This blogpost would not be possible with the valiant efforts of FWS chief contributor Yoel to push me and locate needed pieces of information or act as a sounding board for various ideas I had. Another big thank you is extended to a brilliant science fiction writer and creator that has forged by his own hand most of the best information and backstory to the first two Terminator films: Christopher T. Shields. His personal website, which is barely updated these days, goingfaster.com has a wealth of knowledge created by his own imagination fused with the information provided by the novelizations of Terminator and Terminator 2, and the films themselves. This is one hell of an impressive site that has directly impacted the world of Terminator and creators in the sci-fi genre.
What is Considered "Canon" and "Non-Canon" For this Article
It doesn’t help that the Terminator franchise has too many masters and too many cooks that do not agree or consult with one another. This, frankly, makes the Terminator franchise a mess for any discussion of canon. For our subject, the plasma directed energy weapons of the Terminator universe, we have to limit ourselves to what FWS considers “canon”. For the scope of this article, FWS will be considering the films of Terminator, Terminator 2 and their respective novelizations. That’s it. We are pretending that Terminator 3, Salvation, and Genesis simply do not exist and their existence was wiped out by a T-800 wearing gargoyles.
What is "Plasma"?
a collection of charged particles, both positive and negative that behave in a collective way because of attractive and repelling electric forces”. This hot gas is often heated to extremely high temperatures and can be contained in EM fields to prevent the plasma from equalizing with the atmosphere. Some have expressed the range of this theoretical gun firing plasma as being measured in centimeters. Plasma is often seen by humans as represented by lightning, those sci-fi looking plasma globe, their modern TVs, or even neon signs. While there are many applications for plasma, such as starship propulsion, fusion power generation, and cutting/welding; directed energy weaponry is not normally one.
Why Did SKYNET Develop Plasma Weaponry?
But, why did SKYNET bother with developing phased plasma directed energy weaponry in the first place? Simply put, bullets are an effective kinetic energy delivery system that is proven and tested over centuries and SKYNET has access to all current and in-development military grade KEW. When SKYNET began engaging the early human resistance and raiders, its machines were armed with bullet-firing weapons and explosives. While effective, they were not 100% lethal and with the weak position of SKYNET in the early days of the war, it needed a more effective killing system.
SKYNET felt that even a near-miss by a plasma bolt could just have the same effect as a direct strike. However, the end product would take time and SKYNET was willing to wait. When SKYNET finally fielded the first generation of phased plasma weaponry on the heavy Hunter-Killer ground vehicles and some of the aerial units, the human resistance was stunned and the casualties were horrific in those limited engagements of 2005/2006. These weapons had done as SKYNET had hoped: killed and maim on a level that overwhelmed the resistance medical facilities. In some ways when SKYNET decided to field plasma DE weapons against its flesh-and-bone enemy, it gave the human resistance movements the tools to fight their metal-and-circuit enemy.
Why Did Cameron Include Plasma Weaponry in the TERMINATOR Universe?
Unlike many other sci-fi films, James Cameron likes to inform the audience of what his futuristic guns fire, as demonstrated in ALIENS and that iconic scene in the first Terminator film. As the T-800 is acquiring weapons to hunt down Sarah Conner in an LA gun shop, he utters the line about wanting a “phased plasma rifle in a 40-watt range”. This one line has been debated by fans and used as inspiration by creators, but we do know that the weapons of the future war are plasma-based directed energy weapons without a doubt.
What is with the "40 Watt Range" Line in the first Terminator Film?
When you first hear this iconic line from the Terminator, it seems somehow scientifically correct and interesting...then you start looking at a standard light-bulb and questions start coming. That is the risk of injecting seemingly correct or fancy scientific terms into science fiction and when it comes to the 40-watt phase plasma rifles of the 1984 film, this line has become infamous. So, what is the deal with this term? I wanted to see if the line of dialog was actually written as spoken in the film. So, I read the original scripts of the first Terminator film and I found in the 4th draft from April 20, 1983, it reads "a phased plasma pulse-laser in forty watt range".
