Tuesday, April 7, 2015

VGR Future Shock

Come with me if you wanna find a decent Terminator video game!

VGR: The Terminator: Future Shock also known as simply Future Shock
From Bethesda Softworks
Played on PC
Also available on /

Type FPS
Year 1995

In the early 1990s, Bethesda Softworks acquired the rights to the The Terminator franchise. What followed was a series of very original and early FPS titles that helped establish the young studio and even ground the basis of some of their future hits such as The Elder Scrolls series and even the later Fallout 3.

They actually owned the rights to the Terminator license as far as video games go, and actually sub-licensed the rights for the home console videogames by Virgin.

The Terminator: Future Shock was the fourth game developed by Bethesda, following the 1990 Terminator game, Terminator 2029 and Terminator Rampage.

By the way this one only came out on CD, unlike the previous episodes. The above box (which was common for all computer titles at the time) mostly contained the usual information and credits, but also included several illustrations.

Future Shock is one - if not the first first person shooters to use fully textured 3-dimensional environments thanks to Bethesda's 3D engine XnGine, which would be used in several games until 1999. Developed for Terminator: Future Shock, it was quite innovative and a pioneer for its time offering actual 3D perspective, real-time light sources and full texturing. Making this game the first 3D PC game to use the mouse-based interface to look around freely which has now become the standard for PC games. That's right even before id Software's very own Quake, which popularized it. It allowed Future Shock to use fully rendered 3D environments and enemies, although some elements like items and weapons still used 2D sprites.

Following a great CGi intro, we are thrown right in the middle of the War against the Machines

The story this time takes place in Los Angeles in the year 2015, long before Terminator 2029's storyline and its hi-tech "A.C.E Battle Armor". The entire Earth has been conquered by the machines, following SkyNet's uprising in the 1990s. The last remaining surviving humans have been captured by the machines.

The game begins with you, the player, escaping from one of SkyNet's Death Camps. Speaking off you can name this unnamed protagonist as you please.

After joining the Human Resistance, you get to meet the leader of the resistance, John Connor himself! From that point onwards he is the one giving you missions.

The player is sent to free others, he since you escaped so easily you're sent to do that all by yourself. That's when you're able to free a young Kyle Reese! After a couple more missions you soon find out the resistance HQ infiltrated by a T-800 model Terminator! The crew is forced to relocate to a new HQ.

The machines are getting more dangerous. They're now able to randomly "spawn" Terminators after you during gameplay. Turns out SkyNet was able to perfect their time displacement unit, it's now able to basically "teleport" robots as it please (which makes you wonder if their real intention all along was to do that in the first place and if time travel was only an incidental discovery...?).

But because of the player's continuous success, SkyNet decides to prevent all this progress made by the resistance by changing the future once more - the machines will send all this info to 1995 to help it access sentience faster in time and be aware of everything. That's where you will come in. One last mission to prevent SkyNet from perfecting the manipulation of time...

The gameplay comes pretty traditional compared to most FPS games. But consider this - it was the first game to do so long before the likes of Half-Life

The mouse allows the players to aim. 

Before beginning each level you get a set of objectives. You can consult a detailed briefing talking to the other characters at the HQ. And even have a look at the enemies you will have to face. During the playthrough they will give orders via radio, it's important to keep an eye on that as the maps are huge and their infos will guide you. You also have access to a compass which is the best help you'll get the entire game.

It makes exploration a lot more natural and easier than it was in Terminator Rampage.

There's all sorts of weapons, divided into guns and grenades. You will find over 15 weapons during the game, a nice range of weapons from the more traditional weaponry on the human side to some more science-fiction-ysh gear you get from the machines. Such as a metal pipe, uzis, rifles, a machine gun, a shotgun, a grenade and rocket launcher, to laser cannons and plasma guns. You also get access to all kinds of explosives as secondary weapons.

On the enemy's side you have to face a wide variety of SkyNet enemy robots, such as the Raptor unit, Heavy Tanks, Hunter-Killer Bombers, Drones, Tanks and more. The Seeker floating mine makes a comeback as it appears in all of Bethesda Terminator games, a small round machine that flies towards the player before detonating. There's also a great Spiderbot-looking machine, quite unique I would love to see it in an actual Terminator film. Finally at some point you will be slowly introduced to the more dangerous T-600 and T-800. Kinda slower but equipped with more dangerous weapons and possessing a lot of health - I do love the creepy mechanical sounds they make.

The game is basically John Connor sending you on all sorts of errands.

You have to be careful not to wander off the streets. The world is still feeling from the nuclear fallout, the radiation levels are still pretty high and can hurt you where the bombs hit the ground.

You make your way on foot for the most part, but from time to time some levels will have you pick up a vehicle to move around from one place to the next (and even an HK fighter in a later attack!).

The game recommends exploration. You can enter every single buildings you encounter, just walk by a door and interact with it. Going inside buildings will help you score tons of additional ammo. But be warner, there's plenty of Seekers in those rooms. It's always recommended to explore the city, as the game rewards you with enough ammo and health for that.

There's also a completely useless map that looks sweet but is totally ineffective. It's basically a 3D overview of your actual surroundings. Which means it doesn't show you much further than what you can directly see around you, and it doesn't even feature an HUD and doesn't indicate any enemy, items or objectives.

It's a nice use of the 3D engine, but like I said it's completely useless.

The game has decent graphics and controls for its time. Sure the controls are a bit tight, but that comes with the age.

The real-time lighting effects are quite impressive! Specially whenever you fire a gun in a dark corridor!

The game is fairly long, although some of the levels are quite short. You might get stuck in one of the maze-like levels such as the sewers but the pacing is good otherwise. It gets progressively more difficult and the game will pop up new surprises along the way.

Future Shock is without a doubt one of the better attempts at a Terminator game. You get to destroy a lot robots and witness the future only glimpsed in the movies (at the time). It's pretty close to what you'd imagine after the description from Kyle Reese in Terminator 1.

Plus the game is not without its fair share of fun references to the series and easter egg secrets (I mean, just try shooting at the moon for a while, you'll see!). You can even find the Bethesda building at one point!

This time, the game had no multiplayer mode. They would bring a deathmatch mode back for the sequel, The Terminator: SkyNET.

Great moody music by Andy Warr, based entirely around the original Terminator theme but given its own spin depending on the situation. A much wider range than what I've heard in some of the console games iterations. An actual proper score providing all kinds of moods and more tense situations.

All good in my book.

Overall, perhaps one of the rare better Terminator games out there.

Not only is this a decent game for a change, but also a good Terminator game and easily one of the better first proper attempts at updating the first person shooter genre. While it's not as popular as its early 1990s brethren, it's as important part of gaming history in my eyes. You can clearly some later id Software titles drawing some ideas from it.

As such this one comes Highly Recommended unlike the previous episodes by Bethesda Softworks! It basically covers the same ideas as the past titles, but for the first time they were properly implemented. It takes the better elements of 2029 and Terminator Rampage and gives some structures and clearer objectives to allow a much better progress while exploring this post-apocalyptic ravaged world.

Terminator: Future Shock would receive a sequel in the form SkyNET in 1996. Originally intended to be a simple expansion pack for Future Shock, they instead decided to make it a full sequel standalone game to allow them to do a complete overall of the graphics and engine.

The sequel also allows you to use it to run this game with higher resolution visuals. The updated engine of SkyNET uses cleaned updated texture, better defined models, improved drawing viewing distances, but I'm not a big fan of it as it swaps up the darker tone and color palettes with lighter visuals and an ugly light blue sky.
I give it:
2.5 / 3 Invaders!

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