Written by emo, published October 24th, 2011. 11 comment(s).
Back in the early 90’s, both the Terminator 2 (T2) film and Williams Pinball machine were a big hit so when T3 was announced Stern grabbed the licence and brought back legendary T2 Designer, Steve Ritchie to lead the design team. Steve had been out of pinball for 7 years. The brief was to pay special attention to new and inexperienced players by being up front with the rules.
T3 resembles T2 in that it has all metal ramps and traditional illumination, thanks to bulbs in the back box, rather than the more standard Stern fluorescent tube. It also has some similar rules and features, such as “hurry up” and “payback time” and some legendary “Steve Ritchie flow”. Improvements are apparent in the dot matrix animation, illumination and a claimed 450 voice calls. It also has “a first”, a large gun game that dominates the back box, called the RPG. These new features and the well thought out rule set, show that a great deal of thought and effort went into this game.
In 2003 pinball enthusiasts were hungry for quality games and Stern was delivering. Terminator 3 (T3) was produced between two of the best, The Simpson’s Pinball Party and Lord of the Rings. The T3 film and Pinball machine didn’t receive the outstanding reception of their original T2 counterparts but as we all know that sequels are always a harder sell. Despite making less of an impact, the T3 pinball machine is very worthy successor and a big evolutionary step forward from its predecessor.
General Appearance: T3 has a robust metal appearance. The cabinet has a gun metal grey plate finish and a gun handle attached to the front. The playfield and back box are dominated by the colour red. The playfield also has a metal plate finish, metallic terminator models and all metal ramps. It may have been wise to carry on the all metal theme throughout because upon release three visual elements received some criticism. The central playfield image of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s head isn’t the best. The model of his head, which looks pretty good to me with it’s blinking red eye, didn’t impress in press releases and the RPG dominates the look of the back box imagery. The last is no longer valid as the images are high quality and the “darkness” can be easily fixed several years on, thanks to the widespread use of replacement LED’ bulbs. Overall it is a competent work and good interpretation of the theme.
Playfield description: The playfield is standard width a 2-flipper fan layout.
The lower playing area is pretty standard and looks very much like one of Steve Ritchie’s previous game The Getaway, High Speed 2. It has two flippers and the usual in-lanes and out-lanes and a bank of 3 stand-up targets left and right just above the respective out-lanes. The left target bank is the Kick Back targets and the RPG targets are on the right. Hitting each target scores 10K and hitting all three lights the relevant feature.
Just above and between the flippers are the usual “shoot again” lamp and 5 additional clear indicator lamps labelled Payback Time, Assault, Super Jackpot, Max Escape and RPG. These all need to be lit to start the 6th, the Final Battle.
The auto ball launch is activated at the start of each ball using a gun on the front of the cabinet. By timing the ball launch you can pick from a number of useful awards (see rules). It also fires the RPG back box toy and “kills terminators” when fired as instructed during Quick fire.
The upper playfield is interesting as the entrances to the shots are pretty much in a line about halfway down the playfield. Two of the ramps turn sharply and feed the ball at speed back to the flippers. The shots are all pretty tight so this is a game of accuracy and speed.
Moving from left to right:
Command Centre is a partial loop around the back of the playfield and awards: Spot Weapon, Security Level, Hurry up (5m), Video Mode, Extra Ball, Assault and final Battle. Command Centre awards once lit carry over to the next ball if not collected.
A thin Stand-up target that lights the RPG when lit is between the command Centre and the entrance to the Left Ramp.
Left “A” Ramp loops back to the left flipper and is one of two ramps used to advance security levels up to level 5 (also see combo’s)
The Jackpot/ball lock is a long lane just left of centre. This is a tricky shot because balls that don’t make the lock head back straight down the middle. There is a drop target in the lane that must be downed before locking the ball that can catch out unwary players.
At the back of the playfield is a nice shiny chrome model of the TX Terminator (the TX is a terminator terminator according to the movie). Its left arm is part of a wire form and fed from a VUK. This shoots the ball down the middle towards the right flipper and is used in TX Challenge mode and others.
A Captive Ball lane is just to the right of centre and 3 hits spell R E D for Red mode.
Right of centre is the middle “B” ramp that loops back to the right flipper. It is one of the tightest shots on the playfield and seems to play a part in awards such as Bullet Hole, EB, Mystery, Hurry-up, Weapons and Special?
