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Terminator: Dawn of Fate
Score: 4.5 / 10
Often the success (or failure) of a game
can hinge on one feature or one critical design choice. Terminator: Dawn
of Fate (DoF) succeeds in so many ways but fails in one that brings down
the whole experience – if not terminating it outright.
Anyone familiar with the Terminator movies will instantly be at home
here (but for those that aren’t, that’s okay – much is explained in the
opening cinematic). At the start, you assume the role of Kyle Reese, a
major force in the human resistance against the robotic Skynet
organization that seeks to wipe out human life. Ultimately, Reese is
sent back in time to save the future (no Doloreans involved) or at least
protect Sarah Connor who will/has given birth to a son, John Connor,
will lead the human resistance. Interesting
story (if somewhat a little tired): check.
There have been a few Terminator games but none have done justice to the
license as DoF does. The details are sharp, recreating the post-nuclear
L.A. (and other locales) and all the technological horrors one would
expect (and that we catch an all-too-brief glimpse of in Terminator 2).
carries over to the cinematics – it’s like the lost prelude to the first
Terminator movie. In-game animation is good too, even if the character
dialogue doesn’t always hit the mark. So, recreated movie sets: check.
Where almost everything falls apart is the fumbling camera work, which
makes controlling your on-screen character a migraine-inducing
experience. There was an attempt to model (or at least mimic) Resident
Evil’s pre-assigned camera angles. This works for Resident Evil (RE)
largely because it moves at a slower pace than DoF – and RE’s camera
cuts make sense. DoF has camera angle shifts reminiscent of exploding
popcorn – you never know what’s going to happen next, what angle is
going to thrown at you. And nearly every time the camera shifts you have
to get your bearings as to where you are and what door you just came
through. It also makes it difficult to find targets (or who’s shooting
you). Some confusion can be eliminated by switching to 1st Person mode.
The bad news is that you can’t move, only aim. Although this helps blow
the heads of T-800s, once you come out of 1st Person, you have to get
your bearings again.
The design is schizophrenic – I wish someone on the design team had
piped up and said, “Let’s make it strictly a first-person shooter,” or
“How about we use something like Computer Artworks in The Thing?” As it
is, the camera is a mess and it drains nearly all the fun out of the
action, story, and setting.
So, camera: Migraine inducing.
If the camera work had been revamped it wouldn’t have gotten in the way
of the controls, which are a snap to learn. There’s only one improvement
I’d make: getting rid of the adrenaline button. Its affects are marginal
at best. Everything else is fine. Switching weapons, locking onto an
enemy, rolling out of the line of fire, controlling heavy turrets, etc.
– all simple to learn but impossible to master thanks to the camera. Oh,
and maybe I'd make the T-800 capable of withstanding a sweep kick.
If you’re a Terminator fan, by all means check out Dawn of Fate. All
others wait until a time machine is invented so someone can go back and
talk some sense to the design team to change the critical flaw. (I’m
hoping Paradigm can pull it together for any potential sequels.)