Terminator 3: War of the Machines is a multiplayer-centric first person shooter loosely based on the 2003 movie Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, released only for PC. Maps are set in the timeline established by the movie, with several based directly on movie locations, and many facets of the game resemble those in the movies.
The game has no real singleplayer campaign or plot, but a large amount of backstory is mentioned on loading screens. Apart from stating objectives on some levels, these have no effect on the game and are never otherwise mentioned or referred to. All levels take place in or around Los Angeles, but are otherwise unconnected.
T3:WOTM is similar to Battlefield 1942 (the only game in the Battlefield series which had been released at the time). This includes features like unit classes, preset spawn locations, vehicles and the included game modes, but not aircraft or naval combat.
Players can choose to fight on the side of Skynet (i.e. terminator) or Tech-Com (human), each with their own abilities and play styles.
There are only a small number of game modes:
- Termination – capture and hold control points, which can be used to respawn (similar to Conquest in Battlefield)
- Team Death Match
- "Missions", which vary by map, but generally involve destroying an objective and/or holding a position for a set time.
Single player games are always Team Death Match; multiplayer games can be any but can only switch when creating a new game and not between rounds. Rounds end when a preselected time or kill limit is reached, with the exception of the mission mode (which has a time limit, but no kill limit, and ends if the objective is completed). It's worth noting that while settings for singleplayer games are somewhat limited, it's entirely possible to host and play a multiplayer match on the same computer to get access to the other options and game modes.
- T900-Supply – the generic class with no particular strengths or weaknesses.
- T900-Heavy – slower, stronger, able to use more powerful weapons and the only unit that can provide targets for air strikes.
- Infiltrator – the "spy". Resembles a human, can (only) use human weapons and vehicles, and the only Skynet unit able to use stationary weapons. However, player names are shown when looking at their unit (at all distances for friendly units, and at close range for enemy units), friendly units show up on the mini map and enemies do not, and the unit design is different from human classes, making infiltration effectively impossible. Also, it is glowing red eyes.
- FK – the only playable unit capable of flight, and the only Skynet unit available on all maps. It is the fastest unit in the game, with access to one of the most powerful weapons (missiles) but is also one of the weakest units and unable to capture points or fit through some doorways on maps.
- T-1 – based on the design from the movie, and only available on current day maps. The only tracked unit, it is unable to travel on stairs, which is rarely an issue.
- Hunter – the human's generic class.
- Heavy Hunter – slower, stronger, and equipped with the most powerful weapons (e.g. rocket launcher).
- Scout – the fastest and weakest human unit; the "sniper".
- Supply – able to drop both health and ammo pickups, and armed with heavier weaponry than the Hunter. (The pickups are single use, providing a small bonus to the next player that walks over them, instead of a longer-term area affect.)
- The Terminator – modelled on Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the 'best' Tech-Com unit; only available to the highest scoring player when in Termination mode.
All Tech-Com units are available on all maps, although their appearance changes depending on the setting (with present-day designs resembling police and soldiers).
Humans can jump and change their stance - stand/crouch/flat - unlike Terminators (with the exception of the Infiltrator, which can crouch and make a small hop). However, their fleshy bodies are the only ones that suffer from fall damage. With many maps taking place in dark, bleak environments both sides have access to a higher-contrast vision mode; humans have green-tinted 'night vision' and Skynet units have a red-tinted 'Terminator vision'. Terminators can also zoom their vision a moderate amount, and have a highlight and distance when their crosshair is over another unit.
Weapons can't be picked up or changed while playing, though humans and some Skynet units can choose from a selection before spawning (the T-1 and FK have built-in weapons). With the exception of the 'Term-Cannon', humans can use all the Skynet weapons as well as more recognisable designs such as assault rifles and machine guns. They also have the option of grenades (otherwise only available to the T900-Supply), EMP grenades or plastic explosive, as well as a secondary generic handgun. Different classes have access to different weapons, and the more advanced weapons aren't available on current-day maps.
Permanent ammunition (and health) boxes are placed around the map, although not indicated and often hard to find which slowly replenish a player who stays near them. The Tech-Com supply class can also drop items that provide a limited but instant bonus. The Skynet supply class has access to a similar ammunition pickup, but otherwise terminators must travel to their original base to refill or heal. Stationary weapons, as well as weapons on vehicles, have infinite ammunition but will 'overheat' if used continuously for too long.