The right “C” Ramp is next and also leads back to the right flipper
The “Escape” Loop travels up the right and around the back of the playfield although it has a diverter that means it only becomes a full loop at certain times during the game. Balls can be diverted to the rollovers and bumpers, right ramp or TX VUK, depending on your progress during the game. This shot is also used to start the RPG and Mystery awards when lit.
The top right area of the playfield contains, 3 rollovers, which in turn feed 3 bumpers. There is also a battle damaged Arnold terminator head complete with flashing red eye.
The RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade): It is a large back box toy and not on the playfield. A gun on the left moves up and down and fires a ball at a series of targets on the right and is fired using the gun handle to the right of the coin door. It is well integrated into play and comes to life ant various times during the game.
Playing the Game (Rules):
Note: This game seeks to encourage new players and shows where to shoot at the start of each ball.
Skill shot: by timing your ball launch you get to choose between your awards. Odd ball launches give choices of: Mystery (see mystery awards), Bonus Multiplier (4x-6x) and TX Challenge. Even ball launches add options of a Lock A Ball and play RPG, to the awards you didn’t choose on the previous ball.
Ball saver: On factory settings at the start of the game this is very short although it does kick in occasionally as part of various modes later in the game. It is worth noting that selecting the Multiplier option at the start of the game is the only selection that gives you a reasonable ball saver on factory settings.
TX Challenge: A shot around the back of the playfield can begin TX challenge. A ball is then shot out of the TX’s arm and the game counts down from 5 with scores reducing by 500,000 each second. That means you can get a possible 2.5M max for any shot made + a bonus challenge if you hit the TX.
Rollovers: The rollovers are unusual in that all 7, the in lanes, out lanes and top rollovers are connected and circulate via the flipper buttons. They are an important part of the game because they are used to light the Command Centre awards. Note: more rollover awards are needed 2nd time around.
Command Centre Awards: In order these are a Weapon, +1 Security Level, Hurry Up, Video Mode, Extra Ball and Assault.
Video Mode: This is similar to the classic video mode on T2. You move crosshairs using the flipper buttons and fire at robots, fliers and weapons using the gun grip. Scores for completion depend on the enemies shot. Scores of 6m+ are possible.
Hurry ups: These can occur at either orbit lane during the game and are worth 5m
Mystery: is lit at the right orbit (not sure how). Awards include Red Bullet Holes, Command Centre, Big Points, Video Mode, MB, EB, Lock a ball, Bonus Multiplier, RPG, and Escape. There are some very good awards that are worth collecting though and you also advance Escape awards during the process.
Assault: All balls are launched into play with a long ball save. Most balls are delivered to the right flipper and your objective to hit the TX lane 3 times. You then need to hit a ball up either side of the playfield as indicated. That 4th ball is then kept locked for a few seconds, along with any other locked balls and the game offers you a RPG shot, the RPG moves up and down and you shoot at a lit target. During this process any balls still on the playfield remain in play. All of this is then repeated without additional ball saves until only 1 ball is left in play (also see Weapons).
Weapons: are available at the middle ramp and though awards such as command centre and mystery. Collecting 5 increases the Assault value.
Payback Time: In T2 tradition this lights the ramps and loops for 1m for a set time of 20 seconds.
Red: Red is earned by registering a hit on the captive ball 3 times. This is very distinctive as the playfield lamps shine red. Once RED has begun you can’t start other modes or advance towards Payback Time but it is possible to start red on top of other modes.
Escape Awards: Start at 100,000 and increase up to 1m. If the ball drains any progress on the Escape awards ladder is lost and you must start all over again. Also see Final Battle.
Multiball: is started by locking 3 balls in the TX lane. The first time round this consists of two shots per ball, one to knock down the drop target blocking the lane and the other to lock the ball. After the first time the drop target resets if the ball isn’t locked within a few seconds.
Multiball starts with some nice sounds and animation of a Terminator stamping on skulls and some menacing terminator action. Balls are then shot into play; one from the TX weapon, while others are auto plunged into play. Your objective is to hit the TX lane 3 times for jackpots and then again for super jackpot. There is a very short ball save but balls can drain quickly from this shot but it is an important objective as without it you can’t start the Final Battle.
Quick fire & Combo awards: The gun, to the right of the coin door has several uses in the game. It fires balls into play, picks objectives at the start of each ball, fires the RPG and can be used when Quick fire is indicated to shoot Terminators in the display. Quick fire is triggered by 4 consecutive indicated ramp shots e.g. ramps A, B, C, A. The ramp awards also increase during a sequence of up to 3 consecutive ramp shots.
