Friday, 4 January 2013

The Terminator: Future Shock (MS-DOS) - Guest Post

Prepare yourself for a shock. Again.

The Terminator Future Shock PC MS DOS Title Screen
Yep, that's right. Lock the phone, unplug the door. It is Terminator time.

Los Angeles, 2015.

The robots brought you to this death camp.

Two figures run through the blighted city, avoiding the searchlights of the automated craft.

Tonight, with some help from the Human Resistance, you make your escape.


My unvoiced cutscene pal ran at the giant spider with a grenade... poor chap. He suggests I head to Resistance HQ, where I'm sure there's no chance that I'll be roped into a series of suicide missions of my very own.

I will take your car though, thanks. To get to the car... "just skirt around the death camp". Great plan. Why the hell did you leave it all the way over there!?

Tactical... well, this isn't tactical at all. I thought it would show me a map.

It's about as useful as any Resistance manual for dealing with Terminators would be: "It's a killer robot. STAY AWAY FROM IT."

This is more than a decade before 2029, so there'll be no A.C.E Battle Armor nonsense this time. Just the human will to survive. I'm not even a soldier, I'm just a dude with an iron bar.

No, wait, my pal left me an Uzi. My favourite! How did he know?

I'm deep in the ruins of LA, but you can't really see anything with this viewing distance. It's weird not being able to see a painting of a cityscape in the background. It feels a bit like I'm on the Moon.

It's time to crank this thing up a notch. The sequel to Future Shock, SkyNET, uses a very similar engine (similar to Doom and Doom 2). One of the Extra Special Features of SkyNET is that it lets you play Future Shock in the SkyNET engine... in 640 by 480!


Eh, I liked how crinkly the lower resolution looked to be honest, and the blue sky makes the game look odd.

I've got a compass, but no map. Well, that's not exactly true. It has an automap, but it's the most bizarre automap I've seen yet. It gives me an interactive, elevated 3D view of the immediate area, but it's completely useless because it doesn't show my anything outside the player's normal viewing range. (I suppose if it did, it would slow down the game.)

The game's started off well thanks to the completely configurable controls; I can have WASD movement and mouse aiming, and all they work properly!

This ingame music is quite good; it's yet another arrangement of the Terminator theme.

I figured the gas station would be the place to find a car, but I was wrong. That walker robot on the right isn't a pump attendant, it's a killer robot! Or it could be both! I'll fill his tank alright. With BULLETS!

There's no reloads in Future Shock so I'm wielding a miraculous belt-fed sub-machine gun. Robot explodes violently into metal chunks, which fly up into the air and also explode and I'm very pleased. Hoo-hah!

I'm going to turn this giant HUD off.

Whatever kind of wacky weapon SkyNET decided to unleash on LA this time, it's done a very precise job of decapitating the city. The exposed buildings aren't just for show. There's loads of dead folks in there, and dead folks means ammo and medkits for yours truly! Thanks guys!

That crater is radioactive, by the way. Kills you in seconds. There's no way to know other than walking into it. Thought you might wanna know that.

There are some laser beams way, waaaay off in the distance, I guess that must be edge of the death camp.

ARGH, GIANT SPIDER AGAIN. This must be why my pal said 'skirt around' rather than 'run at' the death camp.

HEY! These enemies are fully 3D! I just assumed I was fighting lousy pre-rendered things, but this really is a giant spider chasing me through post-nuclear LA! That's awesome!

I'm about to be trampled to death by a spider though, so that's not quite so awesome.

Here's where I'm supposed to be going, the Tiki Grand Hotel.

Huh, I'm supposed to be going through the Tiki to get into some other building, but there's no way through. I must be on the right track because there was a massive assault rifle sprite in there waiting for me.

I spin around and I'm surrounded by walker robots. This would be a fine time for the Resistance to spring a rescue... Guys?

Nope. No cutscene's gonna save me from the robot hordes. I save the day single-handedly, running side to side across the lobby and shooting up a storm with my new blammy gun.