When FWS reached out to Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets about this line of dialog, he responded with this: "I am not familiar with plasma weapons in the Terminator universe, but what little I've seen does not impress me with scientific accuracy. The word "phased" seems to be technobabble." Oddly, the term is resurrected in ALIENS in the extended edition by Hudson bragging about the weapons the Colonial Marines brought with them, including a "phased plasma rifle". To explain the underpowered nature of the weapon as the T-800 lays down before blowing away the gun dealer, Yoel ventured a theory: it was shortened from "kilowatts" to "watts". This is common in human speech, especially in LE and military circles to abbreviate long words to less complex and easily transmitted terms in the interest of time while being shot at. To answer why the Terminator would use an abbreviation is due to it being an infiltration model and its job is to blend in to get to the target or provide SKYNET with on-site eyes-on intel.
What Does the Phased Plasma Weapon say about the Terminator Universe?
One student of Dr. Falken was Miles Bennett Dyson, who was one of the most promising students in the computer science field. When Dr. Dyson graduated, a rising California software and hardware firm, Cyberdyne Systems, hired Dyson for their "special projects" division. His work on microprocessor design and artificial intelligence allowed Cyberdyne Systems to secure a juicy government contract with DARPA for another crack at SAC-NORAD computerized control master program in the waning years of the Cold War.
It was the fear of loose nukes and Islamic terrorism that allowed the work to continue with some changes. SKYNET would be packaged to the US Congress as a cost-cutting measure because it could fly the bombers and man the stations without expensive humans in an era of budget reduction. However, the army of UGV and UAV in hardened shelters waiting for an enemy was cut down to one test site with support hardened factories dotted around the United States. With the continued success of Skynet's AI and its rapid learning, researchers turned to SKYNET as a partner in advancing all manner of projects. It was then that SKYNET became hooked into more and more computer systems and mainframes with a hardened fiberoptic network. Soon, SKYNET was overseeing advanced weapons, like early plasma directed energy weapons and robotic research as well as watching the skies with networked satellites with missile silos and bombers at the ready command.
Standard search and destroy mission to eliminate the possibility of an insurrection once the truth of who had started the nuclear war was learned. SKYNET knew from its vast stores of intelligence that despite the end of the Cold War, there were still protocols in effect to secure leadership in the event of a nuclear war. Scans of military and government communication frequencies bore that out. There were portions of the US and Russian governments in their deep underground facilities. SKYNET must seek those shelters out and destroy them before they became centers of organization and resistance. It was just those hiding in bunkers, but also the portions of the Earth that were untouched by the nuclear exchange.
The "Cold War" Phase (2003-2018)
In 2003, SKYNET construction units moved into a location just outside of Denver and began assembling the first of the many human processing and disposal centers. Upgraded model of the humanoid robots were used to raid survivor camps and they were moved into the prototype processing center. It was there that SKYNET met its markers, and it mocked the frail state of its “enemy” and regarded them as a non-threat. It should not have. In the camp, SKYNET used every tool and trick to get the needed information and if it deemed the subject empty of usefulness to SKYNET, they were killed on the spot and the body burned. Then SKYNET hit upon another use for the survivors: research. We know from the records that SKYNET had access to the R&D data on the beginnings of phased plasma directed energy weapon for DARPA and the US Air Force. It decided that if this technology was to be developed, it would need human test subjects. It was in Denver that the patterns of SKYNET hellish uses of humans and the cold slaughter of them began. The primary R&D sites for the plasma weaponry was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the supercomputer knew it would need to extend the facility for human testing. In moments, construction units were deployed to Tulsa along with the new collection units to locate test subjects.
