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Video Game / Terminator Future Shock

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Terminator: Future Shock is a 1995 First-Person Shooter for the PC developed by Bethesda and based on the Terminator franchise, taking place in the "Future War" period depicted in the films. Set in the far future of 2015, 20 years after Judgement Day, players take the role of an escapee from a Skynet concentration camp, who ends up joining John Connor's resistance and battling against Skynet and its army of machines.


The game used a heavily modified version of the Daggerfall engine and was ahead of its time in many ways, featuring full 3D environments and character models, huge semi-open world levels (including the ability to go inside every building with an accessible door), a modern WASD control scheme with mouse look, a separate hotkey for grenades, and vehicle sections using a jeep and a helicopter, all a full year before the release of Quake in 1996. This was all achieved solely with software rendering, though at the cost of having a relatively restricted draw distance by modern standards.

A sequel, Terminator: Skynet, was released in 1996. Skynet was based on the same engine as Future Shock and plays largely the same, but includes FMV cutscenes with live actors, more focused levels, and an improved 640x480 SVGA resolution. It's about half the length of Future Shock, but is overall more focused and action-packed with less aimless free-roaming. Skynet also includes the ability to play through the Future Shock campaign using Skynet's improved SVGA graphics.


Future Shock and Skynet contain examples of:

  • Actionized Sequel: Skynet is more action-oriented than Future Shock; you acquire a full arsenal much more quickly (you start with an energy rifle and can acquire a heavy machinegun within the first 15 minutes), fight Terminators much early than you do in Future Shock, and the levels are overall more focused rather than having you wander around a huge map for half an hour or so.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: About 1/3rd of the way through the game, the Resistance HQ is attacked by Terminators, and you have to fight your way back to it and clear the area around it of Terminators and even one of the huge Hunter Killer tanks from the films.
  • Alternate Continuity: Future Shock has the final assault on Skynet occur much earlier in the timeline (Kyle Reese is still a teenager when it happens), and ends with the player sabotaging Skynet's time travel device with a virus, resulting in Skynet sending corrupted data to its past self and destroying itself before it ever gained sentience. This results in an alternate future in which Judgement Day never happened. Skynet's plot is completely unrelated to Future Shock (although featuring several returning characters), and is either a prequel or yet another Alternate Continuity.
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  • Attack Drone: Spherical suicide-bomb drones home in on you and explode.
  • Canon Immigrant: Future Shock has the second-in-command of the Resistance being a woman named Kathryn and also has John Connor dying during the final battle with Skynet, two ideas which were later used (albeit almost certainly coincidentally rather than as a reference to the game) in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines eight years later.
  • Chicken Walker: The basic "grunt" enemy type is a six-foot tall mech that looks like a person-sized version of the AT-STs from Star Wars Return of the Jedi. A much larger Mini-Mecha version appears later in the game as a Giant Mook enemy.
  • Continuity Drift: Future Shock has Judgement Day happening on 1995 (coinciding with the release of the game), rather than 1997. This is somewhat explained later in the game as a major plot detail involves Skynet using time-travel to accelerate its development in the past.
  • Crate Expectations: Crates can be destroyed for extra ammo.
  • Death by Adaptation: Kyle Reese and even John Connor die near the end of Future Shock during the final assault on Skynet, leaving it up to the player to destroy Skynet and save the future.
  • Elite Mooks: The T-800s seem to serve this role; they're armed with hitscans weapons instead of the easier-to-dodge plasma blasters most other enemies use, and can take a lot more damage than most other enemy types also. In fact they can take even more damage than the two Giant Mook Mini-Mecha enemy types.
  • Emergency Weapon: You're given a lead pipe as a melee weapon. It's decent for bashing open crates to find ammo, but you're very unlikely to be able to actually kill an enemy with it before getting mowed down.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Averted. You know things are serious when Kyle Reese of all people gets killed near the end of Future Shock.