Now what? I probably missed a key somewhere earlier in the level. I've only got an entire city to search. Again! At least there's going to be things to find in these buildings.

Leave me be! I've got no armour, damn it!

These floaty mini H/Ks are all over the city. They go down pretty quickly with the Uzi or the assault rifle, but on harder difficulties I imagine you'd be spending a lot of time hiding in the ruins waiting for these things to go past. When you take one out, they explode into a huge mass of fiery wreckage and clatter to the ground all around you. And land on your face.

Ooh, wow. Is that a bridge up there? There's an 'up there' up there? That's pretty sophisticated for a DOS game! That must be how the hotel links to whatever escape route I'm supposed to be taking. I need to find myself a fire escape to hop up.

I got inside the hotel. There was a door inside the hotel lobby that I had to use... I didn't know I had a 'Use' key. Oops.

This level's pretty lousy compared to being outside. The corridors are too narrow to do anything in and there are walker robots hiding around every corner. I keep getting hurt from their explosions!

Get a load of those real-time lighting effects from my bullet impacts! The muzzle flash doesn't light up the room, weirdly. The lighting effect does help me work out when I'm hitting an enemy, which is useful because the enemies take millions of hits from these crappy, slow-firing guns. Stupid armoured robots.

And then I managed to fall down a small crack in the floor and got crushed to death somehow. Oh, Bethesda.

The shotgun works!

At this rate, I'm going to end up killing myself with my own ricochets! (Yep, not kidding.)

I've made my way to the top of the hotel! How many D does this game have, anyway? I'm convinced it's got all three of 'em, and that's really impressive. I was expecting something along the lines of Doom where there was only one floor, but this is a real building with multiple floors and balconies and stuff.

In contrast to the awful corridors, there was a quick and simple bit of optional platforming along the rooftops waiting for me up here, with some bonus swag on offer. That was a fun diversion.

And here's the path between the two buildings. Doesn't look particularly safe to me and there are two H/K gliders jammed in the fire escape! They're lasering like mad to try and get me.

I fancy my chances at running across the exposed ledge to the next building. Ready? GO!


Blimey, these levels are sophisticated. Buildings with tons of rooms, rooms on top of rooms, rotating doors, and ruddy robots shooting me from across the balcony on every level!

Through one of these doors is the exit; I need to fight my way down every floor. I can vault the ledge and jump diagonally down to the next floor, but there must be a smarter way.

I got completely stuck in a stairwell. No way out. Had to reload. That was smart.

I got down via a series of angled blocks that looked perfect for allowing the player to descend safely, but there was no way back. The door can't be blasted open by guns or explosives. Nng.

The hotel must have been having some kind of firearms convention, there's ammo and grenades lying around in every room on every floor! Even the toilets!

There's been quite a lot of ammo lying around everywhere, come to think of it. The Resistance seems to equip their soldiers well, but they haven't quite worked out that sending lone men against hundreds of robots isn't a sure-fire route to success.

What a disaster. Well, I've done all the damage I can do here. Time to move on.

Building complete, car located! Just an hour ago I was on a spaceship headed for certain death and now I have an Uzi, an assault rifle, a shotgun and a nice set of wheels. That's progress! Time to save.

Oh, it was the end of the level anyway. Damn it, it's going to be a turret level, isn't it? Hate 'em.

I'm talking to The Real John Connor™ on the radio! I must be some kind of bigshot!

He's leading me directly to the Resistance HQ step-by-step. Hope the robots aren't intercepting this transmission!

West, north, northwest, turn west, turn right, go on and then find a police station... those directions sound kind of complicated. I might have to write 'em down. It might be for the best that I'm not doing the driving.

Ooh I'm driving, am I? Follow the highway? Got it! LET'S GO!

There's debris, overturned vehicles and lousy walkery robots strewn all over the place! Get outta my way, fools! I'm driving here!