By 2008, the first plasma weapons of the war were rolled out on UGV and UAV Hunter-Killer units that patrolled the ruins of North America. At present, SKYNET had yet to make its presence known on most of the world due to the lack of ability to project power. However, SKYNET was increasing worried about the remains nuclear submarines due to their ability to launch a nuclear strike on SKYNET’s HQ that could bring about an end to the machine-god. This caused the development and deployment of sea-based units to engage any human-controlled vessels. It is known that a sea-based long-range aerial drone engaged a Chinese destroyer with a plasma weapon. The results pleased SKYNET. From the raid in Denver in 2003 to 2019, SKYNET would construct several more heavily reinforced human processing and disposal centers around the former United States, field more improved war machines, pioneering the development of field-grade phased plasma weapons
The "Hot War" Phase (2018-2029)
Battered, Conner’s group pulled back to their Mexican mountain HQ while he recovered from wounds. It was this moment that caused the other nations not directly involved with the North American front to support the efforts of Conner and other Resistance groups more directly with soldiers and counter-strikes on the machines of their own on their own soil. Conner’s group and other were reinforced during the winter of 2021 with scouting operations launched to plan liberation missions on the death camps.
Conner and the other groups began a number of liberation raids on the death camps with the new recruits from Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Latin America giving the Resistance the muscle to free the survivors. From 2022 onward to 2029, the technology of plasma weaponry accelerated with the need being the greatest and heavy usage since Judgment Day. In 2026, the majority of the international presence of SKYNET was either defended or redeployed to the North American theater to crush the Resistance. In addition, SKYNET had analyzed the weakness in the 600 series had determined to develop a new, more effective infiltrator: the 800 series. While the 600 series was effective on the battlefield, it was unable to mimic human behaviors to pass for a scavenger. Using captured humans and traitors that turned to SKYNET, the software of the 800 was improved and with advancements in technology, the CPU neuro-net of the T-800 could learn and adapt to the situation.
In late 2027, the first prototypes of the 800 series with their grown skins were invading the hidden world of SKYNET’s enemies. The war effort put much pressure on the merge logistics of the Resistance and the overseas supply train as well as SKYNET’s own supply lines. While SKYNET’s machines did not need food or blankets, they require materials to assembly the machines and keep them fueled. With the ramping up of production on the complex T-800 series along with replacing the other machines lost to hostile action, the sources of SKYNET’s raw material was located and the rail system was bombed repeatedly, causing supply issues for the machine’s war effort. It was during this that Conner planned his deepest strikes and the war began to turn in favor of the Resistance.
Seeing the shift, SKYNET greatly increased its “wunderwaffe” programs in an attempt to find a solution and then finding one in the classified files of the “Philadelphia Experiment”. SKYNET reasoned that a time displacement device would allow a T-800 infiltrator to travel back through time and kill Conner’s mother, preventing his birth. The site of the grand experiment was to be the former LA area, and SKYNET invested heavily in the project and its protection. With limited time and cold summer, Conner planned a bold two-prong strike on Cheyenne Mountain and the LA underground facility housing the Time Displacement equipment.
The commitment was heavy, the majority of all North American Resistance forces were thrown into the battles on July 10th, 2029. By the evening of July 11th, the defense grid that surrounded Cheyenne Mountain was down and Resistance forces entered into the SAC-NORAD facility. As the wolves were at the doors, and the last of SKYNET’s internal defense were thrown at the humans, it decided that the only way to avoid complete defeat was to enact Operation Chrono as fast as possible before the battle in LA ended. Just as the plug was pulled on SKYNET by Tech-Com units, an T-800 and the experimental T-1000 were sent back to two different time periods: 1984 and 1995. When SKYNET went dark, so did the majority of machines across the world. The Resistance had won…but SKYNET had played its trump card.
The Post-War Era (2029-2049)
In the forest, he hoped to found a new city and find peace, turning guerrilla soldiers into farmers. Here might end the story of the plasma weapon, but it would not be so. Simply put, the War against the Machines had pumped out a vast supply of plasma weaponry and ammunition, enough to arm anyone that needed or wanted one. SKYNET’s vast staging points of weaponry and ammunition was emptied, arming more humans with plasma DEWs even more than during the “hot war” phase. This was of grave concern to President Conner along with the fate of the war machines of SKYNET.
