RISE OF THE MACHINES
Two weeks after the game's first appearance in Chicago, Terminator 3 has surfaced in London at the usual spot for new games - the Casino arcade at 69 Tottenham Court Road.
Our previous reports have given you a good look at the playfield and the toys used in the game but now we are able to bring you our first impressions from actually playing it.
From a personal point of
view I was somewhat disappointed by the obvious similarities between
T3 and T2. Innovation is always to be preferred over a reworking, but
despite this I was fully prepared to put aside any preconceptions and
see the only thing that matters - how the game played.
This T3 is sited right next to a Simpsons Pinball Party and the visual contrast between the two couldn't be more striking. While the Simpsons backglass is bright and saturated, the T3 is dimmer and rather washed-out.
The positioning of the RPG means that the backlighting is unusual - it looks like two lamps are used; one above the RPG and one below.
The playfield looks much better. The strong reds graduate to yellows towards the flippers and combine nicely while the shots are clearly signposted.
You can clearly see how the 1,2,3,4,5 are advanced by the left and right ramps while the loops collect the awards in the rectangular boxes. Your progress towards the final battle is shown just above the flippers and all the awards are given large lamp inserts, although the ones furthest up the playfield are difficult to read.
The printed Arnie head looks rather out of place but it's not so large to make it objectionable.
So the quick tour of the playfield: Left outlane with a kickback which is relit by completing the three red standup targets above it. Above that is the left loop which more often than not doesn't loop but falls into one of the sink holes at the top of the game. Next to that is the mystery target, then the left ramp which advances security levels towards Payback Time and feeds the left inlane. Then we have the TX lock lane - with a game-controlled drop target halfway along and a sink hole at the end. Slightly to the right is the TX shooter eject, the Red captive ball and then comes the centre ramp which loops around behind Arnie's head, across the playfield and into the left inlane. Continuing round we come to the right ramp which has quite a sharp turn around to feed the right inlane and the right loop which collects escape awards and feeds the upper sink holes. The three standups on the right each light one letter of R-P-G and when complete light the right loop to collect it.
Only two flippers on this game, but that seems the right number when you play the game.
The two heads on the playfield differ enormously in their impact as you can see below.
While Arnie doesn't look quite as cheesy as in earlier pictures there's a definite whiff of curdled milk. However the chromed TX head picks up reflections from the playfield lamps beautifully to make it look much less clearly defined and mysterious.
One concern relates to the two banks of three standup targets.
Pressing the start button triggers a dot matrix animation and sound show to introduce the game as Terminator 3. You also get Arnie telling you to "Shoot here...and here" referring to the left and right ramps, indicated on the playfield by an illuminated column of lights for each ramp.
There's no skill shot as such but you do have to choose one of three launch awards. Initially you get Bonus X, Mystery and TX Challenge, but later these change and add Start RPG and Lock Ball among others.
The first two are self-explanatory but TX Challenge is probably the best choice. The ball is fed to the TX sink hole and you are told to "Shoot anything". "Anything" in this case is one of the loops, ramps or lock lane. It does not include the captive ball. The value of the challenge starts at 2.5M and counts down in 0.5M chunks as Arnie counts down from five to one in about five seconds. Shoot any of the required shots collects the value but if you shoot the lock lane the ball enters the sink hole (because the game has lowered the drop target), and you both collect the value and start Bonus Challenge which is the same TX Challenge thing again, but this time with the drop target raised. If you play it properly you can get a quick five million points from this feature. On the downside, if you've got multiball ready and waiting for that final shot to the lock, neither shot made as part of TX Challenge will count.
With the ball back at the flippers there is a choice of strategies. Multiball is just a question of hitting the ball lock over and over until the third ball is locked and multiball starts. Incidentally, T3 uses real ball locks, launching a new ball after each lock. You don't get any ball launch award though. I don't know if it was the setup of this game, but about 40% of shots to the ball lock lane resulted in drains between the flippers. The game really needed a small rubber at the left entrance to bounce the ball off when it exits the lock lane.