This driving is a lot more fun than it deserves to be. The jeep flies across the ground at high speed, the camera shakes and rolls all over the place and there's even an infinite ammo laser turret controlled independently from the driving, which all together makes for a hell of a ride.

The jeep doesn't take damage from crashing into scenery and it can plough right through most of the crappier robots. But... versus Future Tank in a head-on collision... Future Tank wins.

No wonder the directions were longwinded, this city's HUGE!

Ha, it's Bethesda! What're they doing in LA? I thought they were based in... Bethesda.

This has gotta be where the Resistance hangs out! Where do I park the jeep to finish the mission? I don't see a police station here... I'm stuck. What did those directions say again?

"Go west from your current position until you hit the highway. Follow under the highway north for a little while, and when it splits, head northwest. It will then turn west through the hills. Keep following it west. When you some warehouse walls, pull off to your right."

Oh. Crap. In the original Future Shock, conversations with other characters and other mission information appears in a small box on the HUD... but only if you've got the HUD turned on. Because I had it turned off, I got 'East' and 'West' mixed up and ended up miles from the objective! How big is this city!?

I was a little miffed that this happened, but Bethesda had the good humour to put something interesting to see at the end of the very long wrong way, and they fixed the problem entirely if you're playing using SkyNET! Good show.

Here we are at last.

"Welcome to the Resistance, R."

I've called myself 'R' because I'm not sure if I'm actually The Real Kyle Reese or not. And I couldn't remember whether it was 'Reese' or 'Reece'.

It's John Connor! After all these games, I finally get to meet him face to face!

He's being awfully polite, considering I'm a stranger. What if I'm really an infiltration Terminator? I didn't see any dogs around here. I don't have a name or a past beyond appearing out of nowhere with an iron bar. I could be anybody. If I were to simply explode right about now... wouldn't that be something special? (And let's face it, given my track record, that's exactly what I want to do.)

Hi, obligatory close-ups of the rest of the cast.


So, what's the mission here? I hope that it's something a little more relaxing than running from ruin to ruin and cowering in the shadows, praying that the killer robots don't kill me.

Something safe.


No kidding!

No death camps! No sewers! NO!

And I have to do it alone. Bah.

They had the decency to let me keep all of the on-foot weapons I'd gathered from the first level.

This level looks a lot like the previous level. Huge areas of samey-looking debris, and more than a few near-indestructible robots. They're all stompy slowpokes, so I can just run past them if I make full use of the fun and easy-to-use strafe controls.

Just stay away from uneven ground. If you touch an angled piece of floor while moving, you're instantly dead.

These buggers are a little more difficult to shake. I might be a slippery 90's FPS protagonist, but I can't outrun a laser beam. Best to hide and see if they get bored. Which they don't, because they're robots.

AAAAAAARGH. It's an actual Terminator! With a future Uzi! RETREAT!

They've gone all out making scary mechanical sound effects for the different types of enemy. As I take cover behind a structure, it's made very clear that there's a killer robot right around the corner. It's worse because of the crackly sound quality and the lack of obvious distance-based volume, so it sounds like he's standing behind me all the time.

It's a trench full of bones. Ew.

Well, I'm supposed to be searching for the prisoners and they're not here. Could they be inside?

Yep, they're inside.

But their insides are outside.

My character starts freaking out a little over the radio, so it's time to boogie on out.

Hooray, it's a sewer. Hooray, new music!

This place is a real maze, of course. The useless map remains useless, so I have to rely on pen and paper to get my through. There's goodies and even a couple of new weapons down the wrong paths, but there's so many tough enemies in the way, it's barely worth it. As fun as these controls are out in the open, they really don't work in cramped spaces. Combat sucks. It's best to run, if you can.

Even falling a small distance can give you an instant game over with absolutely no clue what went wrong. (Genetic Species déjà vu.) I actually died in the tutorial several times because I got crushed to death walking up a normal flight of stairs.

