DOS - 1996
Description of SkyNET
Well, I have to admit, when I first played Skynet, I was stunned. Utterly gobsmacked. 'This', I thought, 'is groundbreaking stuff'. To what am I referring? The gameplay? The graphics? The intricate level design? No.. in fact as far as Skynet goes, none of these are particularly remarkable. What's unusual about Skynet is that you actually begin the game with some decent weaponry, instead of the usual pop-gun that other games such as Quake or Duke Nukem 3D start you off with. I mean, why? As if sending you out to single-handedly wipe out an army of monsters wasn't enough, your superiors decide to kit you out with the crappest weapon you can find. I can only suggest that the military must be suffering serious budget cutbacks.
But in Skynet, you're thoughtfully provided with an Uzi, a laser rifle, some grenades, a handful of molotov cocktails, a machine gun, oh, and a lead pipe. The latter is bound to be the most useful weapon in the game, especially after you run out of ammo. After all, everyone knows that all giant 20 foot killing machines are duty-bound to stand absolutely still while you whack them futilely round the ankles with a bit of pipe. Some things never change..
And in Skynet you'll need every last weapon and ammo clip you can lay your hands on. The game takes place some time in the future; Skynet, the US military defence computer has nuked most of humanity into oblivion, and is doing its damnedest to eliminate the remaining vestiges of human resistance. And things are far from pleasant. But in true dramatic tradition, things are about to get worse. Skynet has conveniently found a spare nuclear missile lying around (probably down the back of the sofa), and has decided to use it to wipe out the resistance. This is where you come in. As a member of the resistance, it's up to you to put paid to Skynet's plan, and ensure that the human race lives to be wiped out another day.
There's only one way to go about this, and I'm not talking about negotiating a peace treaty. You have to blast your way through seven missions, from the charred rubble-strewn wastelands, to the charred rubble-strewn naval base, all the way through to the er, charred rubble-strewn launch site. Still, someone's got to do it, and it wouldn't make for much of a game if you played the resistance fighters who stayed at home, munching biscuits and drinking tea. But for some reason, Skynet isn't too happy about you trying to put paid to its plans, and decides to send its army of robotic psychopaths out to stop you. Time to kick cybernetic bottom.
Before each level, you're given a pre-mission briefing in the command bunker, telling you exactly what it is you're risking your arse for. The briefing takes the form of a list of mission objectives or an appallingly poor FMV clip. The latter option is best avoided, unless you have a masochistic streak, since the quality of the acting is utterly, utterly, dire. And while the FMV isn't a central part of the game, as it is in games such as The Pandora Directive, it's easily the worst in-game video I've seen for a long time. You'd get a better standard of acting on Sesame Street.
The levels themselves are usually pretty similar. You start off on the surface, amongst the rubble and assorted dead things, and you have to make your way to a building or complex, head inside, download some information relating to Skynet's efforts, and make your way back to the start point. The last stage is where things can get mind-snappingly frustrating; you blast your way through hordes of baddies, get inside a building, blow away a few more terminators, and download the information. You're home and dry.. now all you need to do is get back to your jeep.. except that way back is no longer clear; it's been entirely re-populated with terminators and other nasties. In the ten minutes it took you to get the information? Yep, apparently so. If only you had some ammo left. Damn.
There are about ten different baddies you'll have to deal with as you make your way through the levels, and you can split these up into three types. There's the small ground-based baddies, like the terminators and the raptors, which you can take out with a couple of well aimed rockets. Then there's the pant-cackingly scary hunter-killer robots, . These take more than a couple of hits to turn them to scrap. Finally there are flying HKs, which while not being very strong, have a nasty habit of flying just above you and shooting you in the back.
But as a counter to this, there are twenty different types of weapon you can use; you start off with about five, and pick up the rest as you go through the game. Some of the weapons, however, are almost identical to each other, using the same ammo, and having slightly differing damage and speed ratios. You'd think this'd be a good thing; you'd have to consider what you were up against, and pick the right weapon for the job. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work this way. It's nearly impossible to remember what a weapon's advantages and disadvantages, without referring to the manual, and this isn't an option when you've got a twenty foot psycho robot baying for your blood. And even if you do know which weapon you want, some weapons can only be picked by pressing a key repeatedly; for example, pressing '3' will bring up the automatic rifle. Press '3' again, and it brings up the uzi. Press '3' again and it brings up the machine gun. There's no simple way of going to the weapon you want, and in the heat of combat you don't want to hang around. Perhaps you could say 'Oh, hello Mr Terminator.. can you just hold on for a few seconds while I changemy weapon?... Argghhh.. guess not.'
