Publisher: Raw Thrills Inc.
Release: March 2010 (Original) / April 2020 (Delta Mission)
Type: Light-gun shooter
Players: 1-2, simultaneous
Hardware: PC with a custom I/O board
ARCADE EXCLUSIVE?: Yes; Delta Mission only available via Big Buck Hunter Reloaded
Rating: Yellow Label – Mild Violence
Synopsis: Based upon the 2009 film, find yourself in the role of freedom fighter John Connor in his bid to save humanity from the machines.
The concept of killer humanoid robots makes for an easy translation into the arcade format, particularly where light-gun games are concerned. The Terminator franchise is one of the few Hollywood properties that offers up such action on a platter, where it has been translated into both video & pinball games over the years.
The Terminator Salvation film was released in May 2009 as the 4th entry into the franchise, but while it tried a different approach to the series, it struggled as both critics and viewers panned it. The home console video game didn’t fare any better, but Play Mechanix and Raw Thrills didn’t let those factors deter them and they continued development on the game. Doing something that you can only do in arcades, their unique arcade edition was released 10 months later, and it quickly became one of the best performing games on the scene.
Ignoring Big Buck Hunter, Terminator Salvation was the first light-gun gun to come out of Play Mechanix since they developed Aliens Extermination for GlobalVR in 2006; It would also be the first light-gun title (again, outside of BBH) to carry the Raw Thrills name since they had released Target Terror in 2004. It’s noteworthy to point out that the head of Play Mechanix, George Petro, was the principle developer on Midway’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, thus TS ended up “staying in the family,” so to speak.
The game itself sort of follows the movie, focusing more on the setting and the action than the characters and plot. This worked to the advantage of the game, which offers some brief, but skipable cutscenes to setup the situation that you need to survive the onslaught of battling an army of humanoid robots. There are two missions that you can chose from, each coming with 4 chapters: Mission 1’s focus is on destroying an underground lab; Mission 2 has you saving human survivors and heading to Skynet to take it out. You can also select Chapter Mode for each mission to jump ahead on, if you wish.
When the game starts, it plays a nicely done tutorial video that explains the basic mechanics (shoot the robots, red enemies are immediate threats) as well as the controls. One thing that was a big deal when this came out was the Reload function. Instead of shooting off the screen to reload, or shaking the gun, the game came with these large rifles that included a “clip reload” feature. Slam the button on the bottom of the clip to reload, simulating swapping out an ammo magazine. Operators could activate a shoot ‘off-screen to reload’ if they wanted to, but playing with that feature was always preferable.
On the subject of the controllers, this was also the first time that Raw Thrills had worked on an LCD shooter instead of the tried-and-true CRTs. This required a new IR system, which did take some software revisions to get down right. It also was a change for them to use the rifles, which were some of the heaviest I had come across in arcades. They are similar in size to what Sega did in Ghost Squad, but heavier and slightly bulkier; In most TS games, the rifles came with shoulder straps! Mine did when I got it, which was welcome, as playing with those rifles for more than 20 minutes could become tiring. The molds did look great, and Play Mechanix had even done extensive drop tests to give them enough padding to help withstand the rigors of an arcade environment.
In the game, you blast Terminators that appear, aiming to get kill streaks for higher points. The basic Terminator (the T-800) is the most common that you’ll come across, but they aren’t fodder – while they couldn’t be as difficult to kill as in the movies, they don’t take a couple of shots either. You can blow off their arms or legs, which they’ll adapt to depending on the situation. There are several other enemies you’ll face, including small drones, planes, spider-like crawlers, work-like swimmers, tank-like machines, turrets, motorcycle drones and bosses. Smaller enemies do serve as single-shot fodder, as every shooter needs a little bit of that.
The pacing and design keep the player on their toes, and is done in a way that usually makes you feel like you’re in the action as opposed to just being an observer. Levels vary between 4-8 minutes in length, with a brief end-of-level pause to give you a breather and provide for bonus stats: Enemies killed; Max Streak & Accuracy. Because the game mainly focuses on kills for points, that’s what you want to “farm” in the rare instance that the opportunity presents itself.
Boss fights aren’t the typical “reach the end of the level & shoot them until they explode” setup – the boss tends to appear early on and you’ll come across several situations where it triggers a brief “bullet time” slow down where a number of targets pop-up and have to be shot before time runs out. If you get them all, it cancels the attack; If not, you take damage.
Speaking of damage, when I owned the game, I just left it at the defaults, which I believed gave you about two minutes before the difficulty ramped up. There can be instances where cheap shots happen, which can be frustrating, but once you get the hang of it you can reduce it some. If you want to obtain a 1cc on the game though, I think that is only possible on the slightly different Japanese version.
