Transformers: The GameESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
Developer – Traveller's Tales
Publisher - Activision
128 KB to Save Game
In-game Dolby Digital
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
To coincide with the release of The Transformers on the big screen, Activision unleashes Transformers: The Game for the Xbox 360. Based on Hasbro’s Transformers property and the aforementioned live-action feature film, Transformers for the Xbox 360 lets you choose between Autobots and Decepticons as you control the battle for Earth. Having seen the movie only days before receiving a copy of the game from Activision, I was keenly anticipating the arrival of the game. As far as the special effects and action is concerned, Transformers the movie delivers on so many levels so the big question is: Does this translate into a blockbuster game for the Xbox 360?
As far as the visuals are concerned, Transformers for the Xbox 360 is visually appealing and the games introduction is simply fabulous. Right from the get go the intro reminded me of the opening scenes from Terminator 2 as the visuals are stunning and it kept my attention level on high. In fact, overall I was somewhat taken back with how good Transformers: The Game actually looked as a whole. Generally, when playing a movie-based game my expectations are somewhat low given the limited amount of time developers have to work on it. The result being that so many movie based games seem rushed. Fortunately, as far as the graphics are concerned, Transformers manages to mostly deliver in this department, and I do mean just mostly.
First and foremost let’s start with the Transformers themselves. The overall detail of the Autobots and Decepticon's characters is very sharp and they are certainly comparable to their on-screen counterparts as they are easily recognizable for fans of the franchise. At a quick glance you can tell developers spent a significant amount of time perfecting their look. The enemy AI bots are also very detailed and simply exceeded my expectations. The actual transformations from vehicles to the bots is also very slick and looks even better on an HD display. The cut scenes are also visually appealing and certainly add to the overall looks and gameplay. The actual movements of the Transformers during the cut scenes is smooth and gives you feeling that you are watching part of the movie. Unfortunately there is a significant breakdown from the Transformers movements during the cut-scenes to the gameplay. I found the movements of the Transformers during gameplay to be clunky and not as smooth compared to games such as MechAssault or Lost Planet.
As I suggested above, I was very impressed with the actual Transformers themselves. Unfortunately, the rest of the visuals are somewhat of a mixed bag. First, the vehicles are seriously lacking in the graphics department. Granted, I have been spoiled lately with games such as Forza 2, TDU and Project Gotham Racing 3 which feature vehicles identical to their real-life versions and drive so incredibly smooth. Nevertheless, the vehicles in the Transformers are limited, have little detail. For instance, some of the vehicles don't even feature doors. This is just one of many examples as overall the vehicles in the game seem rushed and do not compare to the detail of the Transformer characters themselves.
As far as the environments are concerned, there is much to offer and they give the game a ‘sandbox feel’ to it. Some the battles, which take place on high school football fields and downtown city streets, do look sharp. The buildings look pretty good and are nicely detailed too. The destruction your Transformers causes to the building when climbing up a building is also a nice touch. Overall there is no shortage of destruction and mayhem in this game. Battle scene explosions are all very good, although it can be a little too hectic at times and as a result I did experience some slow-down now and then. This was evident during such times when I was fighting a boss along with his minions; the game started to suffer from some serious framerate issues and slow-down. It is very noticeable and did take a little away from the gameplay.
Overall, the sounds of the game are decent but certainly not stellar. The sounds of massive explosions, city people screaming and Transformers running amok through the city all sound very good. However for those of you who regularly play mech games it is nothing you haven’t heard before. The explosions and weapon sounds are very crisp and effective but again nothing incredibly original as the sounds of the Transformers and their weapons very much remind of the sounds heard in many previous mech type games.
The music in the game suffers a bit too. The feature film soundtrack is arguably the best I have heard in quite some time as it impressed me with music from Linkin Park, the Goo Goo Dolls and the new Smashing Pumpkins tune. Unfortunately, the soundtrack from the big screen movie does not carry over into the game as there are no noticeable rock or pop tunes. I was sadly disappointed that none of the film’s artists were on display in the game. I guess this is to be expected though as one could only imagine the costs involved, however at the end of the day the music in Transformers: The Game comes across as bland and forgettable.