One other notable difference between the teams is that human weapons generally require reloading, whereas Skynet weapons can be fired continuously until depleted.
Skynet forces have access to only two vehicles, the HK Tank and HK Transport, but can use a third (Flying HK) for airstrikes on positions selected by a T900-Heavy. Tech-Com have a wider variety of vehicles, from APCs and Trucks for transport to dune buggies, cop cars and even a lightly-armored and unarmed almost-entirely-pointless sedan. With the exception of the APC and Jeep-like "Assault Vehicle", no vehicles are ever available on the current-day maps. All vehicles including the Flying HK are destructible but will respawn at their original positions after a short time
- Canyon – The major bases are situated at each end of a twisting canyon, with little cover in between curves except one underground bunker acting as a shortcut, and captureable points in the open. The Tech-Com base is underground, filled with corridors and stairs and surprisingly complex. A relatively large map, each side has several armed vehicles, and Skynet has access to a flying HK.
- City Center – Set in a destroyed Los Angeles, a relatively large map with several multi-storey building interiors and a wide area of (mostly-collapsed) freeway. Tech-Com has a number of vehicles and many points have stationary weapons. A flying HK is overhead, and one of the captureable points is located near a downed flying HK.
- Docks – The centerpiece of the map is the ruin of a large warehouse that a flying HK has crash-landed in. The humans start at a ship on the actual docks, though it only has a few enterable rooms and otherwise acts as a map edge; containers and crates form the majority of the other boundaries and barriers. Several vehicles are available to the humans, and a working flying HK and single APC for Skynet. A few smaller warehouses and buildings provide cover and alternate paths.
- Suburban – A figure of eight around two several city blocks, with a dry channel crossed by a bridge between the two main bases. None of the buildings are enterable, but plenty of cover is provided by vehicle wrecks and other debris. There is little cover from the flying HK, but humans get several other armed vehicles instead.
- Plaza – Surrounded by ruined skyscrapers and wide roads, the majority of action on this map takes place in a bombed-out two-storey mall and nearby underground carpark. Obstacles and debris obscure vision and make it somewhat difficult for the Tech-Com vehicles to get around, but the enterable structures also provide safety from the flying HK.
- Subway – Aboveground bases for each team are connected solely by a single-level underground subway station. Neither team has vehicles, and the flying HK is of minimal use. This level has a number of doors and passageways that are too narrow for the FK to enter.
- Military: Present – two large open areas connected by two hangars with various items (including stealth planes and containers), providing cover. Tech, has access to a small number of vehicles. The level is fairly simple, with few small corridors and little verticality.
- Military: Future – A destroyed version of the present-day map, with one hanger collapsed and unenterable, the other heavily damaged, and access to a multi-level bunker replete with winding corridors, gangways and old mainframes. FK? Vehicles?
- Lab: Present – Set in the present day, and one of the smallest maps. Points are located in larger rooms, connected by smaller winding hallways. Based loosely on the lab from the movie, some of the rooms contain 'prototypes' (essentially static FKs and T-1s that can't be interacted with or damaged).
- Lab: Future – A destroyed version of the present-day lab. The larger rooms and some corridors ceilings are damaged and open to the sky, preventing the flying HK from being entirely pointless (although invisible barriers prevent the FK from escaping). Both lab maps have several 'testing pits' which are usually impossible to escape if a player enters them, essentially acting as a non-lethal trap, but it's unlikely anybody would enter one accidentally.
- Graveyard – a small graveyard set in the present day and loosely based on a scene from the original movie, including Sarah Connor's gravestone and her coffin (filled with ammunition, and serving as a supply point for the humans). This map has particularly blatant invisible walls to prevent the FK from taking shortcuts.
- Downtown – Perhaps the largest map, taking place over several city blocks with few building interiors but many accessible balconies, bridges, platforms and covered plazas. Both side have access to a large number of vehicles, and the flying HK is present. A version of this map earlier in development contained an underground subway; the (blocked) entrances to it are still visible near some of the bases.