Detroit is invaded by Skynet in this slice of awesome for the Mega Drive and SNES. What’s a half-man, half-machine to do?
Who made it?: Interplay (Developer), Virgin Games (Publisher).
Platforms: SNES, Mega Drive/Genesis, Game Gear.
RoboCop Versus The Terminator could very well hit the licensed game sweet spot. The title sort of sells itself, doesn’t it? Take two beloved 80s franchises about deadly robots, stick them in a shoot ‘em up for the 16-bit generation, and reap huge financial rewards. This one was a marketing man’s wet dream, but it also got a generation of movie fanboys very excited indeed. Peter Weller’s cybernetic cop going up against a horde of T-800s is one of those beautiful ideas that developers could run wild with today. Even the cover was badass. Little did we know that the game would actually be worth playing, too, even going on to surpass that year’s motion picture, RoboCop 3. But let’s not start this review on a sour note.
RoboCop Versus The Terminator (hereafter RvsTT) is an old school classic. Taking into account the limitations of the time, it does full justice to the worlds created in James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984) and Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop (1987). It’s a combination that works perfectly, and while cinephiles will moan about the liberties taken by the story to fuse these universes together, it achieves its noble intentions as well as the Mega Drive and SNES ever could. The game was different for each console, however, with subtly different stories and enhancements. The Sega version sticks closer to the film plots, whilst Nintendo adhered to the comic book run that inspired the game in the first place. Because it is the better edition, technically speaking, I will be discussing the SNES copy.
In that horrible nuclear-ravaged future witnessed in Cameron’s classic, the human resistance led by the unkillable John Connor discovers that Skynet’s machines were derived from the OCP (Omni Consumer Products) technology that created RoboCop (what, no CyberDyne?). Therefore, the resistance send back another saviour through time to “present day” Detroit to destroy the future of law enforcement. The deceased-but-still-kickin’ Alex Murphy violently disagrees with their unfair treatment, and proceeds to blow the shit out of everything with enough firepower to rival T.J. Lazer.
RvsTT is your standard side-scrolling shooter, but made with a real attention to detail. Despite the title’s twenty-one year vintage, the visuals are fantastic and faithfully recreate the designs of the titular characters. While it’s slightly disappointing that you can only play as Robo, his model is as close to the film as possible, and looks suitably hardcore laying waste to everything that moves. The Terminator is also reminiscent of Schwarzenegger in the ’84 original, meaning that RvsTT single-handedly trounced a hundred other tie-ins of the time by nailing its source material’s visuals. Developer Interplay deserve kudos for that.
The fan service doesn’t end with the title terrors, of course, throwing in adversaries like ED-209, scores of OCP goons, and even Skynet’s CPU. Terminators will shed their skin when hit, revealing the endoskeletons beneath, and blood flows excessively with every high-powered shot from Robo’s aresnal. For an early 90s game marketed towards children, RvsTT is gory stuff. Blast an enemy in a window and the curtains turn red, and targets will often explode into a shower of plasma when hit. In other words, RvsTT even has the balls to recreate the ultraviolence of its cinematic predecessors, making the experience even more uncanny. Is this game perfect??!!
It isn’t, of course. The control scheme is simplistic, and sooner or later, all you’re doing is going from left to right whilst firing your weapons incessantly. Seriously, there are so many on-screen enemies in RvsTT that your finger will scarcely leave the firing button. That said, RoboCop can crouch, jump and climb his surroundings if possible, making the never-ending face-offs more enjoyable from time to time. It’s also rather gratifying to kill things in this game, with the weapons possessing a real sense of power. The only downside is that it is one hard motherfucking game to complete. If you can do it without resorting to cheat codes, then you’re a much more patient gamer than I. The difficulty level of RvsTT is the only real thorn in its side, but determined players will be rewarded for their efforts thanks to a fun story.
The last act sees Robo being disassembled by the enemy and digitised, powerless as Skynet take over. Conveyed through some rather silly title sequences, his digital mind seizes control of an abandoned robotics facility and rebuilds himself, trekking out into the war-torn future to destroy Skynet once and for all. Take that, John Connor!
RoboCop Versus The Terminator is one of those time capsule games that takes me back to the golden years of my 16-bit childhood. It marries two franchises together alarmingly well, makes excellent use of the SNES’s capabilities, and has dated far better than you have any right to expect. If you’ve ever played Contra or any other classic shooters, you know what you’re getting, but the combined pull of RoboCop and an assembly line of Terminators is enough to mark this one out as must-play stuff.
You’d definitely buy this for a dollar.
- There was also a RoboCop 3 tie-in game released that year, but it was critically panned. Shocker.
- RoboCop Versus The Terminator was awarded Bloodiest Game of 1993 by Electronic Gaming Monthly.
- The comic book miniseries the game was based on was written by industry legend Frank Miller and drawn by Walt Simonson. Miller also wrote screenplays for RoboCop 2 and 3 which were largely ignored, although he does receive credit on the films. He also has a cameo role in RoboCop 2.