Review: Transformers: The Game

Transformers: The GamePlatform: Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Release Date: 6/26/07
Genre: Action
Players: 1

What a let down. Activision’s new Transformers: The Game tie-in release to Michael Bay’s summer blockbuster movie showed such promise and potential over the course of its development, and even following a stunning opening CG cutscene the stage appeared to be set for an amazing experience. After the intro, though, the game immediately reveals its true colors as yet another mediocre movie cash-in with a bunch of great ideas but a complete lack of execution.

Transformers: The Game is a single-player only affair, featuring two short campaigns – protecting Earth as the Autobots or destroying it as the Decepticons — that loosely follow the plot of the film. Given the need to refrain from spoiling the movie, there’s very little story to dig into, and thusly very little narrative to keep you engaged beyond the occasional pre-rendered video to gawk at. Stars from the movie, such as Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, along with the original voice actors behind Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and Megatron (Frank Welker) from the classic animated series make for an impressive voice-over cast, but due to the thin story the acting talent goes somewhat wasted.

Throughout both campaigns, you get to play as a wide array of favorite Transformers characters, including Bumblebee, Barricade, Jazz, Ironhide, Blackout, Megatron, Starscream and Optimus Prime, in what is billed as a free-roaming sandbox type of game but in reality is a linear series of repetitive missions that have you destroying waves of enemies, crushing buildings, chasing after rival Transformers against the clock, and well… that’s about it (there are side missions and activities, but they just aren’t worth the effort). Each Transformer has its own attacks and transformation abilities, but no matter which you’re in control of the gameplay boils down to shallow button-mashing and simple point-to-point driving (and a few aerial missions too).

The Transformer-on-Transformer combat and sheer amount of environmental destruction are both entertaining in a mindlessly fun sort of way, but unfortunately there are just too many design flaws that ultimately drag the gameplay down. For starters, the camera view placement is so close up on your Transformer that, in combination with a disorienting “shaky-cam” effect, makes it hard to see what is going on amidst all the surrounding mayhem.

Due to a ridiculously poor physics engine, the high level of said mayhem actually tends to just get in your way more than anything else, too. In an apparent effort to capture the Transformers’ immense scale and girth, everything in the environment crumbles and floats away as you walk by. Because of this, light posts, signs, trees, cars and chunks of buildings scatter around in your path and make it difficult to move around at times (especially frustrating during missions where you have to destroy stuff then switch into vehicle mode and drive to the next target within a time limit). What’s worse is the inconsistency in the physics. Heavy objects like cars and tanks bounce off of you as if they have no weight at all, yet minor debris and small barriers somehow manage to impede your movement.

Other annoying quirks exist too. The controls in vehicle form are overly sensitive and tough to get a handle on when speed and timing are of the essence, for one, and far too many missions restrict the action to small battle zones that you must stay within or fail the mission should you stray from the area for too long. These and the other flaws I’ve mentioned are more frustrating inconveniences than completely broken and unmanageable game mechanics, but they limit the ambitious scope of the game so much that they’re impossible to forgive.

Transformers: The Game isn’t without a few bright spots, though: the Transformer models and transformation animations are visually impressive (more so on the PS3 and 360 obviously, but the Wii and PS2 versions look surprisingly great as well), the CG and voice acting are top of the line, unlockable bonus materials are in abundance, and missions in which you’re just tasked with blowing stuff up are reasonably enjoyable. But in the end, these pros can’t pull the game out of complete and utter mediocrity, so unless you are the most diehard of Transformers fans your best bet is to skip this one and go back and play Atari’s awesome PS2 Transformers game from a few years back.

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!