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  Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Take Your Best Shot

Creator: Williams
Designer: Steve Ritchie
Year: 1991
IPDB Link: http://www.ipdb.org/machine.cgi?id=2524

Date of Writing: 5th November 2004

Terminator 2 stands where three others used to beI like the Terminator movies. I probably watched T1 five times already (last time this Monday on TV) and I love the classic way this action masterpiece was done, and T2 is just great in its own right with the nice character twist. T3 wasn't all that good, but that's a question of taste. At least, the Terminator series serves well for a pinball machine (actually two since T3 got one from Stern), much better than so many other films that were used (not only) by Williams in the 90s for games which were not all that great.
Terminator 2 is a great pinball game. It was Williams' first using a dot matrix display (DMD) instead of the usual alphanumeric displays. In T2, the DMD is mostly used to display text in different styles and animation, but some gra-phical effects are in it as well, though they look much simpler than in later games. This does not hurt the atmosphere at all and I love the DMD of T2 even though I never found anything wrong with the 16-character double displays from The Machine, Black Knight 2000, Whirlwind and others. These displays are beautifully animated as well, cleverly playing with alphanumeric character segments to create animation effects (best example: the eyes in The Machine and the Matrix-like woosh of segments on a message change). Still, T2 is added some atmosphere with its DMD when you see some well-known character images.

the playfield from the sideWhen I first played T2 in Visual Pinball, I was blown away by the coolness and speed of the game. Actual Arnold Schwarzenegger voice samples, steel blue and greyish metallic playfield colouring, consecutive ramp shots, a very imagi-native skill shot, the cannon for multiball and jackpot - what more to ask for? Sure, the ruleset is not all that complex compared to newer WPC/DMD ma-chines, but the features on the playfield and how the game plays is a really nice addition to my collection as beginners and pros alike find T2 very enter-taining. And as I said, it's one of the few film themes that was transferred as best as possible to pinball. There are so many quotes and references to the movie that I already ordered T2 on a special edition DVD just because I feel that I need to watch it again and put the DVD case on top of the backbox so it's complete. ;-)
I always had T2 on my list of wanted machines, but it was not in the first row. However, once I had Pin*Bot, the search for an older game was over and I was satisfied, however my birthday was rolling along, I had the first bucks from my current job on my bank account, and I knew that one more machine was possible in my room. Since I had an early WPC game (The Machine) and an 80s Sys 11 game (Pin*Bot), now was finally the time to buy a DMD machine. This was also influenced by the fact that a few friends of mine and I had the idea of riding around the area and looking for pinball machines that were still commercially in use. Actually there were only four around of which two have been removed by now. Those games were The Getaway: High Speed II, Star Wars Episode 1 (a Pinball 2000 game), Tales of the Arabian Nights and Stern's new Playboy. All of these are DMD machines (except Star Wars which has a colour monitor) and playing them in commercial locations was quite an experience. I played The Getaway on two days and got some nice results (no highscore but free games) and TOTAN three or four days with different people. Both of these games would go into my list, but none of them was really in my primary focus. TOTAN is unpayable with 2000 Euros or so, and The Getaway, while being a cheaper DMD game (and the next pin after Termi-nator 2), didn't fully convince me. It did however play very well in Visual Pinball so that I was a little in doubt which one to buy: T2 or Getaway? The forum members gave me hints that tended to the latter, but when I rethought it with the pure coolness factor that T2 had (I had played it in my childhood one time, so I was not entirely new to it) and the prices that were currently offered for both games, I decided that one of the two Terminators on eBay would become mine. And so I got an unbelievably cheap T2 for less than 500 which was located in Hamburg in a private basement of a non-collector. He was very cooperative via phoning and agreed to use the same shipping service that was already used for Space Station. A week later the game arrived and a friend who I had sitting at our home while I was still at work received it and helped me with the assembly.


a full playfield shotNow this was interesting. I knew that the backbox had been taken off to get the game out of the basement, but since the seller was no technician, he said he would not reassemble the plugs and wires, and it was up to me to do this. Unlike The Machine, the plugs were not marked with numbers. It was all a mix of comparing to The Machine's plugs (same technology) and referring to T2's manual where the plugs and wire colours were listed. After two hours I had understood how to read those tables and we could reassemble the rest of the unknown plugs using this reference. And then there was still the cannon problem: the cannon didn't find its home position and kept swinging out and back. It was only a matter of switch adjusting under the playfield, but I first had to learn how those two switches worked (one is for home and one for marked positioning) to readjust them correctly. After this, the cannon worked perfectly and the game was playable. A brand new double-security glass on the playfield was shipped with the machine since the seller had accidentally broken the original glass when taking it out, so he let it be remade the same morning the shipping service was about to pick the game up! The problem: the glass has double the normal thickness and sliding it out was VERY tough, in fact only possible with two people since it needed so much manpower. The night thereafter I decided to try moving the new glass into The Machine since she had a glass that slid out very quickly itself when you opened it, so the siderails holding the glass were obviously broader. In fact, the new glass slides much easier through The Machine, but it's not perfect yet and still very hard to get fully slid in. Since a brand new glass looks very cool without any scratches, I welcomed it to my restored Machine anyway. T2 now has her old glass on it.