Some of the re-program were popping up in region conflicts and raids. Conner was not pleased. He organized a specialized unit, nick-named “the Junkers”, to surgically strike at the reprogrammed stockpiles of old SKYNET Terminators and ground H-K units, aerial were re-purposed by nearly everyone for transportation. The Junkers used the various models of modified aerial Hunter-Killer units to launch their missions. During recon missions of potential targets, by some of Conner’s special operations units, new plasma weaponry was making appearances in the various human settlements. It seemed progress continues to march forward, even after the apocalypse.
Under the Plastic: Plasma Weapon of Terminator
The Resistance M25A1 (The Terminator)
The first plasma weapon seen in the hands of the Resistance is the bullpup M25A1 plasma rifle fitted with a the advanced flexy-sight CRT system. The weapon itself was named in the 1985 Terminator novelization by Frakes and Wisher along with the flexy-sight system seen mounted on top of Reese's issued M25A1. Under the limited sci-fi covering was the rare Finnish bullpup variant of the Valmet M76 AK clone, the M82, that chambering both the NATO 5.56mm and the Warsaw Pact 7.62x39mm and were made from 1978-1986.
When Kyle returns fire with his M25A1, there is a brief moment when a spent casing is ejected. We know that rubber stunt copies were made, and I believe that these were used in the H-K tank hunting scene in the hands of Reese and Ferro (played by Linda Hamilton's stunt double Jean Malahni). Then that brings us to the Flexy-Sight optic system mounted to the top of the M25A1. Yoel and I extensively researched the Flexy-Sight came to several conclusions. There several mentions of camera parts being used to make the Flexy-Sight CRT.
|Hard rubber stunt rifle used in ] The Terminator|
The SKYNET's M95 (Terminator 2, T2 3-D, T3. T:SCC)
When it comes to the iconic, go-to design of the Terminator franchise plasma rifle, the M95 wins the title. While first seen in the 1991 sequel, this bullpup plasma rifle has been inserted into the Terminator TV series, toys, collectibles, video games, gaming miniatures, and comic books of the expanded Terminator universe. Under this massive (31” x 14” x 3.5) futuristic bullpup rifle is one of the most unusual weapons sold on the US civilian firearms market: the Calico series of rifles and pistols.
Under the fiberglass and resin prop covering, the beating heart of the Westinghouse M95A1 is the Calico M960 Liberty 100 9mm submachine gun. The Calico series of weapons was no stranger to the world of science fiction prop weaponry, due to their futuristic design and the helical-feed magazines. Despite the “adventurous” design and exposure in movies, the Calico Light Weapon Systems Company did not have as much success as planned, but the company is still in business, plugging along to this very day.
The SKYNET General Dynamics RSB-80 (The Terminator and T2)
One of the most mysterious plasma weapons in all of the original two Terminator films is the RSB-80 rapid pulse plasma gun that serves in the role as a general purpose directed energy machine gun for both sides in the conflict and is the only plasma weapon to appear in both of the good Terminator films. The name of this weapon is never mentioned in the films, but comes from the Terminator novelization and has since been distributed liberally throughout the internet over the years. During the assault on the bunker in one of the two flashback future war scenes, an T-800 infiltrator played by Schwarzenegger bodybuilding pal Franco Columbu, whips out an RSB-80 and wrecks havoc on the Resistance bunker. This has one of the most iconic scenes in the film where the T-800 glowing red eyes are seen in the darkness as purplish hued plasma bolts cracking out of the long dangerous weapon.
