Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Terminator 2029: Skynet Troopers

Its weird opening up another FPS I haven't played before. I always assumed that, outside of Pie in the Sky games, I tackled everything on DOS and Windows up until about 1997. I didn't always give them a fair shake, but I played them. Terminator 2029 is something I missed even then. Its hard not to see why since its got the same level of technology, superficially, as Freaks, a game I originally dismissed on those merits. Mobygames lists 22 people as having worked on this, which just invites embarassing comparisons to three people from Spain. I guess this will have sound, and as I'm playing the CD version, voices and hopefully some kickass music. There is an expansion, but that just adds missions and I have to specifically select it.

That's a very weird looking building
The game starts off with a decent midi rendition of the Terminator theme and a nice-looking cutscene about stealing an exo-skeleton from Skynet. If you don't understand what any of that is about, uh, read about the Terminator films I guess. Not sure why Skynet has what amounts to power armor, since that seems like a human issue. If a robot needs more armor...couldn't Skynet just give it more armor? Meh. Of course the player is the one who will be using the power armor.

Talk about a morbid trophy room
The main menu is one of those very '90s ones, the kind where its all some fancy in-game thing. Character creation, training, and regular missions. The trash can is the exit screen, make your own jokes there. I like this, even if I understand why they died out. Before starting, I have to create a character, which consists of nothing more than entering a name. I also redefine controls beforehand. The game uses two methods of movement, one for aiming the cursor and one for moving. There's also a primary and secondary attack function. There were some keys I couldn't choose though, which leads me to believe there's something the game isn't letting me change. Briefings are voiced, even the training one.
I love the look of this thing
The weapon interface is interesting, but without many options yet. I have "fusion" grenades and I have a plasma cannon in terms of weapons. I can also attach medical pouchs to myself. And I have six places to put stuff, no idea how to change which I'm using. I choose a balanced loadout of two of each.

As you can see, there's a minor problem with vision
The training goes well. The plasma cannon works well in the areas I'm suggested to remain in, which mostly comprises combat against targets and one kind of Terminator. Grenades are tricky, since I need to hold down the attack button for it to have enough force to leave my gun. You have to select your weapons up top, by left clicking or right clicking, depending on which button you want to fire it. Health is in the lower left, its a modular system, and that includes your weapons. The lower right shows a number of functions, including automap, assuming some random message isn't blocking the screen. In the center is a radar which shows enemies. Otherwise its very modern, even if the game was probably updated for mouse usage. The aiming of the cursor can be done exclusively with the mouse, and both attack functions are mapped to the mouse buttons. Otherwise its just pressing some awkwardly placed movement keys. You select which weapons/items are on each key by pressing either the left or right attack on that item. How would this work without a mouse? Probably badly. Now let's try a real mission.

The two men have more detailed faces, but that's not necessarily a good thing
After a brief look through a map of six sectors, the briefing starts. There are three people, a blonde dude with scars who I believe may be John Conner, but sounds more like Kyle Reese; A black dude, called Merlin who I think is a tactical officer; A blonde lady who's a weapon specialist and isn't wearing a bra. My objective is to hold an area under attack by Hunter Killers. Merlin suggests I bring along grenades, like I wasn't, but I wasn't going to use them on HKs. Seems strange using them on flying vehicles, but what do I know? Its worth pointing out that the two dudes have very detailed faces, and whenever the blonde dude talks his face looks...weird. My next objective is to infiltrate a compound, extract a team, failing that, retrieve the data they found. These two objectives are deeply connected, but it does connect a little awkwardly at first. There's some very noticeable issues with voice clipping in dialog.

Note the damage on my leg and weapons
So...the first mission. At first, things proceed fairly well, but then the fighting starts. There are many, many enemies, and I'm not sure what's going on. I get slaughtered. Enemies are placed in game rather that pre-set, but this seems to happen at pre-set locations, so its a weird mix. Dodging seems to be less about actually getting out of the way and more flanking an enemy, where they won't strike back, or just not having them on the screen at all. Enemies don't seem to attack as much when they're not on-screen, but they do attack.
Hey, guys, why are you shooting at me?

