I both fear and respect the Terminator: Salvation arcade machine for somehow robbing me of four pounds in less than fifteen minutes while I powered through the four stages of the first of two missions offered by the game. Playing as John Connor, leader of the resistance against the machines, I took down thousands of killing machines, automatic rocket launchers, flying gunships and water-dwelling metal monsters. Like almost all arcade shooters, the game took the form of a fast-paced on-rails shooter, with few cutscenes. Each mission has an opening narration, but from then on, it’s just a case of shooting all the baddies, tactically reloading, and keeping an eye out for ammunition.
You’ll be coming face-to-face with T-600 models, but unlike in the films, gunning them down is actually pretty effective, and you can take down droves of them, despite the fact they’re trying to destroy you with miniguns. There’s not much of a plot, so the strange effectiveness of regular weaponry versus advanced robots is excusable; this is a game designed purely for players to enjoy playing. Who ever heard of a slow-paced arcade game with a solid narrative?
There’s some solid voice-acting involved, despite the absence of any of the film’s cast. It’s ultimately the dialogue that pulls the story along, with shouts of “we need air support!” immediately preceding the arrival of a helicopter from which the player can gun down the enemy. Like with any good arcade game, these little touches pull you in and keep you very much involved in your game. Pumping in another pound coin is more of a reflex than a voluntary response.
For what it’s worth, the arcade in which I played the game – Blackpool’s Coral Island – was equipped with four of the Deluxe Model machines, which arcade enthusiasts will recognise as the mid-range model of the game, bigger than the tiny mounted-gun version but not as lavish as the super deluxe model with the 100” screen. The guns felt great and the machine in general looked great, somehow managing to pull off a post-apocalyptic appearance despite the fact that it was covered in branding and Terminator images. While the guns themselves looked very plastic, they felt great and controlled well, with a mere button press to throw a grenade grenade and a whack on the bottom of the magazine for reload.
Overall, its a great arcade experience, and I highly recommend checking it out if you happen to spot it in your local arcade. It’s not as long as you might expect, and it doesn’t go much further than the basic “shoot everything that moves” gameplay but it’ll eat your coins for the better part of an hour and, like most light gun games, it’s playable in two-player co-op, which is always a fun way to waste time with a friend.