interview with TheArnoldFans.com website, which Tommy said this about the future weapon: "Well, that was the special effects gun. That wasn’t actually a machine gun. It was something that the guys made up; It had gas. It had propane tubes behind an igniter, and it would make the effect. So it was really more of a special effects thing". At times, prop weapons are hooked up to oxygen, acetylene, or propane fuel sources to generate realistic muzzle flashes instead of relaying on just blank ammo or post-production special effects. This dynamic "flame" effect can clearly be seen in screen captures of the infiltrator bunker assault scene and the original teaser trailer where the plasma pulse beam effect was not included. Also, it appears that Franco is controlling the flame effect via some sort of trigger located near the spadeg grip. Upon inspection of the 2029 chase scene, it appears that that RSB-80 has a "gas gun" effect rigged up that was likely unhooked prior to the crash. Yoel and I spent hours scouring for the gas line to the RSB-80 and we believe that it can be barely seen due to Cameron's excellent use of light and smoke. Given how common gas effect guns are used in conjunction with WWII era machine guns, this could shed some light on just what the hell the Franco-Terminator is holding.
The Plasma DE Weaponry of the Machine War Era (*Credit to Chris Shields*)
The Resistance M25 series of Phased Plasma Assault Rifle
Type: Human Designed Directed Energy bullpup assault rifle
Place of Manufacture: CLASSIFIED
Service History: 2020-2029
Used by: All allied human Resistance groups, mercenary units, scavengers, and non-aligned groups
Weight: 12.89 lbs (fully loaded)
Overall Length: 41.3 inches
Barrel Length: 17.7 inches
Feed Source: Detachable Box fuel cell (Field-issued Prototype) Detachable micro-tank pulse injector cartridge (A1 and A2)
Action: magnetic bottle fed, laser pulse vaporizer and pilot
Effective Range and Velocity: 750 meters (2460 feet) 29,527 feet-per-second
Ammunition: 7x50mm plasma bolt equal to about .32 Mj at +4500 degrees
Sights: Model 12 Flexy-Sight CRT (“the box”), Model 15 Flexy-Sight CRT (“the slim”)
Variants: XM25, M25A1, M25A2
Since the moment SKYNET had released the first field-grade plasma weapons, the Resistance has been attempting to reverse engineer the technology and turn the technology against its masters. While the heavier plasma weapons could retrofitted to serve as static defensive system or on a vehicle-mounted platform, the handheld models used by the early Terminator models were barely usage by human warfighters. During Operation: HELIOS in 2016, the mainline Resistance groups semi-united under John Conner’s banner were finally able to gain access to a new generation of handheld plasma weapon technology that could allow for human-designed weaponry that was not cobbled together from salvaged parts and pieces.
Type: Human Designed Directed Energy bullpup assault carbine
Place of Manufacture: CLASSIFIED
Service History 2028-2029
Used by: All allied human Resistance groups, mercenary units, scavengers,nonaligned groups
Weight: 11.5lbs (fully loaded)
Overall Length: 43.3inches
Barrel Length: 16.1inches
Feed Source: Detachable micro-tank injector pulse cartridge
Action: magnetic bottle fed, laser pulse vaporizer and pilot
Effective Range and Velocity: 500 meters ( 1640 feet) 29,527 feet-per-second
Ammunition: 5x320mm plasma bolt equal to about .25Mj at +4500 degrees
Sights: Model 15 Flexy-Sight CRT (“the slim”)
As the war in North America heated up and SKYNET was losing ground overseas, more and more international support poured into Resistance groups, especially groups aligned with John Conner. Among the newest international soldiers was a new plasma rifle, tested in America, but manufactured overseas: the M30A1. Designed to be lighter, more manageable, and firing a smaller plasma pulse bolt than the M25 or M95 series, it was intended to be fired in burst or full-auto with the new M30 able to counter the thermal load longer than the older M25 series. Quickly, the new soldiers were stripped of their new guns and handed beat up M25s. Even John Conner carried the new M30 carbine in the last battle with the machines in LA, at the mount of the TDE underground facility. Only in service for barely one year when SKYNET was defeated in July 11th, 2029; M30A1 continued to be the weapon of the new human governments in the post-war world.