Delta Mission: In April 2020, Play Mechanix launched Big Buck Hunter Reloaded, the latest in the popular BBH series. As a part of that, they’ve turned the game into a sort of “Play Mechanix shooter multi-game,” as it includes a 1080p remaster/remake of Terminator Salvation.
I first say it’s a remaster, as all of the graphics (game resolution, textures, lighting) have received a nice upgrade. Instead of running at 720p, it is now available in 1080p, and the overall appearance is a little more vibrant. It would be great if Play Mechanix could release the original game remastered like this as an upgrade for existing cabinets out there, since it looks that nice.
Because the guns cannot be swapped out every time someone wants to play Terminator, the game had to be reworked to operate with the stock pump-action shotguns that Big Buck has. This brings changes to amounts of enemies that you face, removing some of the larger crowds to make things more manageable. Even then, the first couple of times that you play, you will find your arms tiring from the constant need to pump between every shot; Although you do get occasional power-ups such as the machine-gun that allow you to just point and shoot. Same goes for grenades, although be careful when you pick those up, as you only grab 5.
Also among the changes, they removed Mission 1 and only offer up Mission 2 to play through. This keeps the game down to about 20 minutes. This is welcome due to the aforementioned arm strain, but the set of chapters through the mission also works to tell the story from survival to attacking Skynet.
Overall for Delta Mission, I think that players who enjoyed it on arcades will enjoy this one. For those who are looking for something more to do on their Big Buck machine, it’s a great addition to expand the content. Perhaps one day they will expand the single-shot Sniper mode of Aliens Armageddon into such a game for Big Buck…
Keeping in mind that this was a 2010 release, the game fit with the theme without skipping a beat. One would not expect a post-apocalyptic world to look clean, and this doesn’t err, providing for a wrecked environment, with plenty of broken junk and dirty-items. The textures convey that look and fit with the quality of textures you’d find at the time (not super sharp, but not super blurry either). The original game runs at 720p and keeps a solid, consistent frame rate throughout. There are a number of nice particle effects, particularly with clouds of smoke and dust. Although my favorite parts have to be when you come across water. They did some nice work here, and it provides contrast to the rest of the dreary world.
Some objects may not have had a high polygon count, but the character models looked fine for the time (not really having much in the way of facial animations, but getting the job done). The T-800s look really nice, as do bosses, which includes their animations and how much they break apart. Being able to shoot off a leg, arm or head, then watching the enemy react accordingly, also enhances the sense of realism.
Delta Mission shows the potential that the original had, looking much nicer in 1080p, with improvements across the board.
The soundtrack re-uses much of the Terminator themes that people are familiar with, occasionally throwing in dark atmospheric music that is scripted to the event you’re facing. There are plenty of explosions spiced throughout that sound great, especially through the machine’s 2.1ch sound system, although this was stronger on the Super Deluxe version. There is some voice acting where they had a Christian Bale sound-a-like delivering John Connor’s lines, and the other lines are delivered fine without sounding cheesy.
You might hear a slight difference in quality for Delta Mission depending upon the quality of sound system on an older Big Buck machine, but if playing on the new Reloaded cabinets, I can’t imagine you’ll hear any difference. That said, they do seem to have removed or toned down some effects, particularly when you get hit.
Terminator introduced completely new rifles for Raw Thrills, which as mentioned were a heavy enough that they needed shoulder straps to help players get through long gaming sessions. The rifle shells are nicely detailed and feature solenoid-based force feedback and LED lighting in the butts of the guns. The Reload clip feature was an innovative idea that is fun to use, adding that layer of “simulator” to the game.
In the fixed gun cabinet, you did lose the precise feeling on the reload feature, although it’s there. Delta Mission loses the most, since not only do you have to pump to reload between shots, you have no force feedback.
The guns were built to last, but that does make them a little bit of a pain to pull apart when you have to replace microswitches inside. I also recall there being some issues with the gun sensors (on the cabinet side) after the game was about a year old and I had replace those a few times, but I’ve had no issues on the newer & improved Aliens Armageddon, which used the same design.
Terminator Salvation came in four different cabinet designs: Fixed 32″; Fixed 42″; Deluxe 42″; and Super Deluxe 100″
The most distinctive part of any model is the vacuum-molded marquee, which features a 3D T-800 head with light-up eyes. These will also flash when you are hit, although that’s a detail that active players won’t notice since their eyes are on the screen. All of the cabinets featured similar artwork, with colors falling into the brown/black/red ranges. The reds are mainly produced through LEDs, which were used to light-up speaker grills. No matter which cabinet you come across, you instantly know what it is. All models also used an LCD monitor, which Raw Thrills was just getting used to.