RPG: This can provide good points during a game. You get bigger points for both speed and accuracy. Awards count down from 10m and flawless performance gets you a bonus of 3 or 4m. The first time all the targets are lit and you get a bonus for hitting them in order. A bonus is available if you complete the 5 targets in 3 shots. In subsequent activations you need to hit a moving target 3 as quickly as in as few shots as possible. You need to complete RPG 3 times to qualify for Final Battle.
Stacking multiballs: Multiball, Red, Assault and payback can be stacked in various ways. It is useful to know that isn’t possible to pick up Command Centre awards during multiball so you can’t pick up useful things like extra ball or start Assault and if Red is started first certain other modes can’t be started. Some stacked combinations start a special mode called blitz.
Blitz: Is a wild mode that starts during certain combinations of 3 other modes. The one I know is MB, Red and Payback time but there may be others. The display show an image of closing steel shutters close is followed by the word BLITZ and shots are lit for higher scores, although it is difficult to put figures on it due to the stacking. This is accompanied by great dot matrix images and a robotic voice shouting out “SCREAM, TERROR, APOCYLIPSE” etc. It is very loud and exciting.
Final Battle: To start you must have completed Payback Time, Assault, Super Jackpot in MB, Max Escape and 3x RPG’s, as indicated by the lights at the bottom of the playfield. The Final Battle lamp is then at the left loop. Once started this has several stages.
It begins with multiball and the TX taunting you with comments such as “is that the best you can do?” The ramps and loops become lit and you need to complete these shots then hit the TX lane until you silence her. During this process the game has a long ball save where it maintains at least a 2 ball multiball but if you don’t make all the shots in a set time you get a vocal count down from 5 and then they relight. Assuming you complete, the game pays tribute to some of Steve Ritchie’s video game work and you receive the Mortal Combat quote “Finish Her”. You then shoot the TX lane until she/it is dies.
Completing Final Battle and despatching the TX starts what is essentially the wizard mode. I won’t go into too much detail but almost everything is lit and you get a decent ball save. A skilled player with a good Final Battle can add 100m or more to their score. In comparison failure to despatch the TX may well get a score of less than 10m
There are three different ways you can approach this game. You can hit the ball around the flowing ramps, try and stack high scoring features or aim to complete the elements necessary for the Final Battle.
In T3 Final Battle is a realistic objective but you need to play tactically to get all the qualifying elements. It is very easy to fail because you missed out on something such as getting Super Jackpot in MB or an escape Escape award.
If you’re playing in a free flowing way the game opens up in a most rewarding way, with opportunities such as MB, Red and Blitz.
If you’re playing it competitively it is best to minimize the risk of drains SDTM and avoid the centre TX lane and captive ball until you get some points on the board. It is safer to start with Security Levels and Payback Time and to pick up mystery, RPG and Command Centre awards when lit.
In all cases make sure that use use the flipper buttons to move and light the rollovers/light command center awards because without that you won't get far.
T3 doesn’t let you settle and tries to hurry you as many of the features intense and timed and ball saves soon expire. Passing the ball from flipper to flipper is tricky so it is much better to use the ramps to pass the ball. If I had to limit my advice to one sentence it would be BEWARE, T3 PUNISHES LOOSE PLAY!
T3 is a schizophrenic game and with fast drains and virtually no ball saves it can be a cruel game if you miss. Play well and the game transforms into an enjoyable pinball experience, as the shots will flow around the metal ramps as you travel from one exciting feature to the next. This game is littered with highlights, such as RED, Assault, Blitz, Final Battle and also some nice touches, such as the intro to Multiball, the lighting effects and the gun games. Once inside the game there’s lots’ going on.
The design team deserve a 10/10 for effort because they really went for it with T3. It has great software and sounds, distinctive metal ramps and toys and a fine rule set that set it apart from other titles. In comparison to T2, T3 is both deeper and more challenging.
An “all action” license like T3 deserves an “all action” game and that is exactly what the Stern design team delivered. There is something unsettling about a machine that shouts out “SCREAM” don’t you think?
You will be back!
This is a cut down version of a similar article of one that appeared in the Pinball Owners Association, Pinball Wizard magazine.
Eddie Mole 2011-09-01
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