Thursday, 20 November 2014

Terminator: Future Shock - PC/DOS


T-800 is going to shoot you in the face, from an FMV


The first game to use the XnGine from Bethesda Softworks back in 1995 before later being used to develop Daggerfall and further TES games before Morrowind plumped for a better engine, but you can see the work being laid down in this game and the direction it started to take gaming.

He's not joking, he's dying but won't until you actually begin the mission.

Future Shock takes the Terminator franchise and gives us a 3D world in which to explore level by level, as we develop from a general runaway in the future from murderous robots into a fighter with the resistance to the greatly exalted SAVIOUR OF EVERYTHING! Yes the game does escalate your achievements quickly towards the end but justifiably so. As said, you start off as someone that escapes a disposal camp and while being chased down, is rescued by a resistance fighter that gets killed in the process. Upon talking to the dying man, you're given the objective to get back to the resistance and alert John Connor. From there it all goes mad.

A little exploration will net you stronger weapons than you'd usually find.

The first thing that grabs you when you start to play is that the levels are huge, especially considering at the time that the usual game was ranging from Doom, to Duke Nukem, to Quake with significantly smaller (but also more involving) levels. Here we have the first level can take players around 30 minutes to complete if they get involved in the exploration incentive of the layout. Wandering the nuclear wasteland of post-apocalyptica lets you head into derelict buildings and ransack them but with the added details you tend to find the untold stories of families murdered in their homes but the machines and left to rot, while other places show signs of damage and destruction and few skeletons huddled together in one of the bedrooms, the detail is surprising and bleak.

Yep, it's the map. Yep, it's a little complicated but moves in fluid 3D.

That's the beauty of Future Shock, you can explore the entire map and find weapon caches with access to a rocket launcher on the first level IF and ONLY IF, you find and locate them and that alone can take some serious levels of exploring to achieve. The rocket launcher for example is found in a laser-fenced off area, atop a building that you can leap to if you have the health to survive but after jumping over or around a human-sized blending machine. Later weapons are even more difficult to find.

Certainly a bleak outlook.

The story however, unfolds steadily in cut-scenes and in small snippets received during play. As such it delves into the idea behind time manipulation, branching into theories of quantum mechanics and deploys various gaming tricks to involve the ideas into more than just back ground plot. The key focus is the idea that the main bad guy, SkyNET is capable of sending itself information into the past to alert itself of key and critical points in time. As such, it can send more and more robots your way, resulting in time based teleportation of robots appearing in front of you when we switch one timeline for another. More impressively is the design of some levels to mimic déjà vu and repeats key components of the levels to repeat themselves which leaves the player genuinely wondering if they're actually lost or being subjected to the time dilation issue mentioned within the game.

Flying missions and personalised messages!

As you progress, the game throws out bigger and more powerful robots until you're faced with floating/flying monstrosities that can shred you instantly (and the first time you meet THESE is when your back is turned to them) as well as a hovering uprightly little tank with a laser gun and TWIN ROCKET PODS of which you will NEVER HEAR IT COMING. You will learn quickly to hate this little fucker. On top of that you'll come up against the less subtle robots like the HKs and the Goliaths which are based straight on the large tank looking robot from the first film "The Terminator" that was fought in a flashback-of-the-future and generally is the game's bullet sponge for draining ammo and giving back nothing in return.

Ho, Ho, Ho, now I have a machine gun.

Weaponry is fairly varied though limited at the same time. Machine gun, Assault Rifle and Uzi use the same ammo and jump pump out more at a time. The shotgun is fairly standard, reliable but slow. Grenade launcher has no reticule thanks to gravity affliction. Rockets are powerful but so rare and valuable you'd not feel up to using it, laser rifle and laser cannon eat through ammo too quickly and plasma weapons are too slow to cause significant damage at a sufficiently fast pace. However, throwables like Molotovs, pipe bombs, grenades, canisters (ow) and the satchel charges (missions only and be CAREFUL WHERE YOU USE IT!) give a little extra to play with while battling the robots.

A steady mix of on-foot, driving and flying missions to battle through.

But you won't be fighting the robots for the most part. Instead you'll be fighting the scripting within the game engine. The biggest problem with the game is that unless you do the right thing at the right time, you'll not be able to progress. For example, and it may seem obvious at the time I say this, but in the third level if you venture into the processing point for human captives, you'll be trapped. It seems obvious but at the same time this is a game that has encouraged wanton exploration and now punishes you HEAVILY if you venture in and more so if you save because that means you're starting over from the beginning. Later missions have the issue of making sure you hit the right button at the right time in the right order otherwise you're sunk and not going any further in the game's progression and there's NO real clue as to the order required until you realise you're stuck and not going to be making it home to see little Timmy for Xmas.

Whether an oversight or intention, be careful here as you too can end up trapped like the others and doomed forever.

The game has quite the level of emersion if you let it take you and can really sell itself on the "end of the world" situation and how it plays but if you hit one of this sticking points that disrupts your game entirely then reality is brought crashing back with such a suddenness that you'll find it harder to get back into the game. Aside from that, if you can stomach the bugs, you'll find an impressive game to enjoy.