The Fixed versions indicate models where the gun is mounted to the cabinet; Play Mechanix re-used the gun design that they came up with on Aliens Extermination and applied it here. The 32″ version while compact, it the least impressive of the group, since it lacks the T-800 marquee, while the 42″ version does come with that touch.
The principle model that everyone is familiar with would be the Deluxe. This was the first model to launch and it came with a 42″ monitor, the aforementioned marquee and guns, and some other nice touches such as cut plexiglass panels to indicate Player 1 & 2, each lit by LEDs. This also featured a number of molded pieces on top of the wood to give it more of a sculpted robot look.
The Super Deluxe version is the rarest of the bunch, having only been available for a limited time. That said, it was still influential, become the basis for the Heroes Duty game that was seen in Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph. When it launched, it was the largest and most expensive cabinet Raw Thrills had ever produced, featuring a 100″ screen, an impressive looking control panel, two giant speaker panels and two of the molded T-800 heads.
Overall, the cabinet was a great setup for where arcade cabinet design would go through the 2010s. While this did mean less focus on sideart, as that has all become more sterile, it also led to more detail beyond a box, with molded pieces to make the cabinet more of a sculpture, along with LED highlights.
When looking at Terminator through the lens of a license, Play Mechanix really nailed what anyone should expect in approaching a game based upon the franchise. They found a good balance on presenting the player with overwhelming odds on tough-to-kill enemies, but not making you feel too hopeless.It is true that getting a 1cc is extremely difficult, if not impossible unless it’s the Japanese version, but there is still room for improvement as you play it over and over.
There are occasional cheap shots though, and this is one issue that seems more prominent in Delta Mission, where they seem to have removed some of the shots and, as mentioned in the sound section, toned down the effect of getting hit. There were several moments when I played through it where I had no idea that I had taken damage. Hopefully that can be fixed in an update, as I recall the original having the screen get very red when a strike would land, backed up with a strong thumping sound. That just isn’t the same in Delta Mission, for whatever reason.
The way that the game is scripted does keep you on your toes. You never stop in any spot for too long, which is important in a light-gun shooter – stopping for too long can make sequences dull and more like shooting galleries than a dynamic first-person shooter. While the T-800s do just kind of stand there for most of their instances, they are bullet sponges, so you have to dispatch them as fast as you can; other enemies will be a little harder to take down, thus putting your skills to the test. That is especially true with the boss battles, where sometimes it does feel like the targets disappear a little too fast, but I suppose you could say that’s only if the player is too slow.
There is enough variety in the enemies to keep things interesting, although I do not know if the designers took any liberties here, since I have not watched the film that this is all based on. I also imagine that this limited the types of power-ups that could be included, although the ones that you’ll come across (shotgun, grenades, minigun, turrets) are fun to use. Just too bad that there wasn’t an RPG/bazooka (which you do see others using).
One part of the game that also added some replay value was Expert Mode. This was not available in the first software revisions of the game, coming in a little later. This increased the difficulty and came with it’s own leaderboard, made to reward users who were already familiar with the game and wanted a new challenge. Only issue was that it showed up on the menu screen in a tiny box that sometimes you couldn’t shoot correctly if the guns were having aiming issues. Here it is in a much older video:
There aren’t any secrets or easter eggs that I know of, which is too bad. Given that it’s a license, that does limit places where the game designers can add some extra personality to a game, since they are trying to (or are required to) keep everything about the look and feel true to the license.
While it has some of those things lacking, overall it is a fun game that is worth coming back to, and I enjoyed revisiting it through Delta Mission. I do prefer the original over DM, but if that isn’t available, then DM satisfies.
My personal high score recorded on the game: 1,523,627
We’ll separate this into two: Recommended for Operators, Recommended for Gamers.
Operators: When I first heard about Terminator and how it was performing on the market, I knew I had to grab one. It was a decision I did not regret, as it became the first real draw at my location. It instantly shot up to the #1 spot and remained there for a long time, until some other newer games were added years later (in particular Aliens Armageddon, which shares several similarities). I did have some technical issues with the gun, but never the computer hardware. If I came across a 42″ fixed gun version (just due to my location getting a lot of kids who enjoy slamming free guns onto the floor), I’d grab one again.
Gamers: When you drop some coins into a game like Terminator, your expectation is going to be that you are going to shoot a lot of robots and blow things up. This delivers that in spades, so for any of the negatives I might have mentioned above, they are minor in the grand scheme of things. It’s a fun game, worth coming back to and it will be long remembered, while the console versions of the game are gladly forgotten.
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