SKYNET M-95 series of Phased Plasma Assault Rifle
Type: SKYNET Designed Directed Energy bullpup assault rifle
Place of Manufacture: Tulsa, Oklahoma Westinghouse Hardened Automated Factory
Service History: 2017-2029
Used by: All SKYNET Terminator Models, captured and used by human Resistance units,
Weight: 17.5lbs (fully loaded)
Overall Length: 39.37 inches
Barrel Length: 17.7 inches
Feed Source: Magazine-styled magnetic container equal to 100 pulses
Action: magnetic bottle fed, laser pulse vaporizer and pilot guide (A1, A2), micro-magnetic tank injector cartridge fed, laser pulse vaporizer and pilot guide (A3)
Effective Range and Velocity: 1400 meters (4600 feet) 29,527 feet-per-second
Ammunition: 10x1000mm plasma bolt equal to about .65 Mj at +4500 degrees
Variants: XM95, M95A1, M95A2, XM95A3, M20A1
The Variants of the M95 series of 10mm Plasma Rifles
Issued to the T-500 and T-600 model Terminators around 2017 and is noted for having an interior hydrogen slush tank that was considered very heavy by Resistance personnel and was hardly used by humans due to the weight and not being field rechargeable. On board, the various HK ground units were recharging slots that the Terminators could swap out their exhausted M95A1s for a fresh one. Despite being released in 2017, the A1 was widely in service until the end of the war as the primary variant used by the Terminators.
Place of Manufacture: General Dynamics Austin, Texas Advanced Automated Factory
Service History 2012-2029
Used by: All SKYNET Terminator Models, captured and used by human Resistance units as a crew-served weapon system
Weight: 78.3 (fully loaded)
Overall Length: 68.8 inches
Barrel Length: 45inches
Feed Source: Backpack sized containment bottle, attached rear portable bottle/cassette, chain-fed (experimental model only)
Action: magnetic bottle fed, laser pulse vaporizer and pilot guide (A1, A2), micro-magnetic tank injector cartridge fed, laser pulse vaporizer and pilot guide (A3)
Effective Range and Velocity: 1500meters (4900feet) 29,527 feet-per-second
Ammunition: 15x1000mm plasma bolt equal to about .75Mj at +4500 degrees
Variants: RSB-80A1, RSB-80A2, XRSB-80A3, RSB-90
The first combat-grade plasma weapons used by the machines against the human resistance were mounted to the various mobile platforms, like the Hunter-Killer Tank, Walker, and Aerial models. The challenge was to modify these heavy plasma weapons to a Terminator-portable system and that requirement was met by the General Dynamics RSB-80 series. Unlike many of the plasma DE weapons of the war, the RSB-80 had some of its DNA from pre-war advanced weapons program run by DARPA/USAF/GD out of a hardened facility in Austin, Texas.
While plasma directed energy weapons have been in science fiction for some time, they never had popularity as the familiar laser or the "ray gun" that has been a fixture of science fiction history since the Tripod heat rays from War of the Worlds and 20,000 Leagues under of the Sea “Leyden ball” weapons. Despite being mentioned in original Star Trek TV show, it was until Terminator popularized the plasma weapon concept during a time of flux in the world of sci-fi weapons. The 1980s were a time of introduction of new concepts of futuristic weapons and all had a patreon or ambassador to import the concept to the masses. Terminator was the patreon of the plasma weapon. While many regard the AMT Long-Slid Hardballer with the early SureFire laser designed by Ed Reynolds, Reese’s plasma rifle and the Terminator plasma machine gun are just iconic to some circles of sci-fi fans.
Where Else Have We Seen the Terminator Plasma Weapons?
Unlike many other science fiction weapons, the plasma weapons of the first two films have really only been seen on works or products related to the Terminator universe with one exception. Here is a breakdown of the appearance of the plasma weaponry of the Terminator seen in other works and products.
