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I'll be back... in a minute, after I finish another game of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Any fellow veteran of coin-op arcades circa 1991 will undoubtedly remember Midway's classic, which pit two players against wave after wave of homicidal cyborgs. The defense: realistic-looking Uzi machine guns, which vibrated as you pumped light-powered lead into the attacking Terminators.
Needless to say, I was pretty excited when Arcade1Up announced a home version of Terminator 2 ($700 at Best Buy, but currently on sale for $550!). I've tried several of the company's other cabinets and really liked them. But this is a far more ambitious product than, say, a Pac-Man machine. How would it compare to the original? Would the guns have the same satisfying rumble? Would the smaller screen detract too much from the experience?
Good news: Arcade1Up Terminator 2 is tons of fun, especially with two players. I do have a few nit-picks, but overall it's a winner.
Arcade1Up Terminator 2: Unboxing and assembly
This is the largest Arcade1Up cabinet I've built to date, standing a full 5.5 feet tall with the included riser. Indeed, it's the largest Arcade1Up cabinet, period, or at least the tallest. That's good, because this game is meant to be played standing up.
The box weighs a bit over 100 pounds, meaning you'll almost certainly want a second set of hands to help you unpack and assemble. Although I was able to do most of it on my own, the last step — lifting the cabinet onto the riser — is definitely a two-person job. All told, it took me a solid hour to build the machine, and I could see it taking a bit longer if this is your first Arcade1Up cabinet. (That's in part because the instruction manual is a little confusing in places; certain illustrations could be better.)
Like all of those cabinets, Terminator 2 is a near-perfect replica of the real deal, right down to the light-up marquee and side-panel decals. It's a little weirdly narrow, but overall just gorgeous. The actual game is the real deal as well, with a few welcome tweaks I'll discuss below.
There's one key difference in the hardware: In the original game, the two light guns were affixed to the machine. You could point them as needed, but you couldn't actually pick them up. In Arcade1Up's version, the wire-tethered guns are removable, which allows you to stand back a bit. This is partially a concession to the smaller physical size of the cabinet; you'd really have to shoehorn next to somebody if the guns were affixed. So I like this change because it not only allows more breathing room, but also creates a more realistic machine-gunning experience.
Arcade1Up Terminator 2: Gameplay
That experience superbly recreates what I remember of the arcade version: Shoot the Terminators, don't shoot your fellow soldiers. Grab power-ups and ammo as you can, stay alive as long as you can. Bust out occasional quips in your best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice. Run back to the coin machine to get more quarters.
Except, of course, you don't have to do that last part. The beauty of owning an arcade game is you don't need to keep pumping money into it. And this one lets you modify various gameplay options — starting level, difficulty, gun rumble, etc. — something you definitely can't do in the arcade version.
I played it solo and with my wife, who's not much of a gamer but took to T2 immediately and really enjoyed it. (Damn if she didn't actually beat my score, too!) The game sounds as good as it looks, thanks to a pair of robust speakers embedded behind the marquee. The light guns proved very accurate in their aiming, with very satisfying (but not overly aggressive) rumble feedback.
Arcade1Up added a few nifty extras, starting with Wi-Fi: The cabinet can connect to your home network in order to download updates (which mine did immediately on first boot) and show your position on a worldwide leaderboard of players. There's also a fun making-of documentary, which felt a bit odd to watch on an arcade cabinet but, hey, I enjoyed it.
My nitpicks are exactly that: minor issues I can live with. The 17-inch screen feels a little cramped, and I don't love the look of the light-gun cords dangling in front of the machine. I don't love the price, either, though the $150 discount available right now makes it more palatable. I'd love to see this selling for $500, which could happen during the holidays later this year.
Arcade1Up Terminator 2: Should you buy it?
One complaint people have with Arcade1Up cabinets is that they come with a small number of games, usually just three or four. Terminator 2 comes with exactly one: Terminator 2. While that definitely limits the replay value, it's a particularly good game — one of the all-time best, I'd say.
Still, it wouldn't be unthinkable for Arcade1Up to make more light-gun titles available for this cabinet, something that might actually be possible, thanks to the onboard Wi-Fi. I'd gladly pay extra to download, say, Time Crisis, Virtua Cop or The House of the Dead 2.
Obviously I wish other games were included right out of the box. But there's no denying the appeal of Terminator 2. As it stands, it's a must-have addition to any home arcade.
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