Developer: Traveller's Tales
Release Date: June 26, 2007
I know I shouldn't do it, but I always hype myself up for movie-based games, and I'm always disappointed. You have the occasional Chronicles of Riddick or Spider-Man 2, but the majority of movie tie-ins fails to live up to expectations. Oddly enough, Transformers: The Game falls somewhere between great and terrible.
Now, I may be a little biased because I'm an '80s kid, so the Transformers hold a special place in my heart. I've had my fair share of battles between the awesome Autobots and the dreaded Decepticons on my kitchen floor, but after playing Transformers, I think I'll stick with my toys. The game has plenty of things going for it, and most of it is genuinely fun, but repetitive missions, shoddy driving and odd sandbox mechanics keep it from being great.
You begin the game by selecting sides: the Autobots or the Decepticons. After that, you're dropped into the events preceding the movie plot, and you're allowed to play both sides leading up to the fateful showdown in the city. The Autobots follow the story of the movie almost directly, while the Decepticons get an alternate tale.
The story centers on the All-Spark, a cube which, as the opening narrative indicates, is the basis for all Transformer life. Long ago, in a move to prevent the Decepticons from obtaining the All-Spark, the Autobots launched the thing into space, hoping to hide it. Unfortunately, it landed on Earth, bringing with it an eternal war between two factions of giant robots.
The gameplay takes place over two campaigns with about 17 chapters a piece, during which you play as about eight different Transformers, including Optimus Prime and Megatron. The Transformers themselves are really well done and balanced. The Autobot, Jazz, is a weak fighter, but incredibly quick, while Ironhide packs a wallop, but don't take him into a street race. Even the air Transformers are balanced between speed, control and firepower.
The levels initially feel like you're playing a sandbox game because you're dropped into the middle of a neighborhood and allowed to drive around. You have an objective on your radar, but it doesn't seem like you have to go there because you can take in the sights, jump the ramps that are spread about, and just enjoy the city. Then a little timer pops up and tells you to "Get to the Action Zone," and the entire experience begins to crumble.
You'll begin to hate this timer because you'll see it in about 90% of your missions, which brings me to my first major complaint: repetitive missions. You basically get two types of missions; the Autobots get "race to the objective and fight the enemies" assignments, while the Decepticons are tasked with "race to the objective and destroy the buildings." There are some minor variations to this theme, but this is mostly what you'll be doing.
This, in itself, wouldn't be so bad, if you didn't have to do this multiple times in a chapter, or if the experience varied at all. For example, early in the Decepticon campaign, you play as Barricade, and your job is to chase Bumblebee through the city and destroy him. You fight him with a bit of melee, and then he transforms and runs. You chase him, catch up to him and fight him again. Beat him, and he runs again. You have to do this five times, and each time you fight him, you make Bumblebee do the exact same move over and over. It gets really old really fast.
The game epitomizes how a fight between Transformers should look, sound and feel. The battle mechanics are really cool, and they contribute to a very epic feeling for your Autobot-Decepticon war. There's something to be said for picking up a giant robot and throwing it into a building, causing it to crumble. Of course, there are downsides to this. When you're engaged in melee fighting, you do these combo moves that end with a thunderous punch that sends your opponent flying — then you have to find him in order to finish the fight. It's a minor annoyance that doesn't detract too much from the gameplay, but it seems a bit tedious. I'll deal with it for the sake of the awesome battles.
The graphics are a mixed bag. When you're outside during the daytime, everything looks awesome, from your Transformers to the environments. When you go inside any sort of building, or if it's nighttime, everything gets extremely dark, and when you have dark Transformers against dark backgrounds, it becomes nearly impossible to see them, leaving you to fumble around in the dark for your opponent. The sound, however, rocks on all levels; the sound effects are big and vibrant, and the voices are done well. I have zero complaints about how the game sounds.
The controls and camera are mostly fine while you're standing and fighting, though the camera occasionally gets stuck on a wall, and your attacks will sometimes miss the enemy because you aren't directly facing him. They're the sort of problems you'll find in any 3D game, and while they can be frustrating, they're not debilitating.
While you're driving, however, the controls and camera seem to act against you. The camera, while stationary, is so low that it severely impedes your view of what's directly in front of you. If you're going up a hill, just hope that there's nothing in your way, or you'll hit it full-on. If something is in front of you, good luck dodging it because the slightest tap on the thumbstick will send your car into a full turn. While it can make for some awesome drifting around corners, trying to get around the slower drivers on the freeway can be troublesome. On top of that, if the slightest corner of your car hits anything, it stops you dead in your tracks or twists you around. You then have to back up, turn a little bit and start accelerating again. If you're fighting that timer — which you probably are — the driving segments give new meaning to the word "frustrating."
This changes, however, when you take to the skies. While playing the Decepticon campaign, you are bound to notice that most of them are flight-based, which immediately makes them more enjoyable. All of the camera and control issues you may have while driving go out the window when you're flying.
Transformers is a big game. As you play through the levels, you find these little Energon cubes and Autobot/Decepticon icons to collect, and the more you collect, the more you unlock. There's plenty of cool stuff to unlock, including bonus missions, an art gallery, movie trailers, and first-generation character skins for Optimus Prime, Jazz, Starscream and Megatron. If you're the type of person who has to complete a game, there's a ton of stuff here for you. Roughly half of the Achievements are mapped to completion of the campaign, while others will be earned through accumulation of Energon cubes and by performing in-game actions (such as executing 1,000 melee attacks).
However, if you're not a completionist, you'll find the lack of content disturbing because without the unlockables, the game is pretty short. You can beat both the Autobot and Decepticon campaigns in about 10 hours, and there's no multiplayer to extend the life of the game so if you don't have any desire to find all of the Energon cubes in a level, you're out of luck because the game ends when the story does.
Overall, Transformers: The Game feels like it was rushed out the door to meet the movie release date (which it probably was). There really is a good game in here, but it seems like the developers ran out of time while they were fine-tuning it and had to ship it as-is. It's not terrible by any means, but the horrible driving mechanics, repetitive missions and the horrible timer keep this game from being great.
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