I've found a Phased Plasma Pistol! Like everything else I've got, it doesn't dent a real Terminator. Up the slope, R! Go go!



And now my getaway driver's getting tetchy over the radio.

"R, this is Menendez. Hurry up! I'm getting attacked!"

YOU'RE getting attacked!? Look at this! How the hell did all these flippin' things get in the sewer in the first place!?

There was only a tiny car waiting for me at the rendezvous point. They should've brought something a little bigger to evacuate a whole barracks full of prisoners, don't you think?

Despite personally liberating nothing but rooms full of tomato soup, some folks managed to get away in the confusion. Mission accomplished! Kinda!

"R, I want you to meet the people you helped liberate from the death camp."

"First off, this young man here is Kyle Reese."

The plot thickens!

He doesn't look like a happy man, but then again he likes Daggerfall.

Though if I'm not John Connor and I'm not Kyle Reese, the future doesn't look bright for my guy. I foresee my own fiery death, sacrificing myself within the SkyNET core to safeguard the future of humanity. But that'll have to wait until next time.

Congratulations, Bethesda! This game isn't a complete wreck! Future Shock is like an apology for the first three games, and it's gratefully received. They've anticipated many of the joys of exploring city levels that Duke Nukem 3D brought (well, okay, I've only ever played the first level of Duke 3D, but it was rather fun) and put them into a complex 3D world similar to Quake!

In terms of mood, this is the future described by Reese in The Terminator. There's nothing more to say: they got it right.


I get the feeling that I've already seen most of what's going to be in this game. My gut says there's not going to be that many new enemy types to see from now on, or interesting looking places to go. The Terminator future just isn't that interesting a place to explore. It's grey, and it's blowed up. There's indestructible robots everywhere. And you die a lot.

Future Shock is great, but only because it's not terrible. I think I've rediscovered why I didn't really play it at the time.


  1. Reminds me alot of fallout, the radiation craters especially.

    1. Indeed, I've always said that regarding FS and Fallout 3 (New Vegas to a degree as well) i.e. big, detailed open world environment, multiple characters to talk with, radiation, craters, and some other aspects as well and hey it's also from Bethesda too :)

  2. Best way to express my mood is to qoute M. Bison: "Yes! Yes!"
    I promise I wont annoy you anymore with Terminator games, I am satisfied now. ;-)

    BTW You forgot to mention that this game was VERY first to feauture free mouse look. Duke 3D and Quake were released later and both of them had it defaultly disabled. And there is another original gameplay element feutured later that you missed, IIRC in two missions you fly HK Aerial (those terminator plane fighters).

  3. Also I forgot to mention: I like this game for almost absolute freedom of choice where you can go (at least for its time of release). You can enter *ANY* building you want by using "USE" key on doors. I suggest to do it as buildings often contain extra ammo, health and armor which would make game easier for you. In first level you could find assault rifle almost at beginning of level in nearby ruins of houses. This game greatly rewards thorough exploration.

    1. You're welcome, Patrik. I'm sorry it took so long.

      I didn't want to say that Future Shock was the very first in case there was something else that snuck in first. :) It would be just like the guys who made Christmas Carnage to have made a fully 3D FPS with mouselook (albeit a really, really pants one) first. And that's not counting 3D Construction Kit games. And I wouldn't be surprised to find there's an ambitious port of The Sentinel that has a real-time perspective.

      Yep, there are tons of assault rifles in the surrounding buildings on Level 1, but they're not really that great as you have to pick up the rifle in the Tiki right after that anyway.

      This game greatly rewards thorough exploration... with KILLER ROBOTS. It's not worth wandering around the buildings unless you really need the molotovs. (And for some reason, the SkyNET version of Shock gave me tons of molotovs at the beginning, so I didn't need 'em!) Maybe on the higher difficulty the extra ammo comes in really handy, but it's really super dangerous. (As it should be!)


Semi-Random Game Box