As for Skynet's levels, well they're not bad, but they could be a lot better. The outdoor sections are quite well done, with ruined buildings, rubble, cars and other debris scattered around. However, once you get inside, things take a different turn. For a start, the buildings and complexes look a little samey, with square rooms, and the odd staircase; every time you enter a building you get a feeling of deja vu. And secondly, the indoor sections are completely separate from the outdoor sections; each time you go through a door, a 'loading' message appears, and the building section is loaded. What's wrong with that, you may well think? Well, it makes the levels feel disjointed; you can't go into a building, go upstairs , and fire out of the windows at the baddies outside. Because the outside isn't there. Sounds complicated? It is. Why on earth Bethseda didn't stick with the time honoured tradition of just having one big map is beyond me. As it is, the levels just don't feel right.
Graphically and sonically, Skynet isn't anything to write home about either. The game uses Bethseda's X-Gine graphics engine, to supposedly allow for fast 3D effects. However, not all is well. The terminators look very little like their movie incarnations, and none of the in-game characters are all that well animated. Plus, while there is an SVGA mode, it runs slowly even on a P133; there's also no support for 3D accelerator cards. The sound effects are limited to the odd mechanical noise and explosions that sound like someone flatteninga milk carton. The original Terminator music is present but even that manages toget twisted somewhere along the way.
Oh, and there are bugs too. Daggerfall, a Bethseda game which also uses X-Gine was very very buggy when first released in the US, and while I haven't had Skynet crash on me, it's far from flawless. It's possible to get stuck in walls, and graphical errors crop up with alarming regularity. I've managed on several occasions to fall through the floor, and had to reload the game. Odd. And amongst the bugs is the strange 'quirk' whereby you can fire a grenade launcher or a rocket at point blank range, and take no damage yourself. Considering that in Quake and Duke Nukem 3D, being caught in a rocket explosion was one of the hazards of using the weapon, something is definitely amiss with Skynet.
One of the reasons that Bethseda released Skynet was that Terminator: Future Shock, the game's predecessor lacked a multiplayer mode, and Skynet has remedied this. But it can only support a maximum of four players, at a time when most of its competitors, such as Quake and Duke Nukem 3D can support more. Plus, as mentioned earlier, you can't snipe from windows, which is an option available to players of both Quake and Duke Nukem 3D. In fact, I think that pretty much sums up the whole game.. it's not as good as Quake or Duke Nukem 3D. Cliched, but true. It's not that Skynet is a bad game, it's just average at best. There's no incentive to make it through to the later levels, especially when the levels are so samey. It's only the Terminator tie-in that stops Skynet from being crap. If you're a Terminator fan, or you enjoyed playing Terminator: Future Shock, Skynet is worth a look. But for everyone else, this is probably best overlooked.
Review By GamesDomain
Comments and reviews
D 2021-09-03 2 points
If you get "Error: SysInit (can't open archive)" just open install.dat in a text editor and change the installpath and sourcepath entries to be your game install directory.
jmf 2021-06-03 2 points
bethesda games has always been janky but at least they had ambition
KC 2020-01-17 0 point
The games will not run using DosBox. I have included the patches which are supposed to fix these games so they work. There are only five files you can open in DosBox:
If I try opening DOS4GW.EXE I get a "fatal error 1004 Syntax is DOS4GW"
If I try opening INSTALL.EXE I get "DOS: FILE NOT FOUND: DATA\SCREEN.COL"
If I open LOADPATS.EXE I get "UNABLE TO READ ULTRSND ENVIRONMENT VARIABLE. RUN INSTALL OR SETGUS."
If I open SKYNET.EXE I get "Error: SysInit (can't open archive)"
The only thing that does work is the sound set up. It works and tests perfectly.
blahblah 2019-01-02 1 point
Compared to other Terminator games of the time, this one was really good. I think it used the same engine Bethesda used to make Elder Scrolls Arena & Daggerfall, because you had an overworld you would walk through, then buildings you could enter via doors in order to go to a seperate "inside the building" map. The problem was (as was the case with most Bethesda games) the game had bugs, would crash, etc, making it darn near impossible to beat.
tajlund 2017-05-10 0 point
This was basically just an improved version of Future Shock, but it was really good. I really wasn't very successful.
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