the lower playfield with the endoskeletonTerminator 2 was the continuation of the story that started years back in Ter-minator 1. This time Arnie, as the T800, is the good guy (he was reprogram-med) and battles together with Sarah and her son John against the T1000 (Robert Patrick), a new Terminator model sent to counter the T800 and des-troy John and Sarah after the T800 failed in Terminator 1. Arnold as a hero instead of an adversary makes for a good lead character on a pinball game (however, Black Knight is an adversary, so it is possible) and so you hear all kinds of speech samples that were exclusively recorded by Arnie for Williams. Those samples definitely make the game marky and cool, featuring such memorable quotes like "take your best shot", "fire at will", "let's go", "get out" and of course "I'll be back". While the samples are quite short, there are lots of them so T2 speaks more than any pinball game before it.
Audio features a remix of the Terminator movie theme, but in-game there is custom music that sounds quite rocky and tough, definitely fitting to the fast gameplay style. Sound effects are superb, they sound like typical Terminator movie audio featuring computer sounds, a lot of shooting, lasers, robotic machine sounds and so on. You just have to hear it and you'll be amazed. While I think that nothing can beat the audio of The Machine because it's so beautiful and so unusual, I think Terminator 2 is one of the best in its own right.
The playfield and game rules feature many trademarks from the movie, for example a Chase Loop which simulates the motorcycle and truck chase scene, an Escape Route that advances prizes, an Artificial Intelligence Lab ramp, a Skynet Command Center ramp, a CPU that starts a feature called Payback Time, then of course the cannon which shoots the ball at a target on your command and a Database dishing out random awards.


Terminator 2 is fast. It's actually not as fast as a well-oiled Machine since the playfield is more open and the loops and ramps go farther away from you, but the design gives you the typical modern WPC Steve Ritchie feel. Any DMD game I've played felt totally different from the early WPC and the 80s machines. The ball moves very smoothly over the playfield which is partly due to the Diamond Plate lacquer on it, but the ramps that many DMD games use, the greater depth of the playfield, the stronger flipper coils that Williams built into these machines and the many magnets, targets and gimmicks like the skull head on the T2 or the Supercharger ball accelerator on The Get-away (which is WAY cool) all make for a very sexy and fast gameplay which differs very much from games before the DMD era. You can feel how the ball on T2 lifts up the ramps and comes back to you on the metal rails or how it moves through the Chase Loop and gets accelerated by each time you shoot it into the loop again consecutively. This feeling is very cool and made the difference between my wish to get a DMD vs. an older machine.

the upper playfield features the cannon and two plasticsThe game has all the features I mentioned above and there is no main objective to complete, however there are some cool modes you can unlock to gain big points. Most prominent for Ritchie is probably the Hurry Up mode which has a score counting down while the game waits for you to shoot into the Chase Loop. You get the displayed score added once you hit the loop. Then there is Payback Time, the big pro mode where every shot anywhere counts 5 million, but only for 30 seconds. To reach Payback Time, you have to shoot the two ramps alternately to move up the checkpoints and get the CPU. If you do the alternating fast enough, you get a million per ramp shot. And to reduce the frustration factor for novice players, the game has an Autofire Ball Rescue which shoots the ball automatically back into play if it drains in the first few seconds after launching. This makes up for the well-known "instant drain" which every player experiences once in a while.
Also, multiball is very special with this game. You don't lock balls before starting multiball like it used to be in earlier days. Terminator 2 features an automatic plunger with a gun grip that you have to trigger to shoot the ball into play with the same constant force. There are five white targets on the left of the playfield which are alternately lit and the plunger always hits the same target (the second from the top on my machine, but it can differ), so you have to time the shot correctly to hit the currently lit target for a skill shot award. Those targets and the plunger come into play when multiball is activated: first you knock down the drop target under the metal skull, then you shoot into the ball popper behind it. The ball is shot into the cannon which swings out to the left and waits for you to fire the ball with the gun grip trigger at the constantly lit target. Having a keen eye on the cannon and this target helps estimate the correct moment for an accurate shot which starts multiball, and two more balls are automatically shot onto the playfield, so there is no more pre-locking necessary. Once multiball has started, one ball has to go back into the cannon ball popper to score jackpot. As long as the other balls or one of them are in play, you have to lock those in two other poppers which are lit as locks. If you lock one ball, you get double jackpot; if you lock both balls, you get triple jackpot. However, actually redeeming the jackpot requires you to shoot the correct target again with the cannon, using the ball you shot into the cannon ball popper in multiball. If you did NOT load the cannon this way and the other balls are already locked or lost, the game gives you twelve seconds to load the cannon before the locks or multiball itself times out.
Sounds complicated? Well, it takes some getting used to, but you learn it fairly quickly, The key point in multiball is getting the jackpot with the cannon after all balls are locked. If you did get the jackpot, you can use the released balls to load the cannon again for SUPER jackpot where the five targets are alternately lit while the cannon moves along, so this is really the toughest challenge to face! A super jackpot always awards 50 million; the normal jackpot value increases as you play.

