the effort to, say, retrieve a code or take down an enemy base. Performing these tasks earns you XP that can then be poured into skills that’ll improve your chances in the next encounter. Resistance handles all these mechanics perfectly fine, but its decision to double down on merely being tangled hodgepodge of ideas you’d find in games from 10 years ago, rather than focus on making any of them its own, renders the experience a slightly uninspired one.
Thankfully, when it comes to callbacks and Easter eggs, Terminator: Resistance more than has you covered. One of the first weapons you acquire, for example, is none other than an Uzi 9mm, and then it also isn’t long before you pick up a phased plasma rifle in a 40-watt range. Sound familiar? Then there’s the cheeky wink to the T-1000’s origins using Robert Patrick’s likeness, the fact that the attire being worn by the main T-850 model chasing you is the exact same as Arnold’s initial outfit in the first movie, and countless many others.
Complimenting this further is the wide range of new and old Terminator models you battle against as part of Jacob’s journey, whether it’s the classic T-850 infiltrator unit as already mentioned or the hulking, tank-like TK-47 that’s been invented purely for this new story. You as Jacob start off severely underpowered in the early hours of the game, forced to stagger traditional T-800 endoskeletons with a shotgun as needed should you cross their path. By the end, however, with all manner of plasma weapons at your disposal, it’s easy to see why someone like John Connor would place his faith in you.
Despite a markedly lower budget than most Triple-A shooters released these days, Teyon went to great lengths to ensure that Terminator: Resistance felt like a canonical part of the mainline series, largely through the many winks sprinkled in. That’s why playing through it can be infinitely frustrating at times. Previous Terminator games have attempted to tell the Kyle Reese story in a cool and inventive way, but by side-stepping the typical cast of characters and shifting focus to a new crew, Resistance manages to tread the line between the familiar and new – all without irking half the fanbase (we’re looking at you Dark Fate).
Ultimately, it’s hard to recommend Terminator: Resistance to anyone that isn’t a diehard of the series. As a first-person shooter its functional yet not particularly inspiring, especially when compared to such blockbuster epics as Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare or Metro Exodus. However, if you’re seeking a faithful adaptation of Terminator’s future war period, and you’ve continued to stay with the franchise for this long, then it’s a game perfectly set to whet your appetite for a little while longer. As a game it might be old, but it’s not obsolete.