But restarting proves...interesting. I can get some enemies down, but not without getting dealt decent damage. I have one repair pack, and it was a mystery how I'd repair damage otherwise until I discovered, by accident, the R key, which slowly repairs damage. Very slowly. Very, very slowly. I wonder what the medikit is for then? All this is so far is a tech demo, how do I accomplish objectives? I shot down plenty of HKs, but that doesn't seem to be doing anything. I came across the team I was supposed to extract, but I accidentally killed one and then a survivor shot me. Died again. Its really hard to capture that screen, since it goes by so fast. Later attempts reveal that they're completely hostile? I guess they're the rubber terminators, but there's no reason why I should be concerned until they shoot me.

I wonder if I could save them if I sped through?
Eventually I get through the first half of the mission by dumb luck. My only strategy is to shoot things in areas they suggest and run away when there's something they don't. Also helpful, repairing in dead ends saves me time, and potentially combat with enemies, since they can show up while I'm repairing. This strategy gets me straight into the underground lab. Grenades are not helpful against Hunter Killers, despite what the game suggests. Naturally the team is dead, but I extract them and escape relatively painlessly. Once I'd gotten used to the controls and the coordinates system things progress smoothly.
Its hard finding an intact shirt in the future
The post-mission briefing is the usual stuff, good job, we'll take an offensive based on that data. I get a promotion, which seems cheap, but this is action game logic, not real world logic. Anyway, the scientist, Rachel something, who makes me miss the '90s, tells me I get a bunch of exciting new weapons, like missiles. She acts like 6 missiles in a launcher is too little, but I got 2 grenades per hardpoint before! I have two kinds, a simple tracking missile, and a multi-tracking missile. There's also an improved plasma cannon and the option to increase armor. All in all, a pretty sweet collection. Except when testing the missions in training they don't work against stationary targets, and deal less damage in general.
Before I find out I can attack behind walls
Next mission, destroy some relay stations then a com station. The com station I should use a mine on. This is more troublesome in comparison to the last mission, thanks to not being told where these places are, at all. So I'm forced to assume every stationary object is something I should destroy. I brought along two grenade packages and I was out by the first map, as levels are in some 50x50 chunks, which is smaller than it sounds since the player takes up one block. My first attempt I quit in disgust, since I used the mines on objects that it seems did no damage.
After I find out I can attack behind walls
Returning, sometime later, and the bad news continues. Control changes don't save between games, not that it mattered much, the arrows move, which is fine by me. What is troublesome, however, is that at some point during the mission my two cannons don't fire as fast as they used to. The issue seems to be that I can't have more than one shot on-screen at the same time...which is trouble, since I can't deal with anything, really. This and plus the game not wanting to let me move while ten or so other things are on-screen results in me dying. This happens consistently enough that I have to wonder if its intentional or not. It seems this is due to damage, rather, damage to the player rather than armor.
This forces me to plan better, much better. I'm also forced to shift one of my grenades to a medikit, though as I discover afterward, that wasn't strictly necessary. I discover 2 things that make my life much easier. The first, is that I can shoot over walls much better than the game made me think I could. This even includes the regular terminator robots running around. This means in practice the only thing that's a threat is the HKs, called Dragons in-game. This is just the boost I needed, and with the one refill the game provides me, I have just enough heavy ordinance to take out my objectives.
The post-level briefing goes on to discuss how there might be a traitor in our midst. Wow, really? That seems foolish on his part, but the game also offers the possibility that we've been hacked. Between characters that look like my allies attacking me and now this, I'm not really feeling the love. New weapons include a scatter grenade, which like the regular one I shouldn't throw into a wall, a new higher power plasma cannon, and some more missiles. The new cannon's nice, I guess, but the new missiles don't seem that much more effective compared to the previous missiles.
Gotta say, this has been a surprise, I had a lot more fun than I would have thought. In many ways this feels like a bridge between the simulation predecessors of the genre and the real FPSes that would come out in its wake. While it is trickery to a mild extent, it has flying enemies, so mild verticality; Decent controls and some stunning 2D graphics...Not sure what the enemy sprites are, can't really get a good look at most of them. I think this might genuinely be a pretty decent little title.

This Session: 1 hour 30 minutes

No comments:

Post a Comment