the GI lighting looks awesomeAlso new to the pinball world was the first Video Mode in T2. Once activated, the ball is held in a ball popper and the DMD shows you a small and primitive video game where you have to aim with the flipper buttons at incoming Ter-minators which appear from the left and right, walk into the center, and shoot you. Three shots and you are dead, so keep the aiming recticle on the right spots and blow those things away! Hitting a big Terminator head in the front scores bonus points and multiple hitting of the Hunter Ship in the background gives you another bonus. Plus, you can get an extra ball if you are very fast and if the video mode offers you one (depends on how far you got in the nor-mal game). Video modes are dispised by many pinball fans since they are not related to pinball. I think a quick video mode with a simple game can enhance the DMD technology and provide a funny and interactive way of experiencing the game's theme. In The Getaway, you get to drive your car to the left and right and even accelerate and slow down using the game's gear shift plunger grip. However, while I like video modes, I highly dislike the full 3D video play with virtual targets projected onto the playfield in Pinball 2000 games such as Star Wars.

Cleaning & Repair

The real cleaning is still to be done. This means a complete wiping of the playfield and plastics, rubber exchange and repair of the skull since it has cracks and breaks and doesn't sit well. Since I spent weeks restoring my Machine, that will have to wait a little though.
The great thing about DMD pins is that they have a Diamond Plate playfield as a standard, meaning there is no mylar applied anymore except around heavy-wear areas like bumpers. The Diamond Plate lacquer is especially hard and protects a playfield for years without significant wear. Crowfeet and yellowing simply don't occur anymore. Diamond Plate playfields for earlier models, like The Machine or Whirlwind, are very rare since they were not produced in series and therefore cost a lot too. Two Diamond Plate Machines went away for more than 800 Euros on eBay recently! My Machine doesn't really need a DP playfield anyway since Williams changed insert colours on it (who knows why) and it looks a great deal blander than the original playfield. However, the photos I've seen of DP Machines are mouth-watering. Terminator 2 has a DP playfield anyway, so there are close to no wear spots and the playfield is very easy to clean, wax and polish. Even though it's still dirty, it looks awesome. The only thing that absolutely needs attention are the inserts and the insert lamps since the light is dampened and doesn't shine through like it did on earlier games. However, this seems to be normal as I noticed the same with other DMD games. Still, the inserts on my T2 are very dirty on the underside and need cleaning. Plus, the lamps don't react so well anymore due to old cabling and electrical resistance. That can't be helped very much however.
the cabinet looks fineAlso, the bumpers have several problems. The plastic caps are scratched and two of them had one of both holding screws break through the plastic, pro-bably because of tightening the screws too much. Now those caps are held by only one screw each, but the other screws are still there and you have to look closely to see that they are in fact beneath the plastic caps. The more serious problems are that all three lamps are dead because the sockets are broken, and I'll have to order three new sockets (and lamps) and install them just like I did in The Machine when I resoldered the bumper lamp circuitry. The circui-try in T2 is okay so far, so what I'll need to solder are the new lamp sockets to the existing circuitry. Currently the bumpers are dark, but it doesn't even disturb me since they look quite cool with the GI lighting and the activating flashers when they are hit. And then, there is another problem: all three bumpers have lost their holding screws' fixing power, meaning they were totally loose on the playfield when I got the machine and they start to get loose again even after tightening and gluing (!) the screws into the wood. I don't know what I can do to fix this except using bigger screws...
The most annoying problem though is the ball shooter lane feeder. This thing is made up of a small coil which activates a semi-circle-shaped metal popper which shoots the ball from the ball trough into the shooter lane (where you launch the ball from). The problem with my T2 is that the metal has worn out and has too much freedom of moving, so it often happens that the metal semi-circle pops up too far away from the ball above it to pop it out of the ball trough. The machine keeps trying to pop the ball out, but it always falls back in. Even-tually a strong shake of the machine or waiting for the ball search is the only way to get the ball into the shooter lane. This problem can be erased by using a washer that is put between the joint where the popper and the holding metal meet. This washer takes move free-dom away and in return the ball will be popped out like it should. My personal problem: I don't have a right sized washer, and actually the one I already installed was not enough to limit the move freedom, so I need a second one - which I'm probably going to take out of my Machine since she doesn't need it. But I feel quite stupid sacrificing a part of a working game to repair another one. The same happened when a flipper plunger link broke while playing: the spring had bitten its way into the link (which is made of hard gum) because T2 still uses the old-style links (new links don't have this problem anymore). Since I didn't have a new plunger and link at hand, I quickly used one from my working Pin*Bot which was not being played anyway, and installed it in T2. Now Pin*Bot is unplayable... it's time to order some parts.


