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The Terminator

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Released: 1991

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive

Publisher: Virgin Interactive

Developer: Probe

Submitted by: Craig Hawkins

It looks like The Terminator, it sounds like The Terminator. Underneath the surface, however, lies something altogether different.

In the opening level, set against the future war, Kyle Reese destroys hundreds of Skynet's finest T-600s with ease. And yet once he time-travels to level 2's 1984 he encounters a human police force whose officers are invincible. Shoot them and they just keep getting back up like the T-600s should. You can't do that!

Unlike his fellow machines, Arnie offers some resistance, but nothing compared to those cops, and his AI is offensively primitive. As much as the game nails the gritty look and sound of James Cameron’s universe, it doesn’t 'get it'.

A solid 16-bit run 'n' gunner it may be, but too much emphasis is placed on the gun part of that equation. The movie is about Sarah Conner running from a cyborg sent through time to kill her. The game is about Kyle Reese shooting things, be they machine or human. Sarah is relegated to end-of-level damsel in distress.

There are only four stages to blast your way through, which seems paltry even before you see huge chunks of the film skipped over. There was scope for a Chase HQ-style driving level, with you being pursued, like in the film. Alas, it feels horribly incomplete.

As if to apologise for making you shoot the humans whom you're supposed to be saving the futures of over the previous two levels, the final act features the terminator's exoskeleton shambling and then crawling around the factory of the movie's climactic scene. Fine, but it now has the ability to teleport right in front of you no matter where you go, giving the impression of there being an army of the things.

Despite the complaints, the game plays to the Mega Drive's strengths and was one of the better movie tie-ins of its day, worthy of Terminator fans' attention. Put it this way: on the list of crimes against the franchise, this is but a tiny footnote. Speaking of which, I most certainly won't be back with a profile for the horror that is T2.

The Terminator

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Released: 1992

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Sega CD/Mega CD

Publisher: Virgin Interactive

Developer: Sega

Submitted by: Darran Jones

Released by Virgin Games in 1992, the Sega Mega Drive’s interpretation of the tech-noir horror of The Terminator is a slick, action-packed journey. Taking on the role of future-war soldier Kyle Reese, players must fight their way through the cyborg-infested nuclear holocaust of 2029 to infiltrate Skynet and journey back in time to the perilous terrain of L.A 1984 in order to save Sarah Conner from the seemingly unstoppable T-800. Featuring labyrinthine stage designs, a thumping electronic soundtrack and gorgeous graphics that include motion-capture sprite animation and interweaving parallax scrolling, the game is a treat for all fans of the movie.

Indeed, about the only criticism that can be levelled at this commendable translation is that with only four levels and a redundant difficulty setting option, the game is far too easy for experienced players, resulting in an exhilarating but brief adventure.

Thankfully, this oversight was put right in 1993 when Virgin took advantage of the 16-bit Sega’s Mega CD add-on and released a truly stunning enhanced edition that ranks as one of the greatest platform run-‘n-guns ever made. The producers of the title were eager to point out on the documentation that this was not simply a generic conversion of the Mega Drive release, but a completely revamped piece of software that harnessed the ability of the hardware to maximum effect.

They were right to do so, as the game features full-motion video-captures taken from the motion picture, a cavalcade of digitised sound and graphics, an increased challenge thanks to a more robust difficulty setting and over double the number of levels found in the original. But the icing on the cake has to be the blistering CD-quality rock soundtrack courtesy of Tommy Tallarico that remains one of the most spine-tingling scores to ever accompany a videogame. Dark, foreboding excursions into a technological hell that expand upon the movie in great detail, both incarnations of this classic licence are cinematic in their execution and essential additions to any Sega owner’s collection.