Review – Cyber Citizen Shockman 2: A New Menace (Xbox One)
It’s always refreshing and downright exciting to see sequels that meet and exceed the quality of the original. When I came into Cyber Citizen Shockman 2: A New Menace, I was understandably concerned. After all, the quality of the original Cyber Citizen Shockman was akin to watching the first The Terminator movie. Sure, it had roots in both creating a backstory and giving some credence to the characters, but it’s not your favorite movie. As much as it creates the world where James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton would excel and thrive, it’s also very stilted and contained. Shockman’s first run was a small game that attempted to shoot some humor and original concepts through some well trodden ground.
Moving into Cyber Citizen Shockman 2, you now have the step up in quality that we see with Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I mean, not completely: Shockman 2 is a direct sequel that rolls out some QoL improvements, funnier lines and a new “villain”, whereas Judgment Day took the initial framework and really injected the fuel that made concepts like Skynet and the T-800 modern reference points. By choosing to continue the storyline and re-incorporating the now legendary Arnold into the same role, but from a completely different vantage, Cameron took a bold swing in storytelling that paid off in spades. Not only did it cement the versatile nature of the android in this war ridden future, but it opened the door to multiple angles, including alternate worlds where Skynet didn’t interfere.
The developers of Cyber Citizen Shockman 2 paid attention to the feedback that came from fans, creating a new approach to the game. Rather than select from a map and follow a pathway, players are thrust into a narrative through-line that you simply follow, much like how young John Connor is stripped of real choice or decision making in stark contrast to the path that his father, Kyle Reese (played by Michael Biehn) walked in the first movie. In many ways, that decision to remove the choice almost implores the ideology of deciding: by actively participating, you are shaping the reality more than if you actively refusing. That is, even the decision to not make a decision is, unto itself, a choice, and it may even be the best choice available, like how John’s attempt to call his foster family, though in vain, ultimately humanizes him even more.
The first Cyber Citizen Shockman wanted to tread new ground by giving our heroes (returning unwilling androids Tasuke and Kyapiko) a different weapon, which was the sword that did decent damage but ultimately was unwieldy. Likewise, it was creative to showcase the invincible nature of the T-800 in the first Terminator movie with bulletproof motifs and the destruction of the humanoid flesh covering that in no way impaired the assassin robot’s abilities. It was only when the hydraulic press, a symbol of the dying factory culture of the mid 80s in the US, was able to stop the robot menace (simultaneously both a representation of the European fads in cars and the burgeoning Asian mass productions) that the heroes can ultimately find peace. The wheel does not need to be reinvented in order to create salvation: it’s the classics of American ingenuity that will save us all.
Yet the transition of Cyber Citizen Shockman 2 from sword to traditional blaster, complete with overpowered single use atomizers, is such a clever idea. Return to that which works best, but, technically, you’re there for the first time. The shotgun, additionally, is a firearm that can be easily traced back to the 18th century, possibly further in terms of a blunderbuss (the shotgun’s progenitor), but putting it into the hands of the newly reprogrammed T-800 is the marriage of classic weaponry in the steel hands of something yet to be born. The fact that it’s a setpiece used to overcome the T-1000 (literally an amorphous being, the nobiagari of media) again stresses this notion of acknowledging the roots of our labors before stepping forward to face the future. We mustn’t fear what is yet to come, but be ready for it with tools hewn from the last generation.
The controls are significantly better in Cyber Citizen Shockman 2, which is a breath of fresh air for players who enjoyed the first. The floaty feeling is completely eliminated, which is good given the amount of platforming that you need to accomplish throughout the game. While the game is more on rails than the first, you still have multiple moments of changed vantage, including piloting a submarine, becoming a fighter jet and leaping between moving spots in the sewers of Japan, which your character will comment on in terms of smell. That was a bit of a weird moment: can androids smell, or do we just get the impression that they can?