  • Game Mod: A fan made mod for Skynet fixes a number of bugs present in the final patched version of the game, and also drastically increases the draw distance to more modern standards. It also makes it easier to set up Future Shock to run with Skynet's higher 640x480 resolution. You still need DOS Box to run the game on modern systems, though.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: The hitboxes on the T-800s are notoriously janky, it's quite common for grenades or plasma blasts to pass right through them instead of hitting them properly.
  • Like Father, Like Son: A funny inverted example thanks to time travel; teenage Kyle Reese looks a lot like his son John Connor does in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
  • Made of Iron: T-800s are very tough, capable of withstanding over 60 rounds of assault rifle fire or several shotgun blasts. They're considerably more durable than the walker mechs or even the HK Aerials. You're best off shooting them with the grenade launcher or blasting them with the plasma rifle while tossing grenades at them.
  • Mini-Boss: The Goliath Hunter-Killer tanks (the huge robot tanks from the films) are the closest things in the game to a proper boss fight; they can take way more damage than any other enemy type, and there's only 3 of them in Future Shock and 1 in Skynet.
  • Mission-Pack Sequel: Skynet was basically Future Shock with some quality of life improvements (including 640x480 resolution), and a new campaign featuring FMV cutscenes and more focused levels.
  • Nintendo Hard: The game was noted as being quite difficult at the time of its release, even by the harder standards of the time. While you can take quite a lot of hits for a squishy human, enemies can chew through your armor and health quite quickly, and Terminators take a lot of hits to bring down unless you use grenades or plasma weapons. Also, unless you explore the open world thoroughly for resources, it's pretty easy to run low on armor, health, or ammo in the middle of a mission. The open world maps could also make finding your objective difficult, especially in the driving levels where you're only given vague verbal directions as to where you're supposed to be going (this game was made long before GPS was a thing, and it'll really show to modern audiences).
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Averted; the shotgun seems to fire slugs, as it's accurate enough to snipe with, with no apparent loss of damage output at long range.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: The shotgun has a lower rate of fire than the automatic weapons or energy weapons, and ammo for it is a bit less common than normal bullets, but it deals good single-shot damage and is one of the most ammo efficient ballistic weapons in the game; your max ammo of 750 assault rifle bullets is enough to kill about 10-12 Terminators before running out, but your max ammo of 200 shotgun shells is enough to kill over 30 Terminators before running out.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The game's grenade launcher is the pulse rifle from Aliens.
    • Kyle Reese is wearing a Daggerfall T-shirt.
    • The two Chicken Walker enemy types are named the Raptor and the T-Rex. The game came out 2 years after the Jurassic Park film, prior to which the word "Raptor" had zero association with dinosaurs amongst the general public.
  • The Smart Guy: Dr. Bill Hanover serves as the Resistance's all-purpose science and tech guy in both games.
  • Spider Tank: One of the larger enemy types is a giant mechanical spider with plasma turrets in its head.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: The Tech Noir night club is somehow still operational 3 decades after the nuclear apocalypse, with power, booze, and still-operational dance floor despite the fact the only clientele seems to be kill-happy Terminators.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Captain Bishop tries to sell out the Resistance to Skynet in exchange for his own life. Skynet instead hooks him up to a dissection machine where he spends several days getting his brain sucked out while being carved up cell-by-cell for genetic material to manufacture Terminators with. By the time you find him he's begging for death.
  • Universal Ammo: The uzi, assault rifle, and machine gun all use the same bullets, while the laser rifle, laser cannon, plasma pistol, plasma rifle, and plasma cannon all use the same energy ammo. Heavier weapons tend to deal more damage or have a higher rate of fire, at the cost of being less ammo efficient, i.e. the plasma cannon costs 10 times per shot what the plasma pistol does, while only doing about 5 times the per-shot damage. Plasma weapons also deal more damage than laser weapons while costing the same amount of ammo.
  • With This Herring: In Future Shock John Connor notes that you escaped from a Skynet death camp with nothing more than a lead pipe, which speaks volumes about your capabilities. Averted in Skynet, where you start the game with a decent mid-tier loadout including an M16 assault rifle and a laser rifle.

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