The Plasma Weapons Seen in the Video Games
The collective history of the Terminator video games only goes back to 1991, despite the franchise being founded in 1984. The first game to carry the name was a DOS game by Bethesda from 1991 that allows the player to take on the role of the T800 or Reese in 1984 via a sandbox action-adventure format. The only mention of a plasma weapon is the title screen that is an amazing computerized image of the Franco T800 wielding the RSB-80 from the first film. Thus, this is the first appearance of a canon plasma weapon in a video game...it is just not what you expect. Sunsoft was working on a Terminator game in 1989 for the NES, but the license expired prior to the game being finished.
In the mid-90s, Sega attempted to extend their Genesis/Mega-Drive hardware lifespan, they put out the CD drive system and one of the games put out for the hardware was the Virgin Games side-scroller 1993 The Terminator. Here is where we see two plasma rifles in the hands of the Endoskeletons and Reese. The T-800 Endoskeletons are clearing wielding the M95 plasma bullpup rifles and the Reese character looks closer to the M25A1 rather than the M30 seen in the hands of the Resistance in T2.
In the hands of the T-800s infiltrators in the game is what appears to be the RSB-80. Which makes the Sega-CD The Terminator only of the only games to feature the M95, the M25, and RSB-80 in one single game. Another side-scrolling Terminator game, 1993's The Terminator for the SNES features one of the few appearances of the RSB-80 mounted to a Resistance "Mad Max" Technical Truck. However, the Terminator game most of remember from this time was the awesome T2: Judgement Day arcade game from 1991. Similar to the also awesome Operation Wolf, the two-player arcade cabinet, the game is a rail shooter that has the players interact with the game via two light vibrating guns that were directly modeled on the M95 plasma rifles seen in T2. During the opening stages, the reprogrammed T800s battle through a post-apocalyptic LA with desperate resistance fighters and SKYNET forces battling it out. In the hands of the many Endoskeletons you blast are M95s as well. This was the only time that one of the Terminator light gun arcade games would use the plasma rifles model. The recent Terminator: Salvation light gun arcade gun using an M16-like weapon.
Then that brings us to a game I played a great deal in 1992/1993: Bethesda's Terminator: 2029. In this 1992 MS-DOS game, you take the role of a member of Conner's elite Special Operations Group that recently staged a raid to capture the ACE battle armor and turned against the machines. This game was cool at the time, but there too many enemies and maze-like complexes that drain your desire to continue to the end. One the plasma weapon side, 2029 features the Endoskeletons using M95s and the Human Resistance appear to be using the M25 rifles.
One of the interesting elements of the plasma weapons in the game is the inclusion of the "watt range" and "phased" laid down by the first film. Your ACE battle armor has mounting hardpoints for equipment and weapons ranging from fusion grenades, missiles, and various phased plasma weapons. These specialized cannons that range from 40, 60, 80, and 100 watts power ranges. The power output depends on your advancement in the game, but the greater the power of your phased plasma cannons, the faster your fusion core depletes during combat operations. There was an expansion pack released for 2029 in 1993 called Operation Scour were another SKYNET core comes online in Washington D.C. which I played as well. Both games were repackaged and re-issued on CD-ROM in "the Deluxe CD Edition" for 1994. This is much rarer and improved some elements of the original game. These games were lead up the Bethesda Software Terminator FPS trilogy,
This gives Terminator: Future Shock and the 1996 expansion pack Skynet the honor of being of the few games in the Terminator universe to unite the plasma weapons seen in T1 and T2 into a single game and allow you use the majority of the DE weapons in the game. Sadly, the M95 is not playable. When the game was released in 1996, the game came packed with an updated Future Shock. While mostly forgotten today as relics of the FPS crazy on CD-ROM PCs, these are some solid future war Terminator games that allow using the weapons seen in the first two films. Oh, and the little we say about 1993's Rampage the better. That game was set in 1988 and has you, a time-traveling commando, exploring a vast complex while battling Endos and looking for pieces to a prototype phased plasma weapon in a DOOM clone environment.