The character voices on the other hand, are well done and it is certainly appreciated when developers sign-on the big screen actors to do the voices. Shia LaBeouf (Sam) and Megan Fox (Mikaela) lend their voices for the game. Also, the original voices from the 80’s animated series, Frank Welker and Peter Cullen, deliver as the voices of Megatron and Optimus Prime. All the voice actors do a fine job and add to the gameplay experience. The only concern I had with the voice acting is the repetitive commands you hear non-stop throughout. During one mission I must have been told over a dozen times by Optimus Prime what my objective was. It was not a major issue though and it was just more of an annoyance.
First, let’s begin with the basic storyline of the game. In Transformers: The Game the Decepticons are on Earth essentially looking for Megatron and The Cube. The Cube is a source of great power for destroying the planet. Along comes the Autobots who are trying to stop the Decepticons from destroying the world. It's a classic tale of good versus evil and very reminiscent of the old cartoon. For the most part the game follows the movies storyline; however the developers do change some things up. I must admit I do appreciate the developer’s attempts to stay true to the big screen movie unlike the release of EA’s Superman Returns which was not the movie at all.
When you first give Transformers: The Game a spin in the single player mode you have two sides to choose from: you can either choose the Autobot or the Decepticon campaign. This was a nice twist and gives both sides of the story which I found quite unique and somewhat refreshing. During the campaign you can play as many of your favourite Transformers. Unfortunately the game does not let you choose which Transformer you want to use for each mission, however if you plan on playing through the entire single player mode, all of the Transformers eventually become available as you progress throughout the game. For example if you choose the Autobot side your first mission begins with Bumblebee and you can probably guess which Autobot you will use in the final mission. Bottomline, be patient and eventually you will be able to give everyone’s favourite red and blue truck a test drive.
In terms of total playtime, this game does not manage to fully deliver on this front. I found that most of the missions are quite short, in fact I would argue a little too short. I found it commendable that the developers allowed for side missions to be optional, but should one choose not to do any of the side missions then the game can be completed in only a matter of hours. This makes the additions of the side missions almost somewhat mandatory to get a more lasting experience of the game. As the game follows the movie quite closely I guess there was only so much that could be done with the length of the game. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t wish for a longer gaming experience does it?
When you start a Mission you need to make your way over to a mission beacon shown as a huge column of green light which reaches up into the sky. Once the mission is completed, the next mission becomes available and so forth. You have the option of playing the mission again but the only time I ever replayed a mission was accidentally. Almost in sandbox style, once you have completed a mission you are free to roam the city and environments. During this time, you can try the side missions where you can collect cubes, taking on challenges, find Transformers head icons, etc.
The environments are totally destructible in this game and it is an aspect I found very cool. Also, the pedestrians will panic during some of the battle scenes and police response becomes more intense as you destroy more objects. Best way to avoid too much attention is turning back into your vehicle and slipping away from the action. Almost any object can be picked up and thrown in the Transformers: The Game too. For instance, trees can be used like clubs and lamp posts can be launched like spears towards your enemy. It takes some getting used to and often I would throw a tree or lamp post towards my opponent and it would miss. However after sometime it gets a little easier and you learn how to property throw objects.
One of my major concerns with the single player campaign is the controls. Don't expect being able to move your Transformer as smoothly as you can in other mech type games. The controls feel very clunky and jittery and they are not as smooth as I have become accustomed to. I felt that a little more fine tuning could have been done in this area. The driving mechanics and controls are also problematic. I found it very difficult just to control my vehicle and keep it in the right lane. Needless to say, the driving controls could have been drastically improved to give the vehicles a bit better handling. That being said I do recognize that I have been spoiled with some great next-generation driving games already on the market.
In terms of the fun and action factor much of the battles and overall missions are an all-you-eat buffet filled with non-stop chaotic action. On the downside, it can be very repetitive at times. For instance, the boss fights all generally have the same pattern as you either strike the boss with melee attacks until he flees, kill some drones, chase him down, and repeat or you throw an object, move in, melee attack and repeat. I had hoped for a little more in this department but the repetitiveness did manage to bring down my overall score in this department.
Finally, I also have concerns with how the game saves your progress. Unfortunately, if you die towards the end of the mission you have to restart it from the beginning. This was very frustrating. Why the developer of this game could not introduce checkpoints is beyond me. Often I would get to near the end of a mission and I would die as a result of something stupid I did and it was very frustrating to have to restart from the beginning. It is stuff like this that almost makes me want to turn off the game especially when I have to repeatedly replay entire missions over and over.
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