Posted – 2.11.2008
Give yourself two minutes for breakfast, one minute for a shower, one and a half to get dressed, and just to make things interesting as you get ready to head out to meet some friends or go to work, you only have thirty seconds to find the door outside because the house decided to move it to a random location. If you fail in any of these tasks, you simply die. That’s pretty much the gameplay behind the latest movie tie-in, Transformers.
Following in the footsteps of the movie, the game allows you to choose whether to aid the good guy Autobots, or the devious Decepticons, by taking on the different roles that each one will put you in as you follow events from the film. If you’re hoping for some first-gen Transformers fun, you might be put off by the franchise reboot that both the film and the game are structured around, but familiar names return for the remake as you battle it out with Bumblebee, Jazz, Optimus Prime, and Megatron.
Graphics-wise, each Transformers all-star look great especially when they transform. There’s quite a bit of destructibility to many of the environments as buildings blow apart, vehicles fly, and explosion rip across the screen, although it isn’t complete. You can’t turn a building into rubble or punch your way through it, forcing you to stick to the road or open areas in order to avoid getting trapped in closed urban areas especially as you try and race to the next point before time runs out. The game is also home to the mightiest trees in gaming as even Optimus Prime will find himself stopped in his tracks by an oak if he happens to bump into one. Even if you transform into a three story steel titan, trees are tougher than you.
Music is taken from the film’s soundtrack and much of the voice acting sounds good, as sparse as it is. Both Frank Welker and Peter Cullen reprise their roles from the first Transformers generation as Megatron and Optimus Prime, respectively, as a treat for longtime fans. Unfortunately, the gameplay fails to do anything more than be a frustrating litany of things gone wrong.
For a Transformers game, vehicles control as if they’re ice skating without blades which is simply bizarre. You’d expect a Transformer to handle well in the air or on the ground, but it turns out running around in robot form is a better way of getting around, even if it isn’t as fast. Sometimes you can climb buildings when the game lets you since it seems to be a random act. Jumping is pretty useless for getting over much of anything, and much of the joy of riding around or running about comes to a cold standstill thanks to a three foot ledge that stops you cold forcing you to hop over it.
Most of the missions involve fighting enemy drones, whether they are Autobot or Decepticon cannon fodder which look the same no matter what side you happen to be on. As an Autobot, you have to try and not destroy too much of the environment during your missions since that’s a bad thing, although you can get away with destroying “some” of it. Kicking aside buses, police cars, and other civilian modes of transportation is apparently okay, especially if you pick one of these up to hurl at a Decepticon. I guess it’s all good, right? As a Decepticon, collateral damage is what you are all about and the game rewards you for being a pint sized Mechagodzilla.
You can’t choose who you want to be in any particular mission meaning that if you want to roll with Optimus or take to the skies as Starscream, you just can’t unless the job calls for it. Transformers have ranged weapons that they can use which are as effective as pea shooters, leaving you to melee most of the metal that walks up to you to try and ruin your day. Drones from both sides come in several flavors and a few will have impregnable defenses that can only be distracted by throwing something at them. Even if you unload explosive shells and bullets in their general direction, they can’t be stopped unless you throw a car in their face which the game heavily relies on, if only to give you the impression of being a big robot.
There’s a tow truck Transformer that both sides have as a drone that uses its pull cable as a rotating mace of annihilation. On the Decepticon side, it makes sense to see this thing walk around and demolish most anything that comes close to it but when it is playing for the Autobots, collateral damage is okay. Apparently swinging that cable around makes it indestructible. If you run up to it, you’ll be flung back. If you unload rockets and fire everything you have at it causing explosions at its feet from exploding cars and trucks, it will still keep coming. Until you throw a lightpole or fence at it to give you an attack opening. It’s this kind of weird logic that puts the brakes on a lot of the action.
You can also unlock bonus material in the game by performing various stunts or actions that fill up a gauge that measures how “Heroic” or “Evil” you can be, or your ability to “Slide” as a vehicle or “Speed” across the board during each mission. There are also bonus missions that you can take part in and you can collect icons and small cubes that unlock even more bonuses. Much of what you’ll be unlocking will take the form of extras such as a gallery that you can browse through which, unfortunately, doesn’t give you much to work with in the game itself making some of these challenges seem like bland busywork.
But the decision to stick a time limit on most every mission in the game pretty much kills whatever fun you might be having with it. In some missions, you may finish a fight only to have to race to another spot to continue the battle in so many seconds. Or you might only have two minutes in which to destroy so many jets, radar props, or whatever else the game asks you to destroy. Nevermind that none of this really makes any sense other than to generate not so much a feeling of urgency than that of annoying frustration taking away any excitement you might enjoy in being an alien juggernaut of unyielding metal as you are forced into a schedule. But if you think that the time limits are bad, TF: The Game has more weirdness for you to scratch your chrome dome over.
In one mission as Bumblebee, I had to break through a giant steel door and then watch a small cinematic showing a robot emerge from the hole and roll away. When it ended, it told me that my mission was to track down that robot and destroy it in two minutes or an alert would be raised. So why didn’t I have the chance to blow the thing up when it came out? The first time, I could understand, since Bumblebee may not have known what the robot was for…until he does it again two more times as there were two more doors to break through. Another mission had me go out as Jazz and “cause as many distractions as possible” which meant destroying gas stations and half a city in order to allow Prime and his team to safely escape. TF: The Game should have been called TF: Decepticons because the Autobots don’t do a lot of very Autobot-like things in the game.
Unless you’re the type of Transformers fan that has to own every game based on the franchise, you might do better with the the 2004 PS2 title if you can track a copy down. Although it’s based off of the Japanimated “Armada” series, it’s leagues better than this schlock which you might have found buried beneath the greasy popcorn at the theater as a bonus for seeing the movie.
– World 1-1