A good strategy to gain big points and break the highscore is restarting multiball as often as possible. Not only does your jackpot value increase, but you can also go for multiple super jackpots. However, the second time you are about to start multiball, there are two targets that you need to hit with the cannon, next time three etc. Also, getting extra balls using the Escape Route, the bonus multiplier and the Database helps keep play time long and gets you an opportunity to score all Escape Route awards. Also, repeatedly shooting the Chase Loop increases its value from 250,000 up to 5 million and keeps it at 5 million once reached. Try to relight a drained kickback as quickly as possible with the orange standup target bank to the right at the bottom. And of course, Payback Time can boost your score a lot.

What's in Store

T2 will probably spend quite a lot of time in my room since it was pure luck to get it for the low price in such a good shape. Plus, this game really rocks and there is no reason why I would give it away. "Excellent!"

Update, 13th June 2005:

I solved the ball shooter lane feeder problem by exchanging the metal popper part between The Machine and T2! Since The Machine had a very tight popper which had a lot of power when popping the ball out, I thought replacing it with the weaker one from T2 wouldn't hurt since there would still be enough power in The Machine's shooter assembly. In return, the popper metal from her is obviously in better shape and fit better into the assembly of T2 where it now pops the balls out without complaining. Thank god I didn't have to steal a part from a working machine again to repair a broken one.
In January, I finally overhauled T2's playfield and parts, cleaning and polishing the whole machine so that it would look excellent for the mini pinball tournament. Pictures of the result can still be seen on the main page in an older news entry. I also fixed the bumpers' missing lights and adjusted the shooter lane so that the ball now usually hits the center target for the skill shot, like it was intended.

In April, Machine voice Stephanie Rogers told me in one of her e-mails how the recording process of T2 went down:

The Arnold story from Chris [Granner] is: he had asked Arnold's people for permission and sent Arnold a copy of what it would sound like (with an actor doing an "Arnold" voice for demo purposes - this is the part that was recorded in the same way mine were done). Arnold summarily rejected it at once, saying not only would he not do it, but he wouldn't allow Chris and the guys to do it at all. Well, Williams convinced the head of Carolco Pictures to talk to Arnold and get the permission, which he did. So the sound guy on the movie set up two mics - a Sennheiser and a Neumman - and recorded Arnold in his trailer on the set of T2 (which is why it sounds really good). There were two pages of script, about 50-60 lines - and he said them all as you hear them, and at the end of the tape, the sound recordist on the movie said, "would you like to say anything else, Arnold?" to which Arnold replied, "yea, F-you, asshole..." (out of character, unlike the other bits) which, of course, Chris and the designers absolutely loved and it was the first thing they put on the private stock version. [She refers to the profanity ROM set available for download from the Internet Pinball Database.]

T2 was sold in May and replaced by a cheap deal for Star Trek: The Next Generation. I had a great time battling with Arnie and I would choose to play T2 anytime again over many of the games I've had.


Check the Internet Pinball Database for pics, rulesheet and info.

I once recorded a short (and bad) game using my PC's mic. It gives an impression of the audio and speed of the game.

And last but not least, check out the well-done conversion from VPForums (registration required) for Visual Pinball.
© 2005 Maximilian Schulz - Williams, Bally, Gottlieb and all other names, all pinball games and software mentioned on this site are trademarks of their respective owners.