One aspect of modern gaming that we have all become used to is the game update. We have come to expect them these days as issues are discovered in games and improvements are made, which is at least preferable to having a game broken forever (on the flipside the argument is all issues should be discovered and settled before release but we’ll leave that for the comments section). Arcade games also see updates on occasion and the one we are going to take a look at today is the latest update to Terminator Salvation by Raw Thrills’/Play Mechanix. Released around this time last year, the game has received a number of small updates since it’s initial release, with the latest one at the time of this writing(v1.20) being released last month in April. Read on for more details
When it comes to providing game updates I really have to give Raw Thrills props on this – they made it easy through a new FTP setup on their website. There the most recent game updates are just a download away, which is nice. I just recently discovered this feature of the Raw Thrills website and with that I also noticed that the latest version of the game (click here for a list of what updates it has had) added something to it called “Expert Mode”. I just had to see what that was all about since it was obviously more significant than improvements to how the guns worked. It took a while to download the images but once that was done, I burned them to a DVD-R and I was ready to go.
I purchased my Terminator Salvation 42″ unit in May of 2010 where it was installed with version 1.02 of the software. This was the initial release and while it has worked well for us with only one time I can recall the software crashing, there were a couple of problems here and there – the right gun began having a tracking issue some time ago and one of the cabinet lights wasn’t working properly, which I figured was attributed to a broken light. But if you take a look at the software revisions that they have made to the game over the past year, you see that one thing they have constantly modified is the gun code. So that was one good reason to upgrade my software in addition to the new mode.
It took about 15 minutes to install the new software and once that was done and with the game restarted I quickly noticed some differences to how the game works compared to v.1.02. The cabinet light I thought was broken was now working; when I calibrated the guns when prompted both work out great. Now when the game is in attract mode the cabinet lights flash to the beat of the thumping parts of the soundtrack, which is a nice touch. Expert Mode has to be activated in the Game Operator/Test Menu(pictured to the upper right, click for a full view) otherwise players will not have access to it. Once active the new leaderboards will appear during the attract cycle and a new option will appear on the mission select screen.
The Expert Mode option is easy to miss if you aren’t really paying attention but I guess that’s because it’s for the experts anyways. To activate it when you play, just shoot the small box that appears on the right of the screen by Mission 2 on the Mission Select screen. It will then remain active for the rest of your game. Click on either of the images directly below for a larger view.
Before I get into details on the Expert Mode, I need to mention some other things I saw as a part of the overall update. One minor thing I noticed as soon as the game began to play is that the frame rate is slightly smoother than it was before. It wasn’t bad int he first place but I still noticed a slight improvement. This could have been part of a past update but it’s always welcome to have our arcade games running at 60 FPS all of the time. Also there are more particle effects to be seen when you blast a Terminator with more yellow sparks flying around the place. They have added more enemies to the mix (in the regular mode as well) particularly when it comes to those flying copter-bots. Also the flashing red lights are not just a part of the attract mode – now they flash when you are hit.
So what about Expert Mode itself? It’s the same game on hard difficulty. For someone like me who has been playing the game at least once a month over the past year, it’s a great challenge. Enemy shots do much more damage and there is no “grace period” for the player when the game begins (in normal mode you will notice that at first the health bar barely moves when you are hit, at least for the first couple of minutes). Also certain things are no longer counted as kills, such as blowing up those purple missiles that some of the tanks fire at you. This less forgiving mode means that you have to be on your toes as you play and it certainly will take more money to get through the complete game. This is especially true of the later levels – don’t impulsively hit start when continuing, make sure you are ready if there are any enemies on the screen who are red as if you are caught off guard there it can mean you continue will only last a couple of seconds. Getting an Elite ranking is more difficult than it was before although it is not impossible I found.
There are now two separate leaderboards for Expert Mode – local and online as pictured above. As you can see below, not many have decided to take on the Expert Mode challenge since I installed it and online it’s a similar scenario at the moment. For now it’s just me and Grimjaw’s Den on there, perhaps that will change soon as word spreads about the update. With as many Terminator’s as there are out there, I’m still a little surprised that more operators haven’t plugged their Terminator’s into the network. It’s free to do so why not? As for the update, I am quite happy with it having improved some problems the game had with the first version of the software and for them to add new features to the game a year down the road is cool as well. In fact, it would be great if every arcade game got an update with new features a year after release to hopefully drive some more play on the games after many players have become familiar with what is already there. As for finding a location near you with the latest version of the software, if they don’t have expert mode, then ask them to get it!