If you do get multiball started there is a nice animation of a robot stomping on a skull (perhaps this is the skull shot?) followed by various other scenes ending with the three balls fired back at you down the TX launcher wireform. Again the story is to keep hammering the lock lane for jackpots. Eventually the drop target stays down and super jackpot is available at the same lock lane. When you collect the super jackpot a flasher in the TX's arm starts strobing as does the blue flasher behind her head. It probably looks good in a darkened room but didn't do much in a bright arcade. It seemed as though you just keep hammering that lock lane for more jackpots and super jackpots.
Multiball is best combined with one of the other modes such as RED.
You can extend the timer in several ways such as the captive ball and the three bank of standups. When you collect all five shots they all relight and you get an upgrade to your current weapon. You can start RED even when multiball has started.
Alternatively (or perhaps simultaneously), you can start Payback Time. This works in the same way as it did in T2. Shoot alternate left and right ramps (five of each if you do them quickly) to build up the security levels on each side. When they're both at five, Payback Time starts. This is another timed mode where ramps (and possibly loops) score one million points.
There are several other features you can start such as a hurry up on the left loop and a two ball multiball called Assault.
Finally there's that backbox feature, the rocket propelled grenade or RPG. This can be started from a launcher award or by shooting the right loop when lit. As you can see above, there are five standup targets in an arc and a ball launcher. This launcher rotates back and forth through a range of about 60° and you press the shooter trigger or a flipper button to fire the ball at the five lit targets. There is a countdown award starting at five million and running down to one million at which point you have three seconds more to complete the challenge. If you hit all five targets you get the countdown bonus plus an extra bonus if you use fewer than five shots (i.e. you hit two targets with one shot) and another bonus if you hit them in order.
On this game it was very difficult to hit the upper target but despite this challenge the feature became stale all too quickly. It is too easy to start and not interesting enough to make you want to play it. By the end it was an vaguely annoying to start this mode.
You immediately notice the large number of quotes in the game, mostly from Arnie. Perhaps because of there are so many, they do sound a bit rushed and are often only used to reinforce the information on the display but they are all very clear. The "shoot here... and here" quote did get a bit repetitive after a while and may not be what you choose to shoot for anyway but it does guide the casual player.
Staying with the sound, there are some very nice bass effects, especially relating to hitting the RED captive ball and starting the RED mode when you get a heartbeat-type effect running throughout.
There is a good combination of big brash display messages and detailed animations. The quality of the dot work is high although there is some reused artwork I thought we'd seen the back of ("grab the gun and fire" for instance). The main quibble is the inability to cancel the animations with the flipper buttons. The Mystery clip lasts far too long and it would be nice to cut to the chase and it would bring down ball times for the operator.
The video mode is almost a straight copy of T2's except the robots have been replaced by tank-like devices. The idea is the same; steer your crosshairs left and right to shoot the tanks before they get the chance to shoot you. Take three shots and you die. Kill the robots and you win. There is a flawless bonus if you can avoid being shot at all.
Terminator 3 is a mixed bag
of the familiar and the new. If you're on first name terms with T2 you'll
already know many of the basics and they help you concentrate on the
But, if you could keep the ball going there are some nice dot, sound and light displays to enjoy and there also seem to be plenty of thought gone into each mode with bonuses for doing things the right way. The rules seemed quite obvious with everything laid out before you on the playfield.
Surprisingly given the designer, the game didn't flow well for me. Too many orbit shots just didn't and the ramps seemed much harder to hit consistently than they should be. This game requires accurate shooting as none of the ramps or loops are especially wide.
Given the initial premise of taking Terminator 2 and turbo-charging it, the Stern team have done a good job and I found T3 much more enjoyable than it's predecessor. It doesn't have the depth of rules or the options available on The Simpsons Pinball Party but it's not that kind of game. It's all about making accurate shots and keeping the ball in control at all times because if you don't, you'll be seeing a lot of the Insert Coins animation.
© Pinball News 2003