This question only goes down further, as you realize that the T-800 is burdened with the responsibility of trying to emulate human traits without a definitive understanding of what those might be. While it’s played off for humor, Schwarzenegger’s struggle to smile at John’s request showcases the very real divide between humanity and machine, between conscious living and merely emulating the concept of existence. People, by and large, want to feel like they’re living for a reason, like they have a purpose or a connection to why their hearts continue to beat. John and Sarah have a paradox of a perception, wherein they have to trust that John from the future is necessary enough to save John from the past by having an emotionally devoid intermediary to protect them. Yet young John is hellbent on crafting a persona for the T-800 which, ironically, is then imprinted on future iterations.
It’s important that we not get too wrapped up in off topic notions and concepts, like the appropriation of Spanish language that then became a catchphrase emblazoned on endless merchandise. While some choices from movies of the 90s are questionable at best and indefensibly awful at worst (see the Kevin Kline movie In and Out for a perfect example), the core value is the crafting and honing of the enemy turned ally in the oddest way possible. Sarah Connor CANNOT forget what the first T-800 did to her life and her family, and this new incarnation that arrives in the sequel (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, not Cyber Citizen Shockman 2) is almost literally a carbon copy, but now imbued with the hopes of the very child she would give her life to protect. To overcome that natural revulsion and apprehension is nothing short of heroic.
The action and pacing of Cyber Citizen Shockman 2 naturally lends itself to a more enjoyable game than the first, which also creates more replay value. I can easily see picking this up and playing it almost regularly, as it is incredibly well balanced with solid boss fights, randomized power-ups, and a fair bit of one liners from an understandably frustrated android duo. Coming in at roughly an hour of gameplay (significantly less if you’ve got the cheat codes on), rushing through this title can be done with the same determination and fervor that Robert Patrick had when pursuing the T-800 and John Connor throughout the film. Patrick, on a side note, ends up in a terrible television show called Scorpion, which I’m sure was a decent paycheck but also reminded me why I hate anyone who uses Mensa as a reason why their opinion is better than mine.
There is always something to be said for the soundtrack surrounding an experience, and the score crafted by Koji Hayama is no exception. Whereas the original Cyber Citizen Shockman used a pretty standard, repetitive series of chiptune tracks, Hayama elevates the visual and action feel with different audioscapes as you move from underwater to high in the sky and everywhere in-between. By contrast, Brad Fiedel’s orchestration of the return and redemption of the T-800 is pleasant enough and evocative, but not even close to his greatest work. The soundtrack for Johnny Mnemonic, done three years later, maintains a superior stance, much like the superiority of Cyber Citizen Shockman 2 to the initial.
In the end, people have to decide what they want to do the most. While there’s inherent value in seeking out the first installment to fully understand, the subsequent story is more coherent, more entertaining and fills in the gaps when necessary to bring you up to speed. The action is stronger, but the character development also gives more compassion and connection with which to identify. It’s certain to be a lasting creation, and, even decades later, it stands as the seminal work when it comes to dark future predictions, deadpan acting, successful child stars and iconic lines. I cannot stress enough that fans of science fiction, action or strong female leads should watch Terminator 2: Judgment Day, not only to honor the impact that it made but also to appreciate what it can still do today.
Not only a better designed set of sprites, but a better set of worlds to explore and stronger set pieces allow for Shockman to be a more exciting and visually appealing journey while still being true to itself.
Levels are longer, power ups are better and my God it’s so good to have a blaster instead of a sword. It doesn’t overbalance and make the game easy, as enemy and boss behavior are corrected for a ranged weapon. Excellent choices overall.
Enjoyable chippy tunes that build you up and bring you down throughout the action and adventure that honestly feels like a drunken anime take on Rick and Morty at times.
I honestly was smiling throughout. The humor is constant without being omnipresent, the controls are much tighter and the gameplay, while more linear, is that much more exciting to jump aboard.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Terminator 2: Judgment Day Cyber Citizen Shockman 2: A New Menace is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, and PS5.
Reviewed on Xbox One X.
A copy of Cyber Citizen Shockman 2: A New Menace was provided by the publisher.