Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was a surprise hit during its summer 2003 theatrical release. Many dismissed the film from the get-go, assuming it was simply a cash-in sequel with no redeeming qualities and a new female Terminator antagonist--the T-X. Despite these negative preconceptions, however, Terminator 3 did quite well from a box office standpoint. One company who obviously had faith in the third installment of the Terminator story was Atari, who earlier this year announced that it would be publishing a game based on Terminator 3, scheduled to coincide with the DVD release of the film. Black Ops Entertainment took over the primary reins of developing the game, with help from other veteran development houses, like Shiny, Legend Entertainment, and Melbourne House. The game is, at its heart, a first-person shooter, but it also contains a boatload of CG and taken-from-the-film cutscenes, as well as a fighting game-styled combat system. This all may sound well and good, but Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines feels like a rushed hack-job of a game, with just barely enough cohesive action to keep it from completely falling apart at the seams.
California's governor once again reprises his role as the model 101 T-800 series Terminator in this badly designed first-person shooter.
Terminator 3 continues the story of John Connor, the would-be hero of a postapocalyptic future that has not yet come. John is constantly under attack by a machine army known as Skynet that has waged war against humanity in that future as they frequently come to the past to try and terminate his existence before he can ever reach his destiny. Each time one of the machines' assassins--known as a Terminator--is sent back through time, the human opposition seemingly and miraculously manages to send another Terminator back as well. However, the humans send one that is programmed to protect John. In Terminator 3, you play as Arnold Schwarzenegger's legendary 101 model T800 series Terminator who must protect John Connor against the latest threat--this being the aforementioned T-X Terminator.
At the beginning of the game, you, as the 101 model T-800 series Terminator, have just been reprogrammed by the human resistance. Of course, right at that moment an onslaught of Terminators crashes the party. What ensues is a lengthy series of missions in which you will have to fight your way to the heart of Skynet's defenses to use their time-traveling device so that you can get to the past and keep John Connor from being terminated. Although this section takes a while to get through, it isn't representative of the whole game. In actuality, there are actually only around eight or nine missions in the future portion of the game. Once you do eventually get to the past, the missions get decisively shorter. In fact, the missions become so short that the last two-thirds of them can easily be beaten in around two hours total. On top of the inherent shortness of the game, the story structure doesn't mimic the film's plot especially well, adding sections that aren't all that interesting and omitting many key areas to the point where the story itself is nearly useless unless you've already seen the film and can fill in the blanks, where necessary.
Terminator 3's gameplay doesn't make up for its disjointed story. As mentioned previously, Terminator 3 is primarily a first-person shooter--and a pretty uninteresting one at that. The game's best weapons appear during the future era, where you'll have plasma rifles, plasma grenades, hydrogen bombs, and all sorts of other laser weaponry at your disposal. Once in the past, you'll have access to the usual array of pistols, shotguns, machine guns, and even the occasional minigun. Some weapons pack a decent punch, but look and sound underpowered for the heavy amount of damage they seem to inflict. Hit-detection is also very bad, with some blasts seemingly going right through your targeted enemy. Also, if you know an enemy is on the other side of a wall, you can use one of your more explosive weapons to simply blast the wall. Interestingly, the ensuing explosion will hit the enemy on the other side, even though the wall will remain intact.
Ammo is scattered throughout the game, but there can be lengthy stretches where you won't find any at all, in which case your best bet is to often just mug one of your friendly AI-controlled associates of their ammo. This won't be much of a problem for you because the AI in the game is pretty horrendous as is, making those teammates of yours largely useless. When they aren't running straight into heavy walls of enemy fire, they're running into actual walls and getting stuck there. Occasionally, you'll also have to protect one of these dim-witted allies, which can be highly frustrating, thanks to the AI-controlled characters' innate abilities to move right to where the bad guys are shooting and to then stay there.