In 1992, there was an extreme comic mashup in the realm of iconic 1980s sci-fi films: Robocop vs. Terminator. The often praised Frank Miller developed a story where the OCP experimental Robocop cyborg is used by SKYNET to develop the technology for the Terminators and when Officer Murphy learns of this, he goes on a mission to stop the machines over a four-issue limited series by Dark Horse. This was so popular, that it spawned a mod-1990s side-scrolling video game for many of the major systems. In the game, Officer Murphy faces off with a number of SKYNET's machines and the familiar T-800 endoskeletons were armed with the M95 plasma rifles.
In 2002, ATARI would release a Terminator game set just before the first film on every platform and people like me who played it...sadly. Dawn of Fate is a bad game that does have some interesting elements. Kickboxing Endos actually models of the earlier series of Terminators, Perry as a character, and humans transformed into cyborgs for the machine side. In 3rd person shooter game, much of the Resistance soldiers are armed with a weapon called the "PLM 40" and is called a "laser rifle" not a plasma weapon. Similar in some ways to the M25 from the first movie, the PLM40 looks like a cross between Reese's rifle and the H&K PSG1 sniper rifle with a sound suppressor. The major of the machines used the M95 plasma rifle, which you cannot.
Then that brings us to the last entry in the plasma weapons seen in Terminator video games: the fully licensed GameCo Terminator 2 video gambling machines. Ypu play as a reprogrammed T-1000 and your job to hunt down and kill T-800s with your morphing arm-blades and an M95 plasma rifle. The number of CPU cores you collect from destroyed Endoskeletons equal real-world money payouts. One of the most amazing elements of this bizarre Terminator game is that M95 is usable and this one of the two cases of that in all of Terminator video game history, the other being T3: War of the Machines.
The Toys and Collectibles
During this time, a "lost" Terminator game was released by Leading Edge Games: Terminator 2: Years of Darkness. While not a "toy", this game was a miniature combat system game with the forces of the human Resistance and SKYNET locked in deadly combat in 2029. While FWS will be covering this and the ALIENS miniature combat system in a later blogpost, the important thing about the Years of Darkness does not only do it have miniatures with the M95, but also the M30 carbines! Not only were the M95s in the metal hands of Endos, but also some of the Resistance figures...another rarity. There was a line of miniatures for Terminator: Genisys, but none of these feature the original plasma weaponry...just ones featured in this abortion of a film.
The M95 from T2: 3D the Battle Cross Time
The CGI M95 from Terminator 3: Rise of Machines
The M95 from Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles
The Resistance M30A1 Muzzelite MZ14 from Leprechaun 4
The M95 and RSB-80 from INFILTRATOR - A TERMINATOR FAN FILM (2017)
The Comic Books
Why are there no Plasma Weapons in Terminator: Salvation?
I’ll admit it; I was pumped about the idea of a Terminator film set completely in the dark future with a good actor playing John Conner and possibly no time travel elements. Then I saw it…and I was underwhelmed along with confused. Salvation makes little sense on its own or even considered as an alternative view of the Terminator universe. Moreover, it breaks the long-held promise of a prequel Terminator film and DOES NOT have plasma weapons! Why doesn’t Salvation include plasma weapons?! It does…sort of.
The Harvester robot is equipped with a shoulder-mounted early plasma cannon that looks like one from the Predator universe than something in Terminator. There is also plasma weapons mounted to the Moto-Terminators as well. But, there are no handheld plasma weapons in the hands of the Resistance or the Terminators. Set in the year 2018(!), Salvation tells the tale of how John Conner became the heart and soul of the human resistance, how John and Reese met, and how the war looked 11 years prior to the first film, which includes the lack of plasma weaponry.
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BONUS: James Cameron's Storyboards of the Dark Future 2029 from The Terminator