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Launching alongside the movie release of Transformers is the game of the same name. We look at whether it lives up to the expectations of fans.

The second-biggest sucker in the universe is a character in the shabby, movie-based action smasher, Transformers: The Game – it’s the main character’s dad. The transformer Bumblebee has been ordered to protect an Earth boy named Sam – because they want his grandfather’s eyeglasses (honest, we’re not making this up) – on the very day that Sam’s dad has promised to buy him a car. So, Bumblebee sneaks into the used car lot and somehow brainwashes the kid and dad into deciding he’s the best car there, so the dad buys him.

Let’s consider that for a moment: he bought a “car” that would have had no title, no registration, no plates, no keys, and that the dealer was probably totally shocked to see parked in his fenced-in car lot. Only Hollywood could create such a chump.

Yet, the bigger sucker still turns out to be you, the player, because Transformers: The Game is a frustrating mess. It seems like a no-lose proposition: we have two entire storylines (one for the noble Autobots, a second (and better) one for the evil Decepticons). We have several gorgeously modeled space robots, and we have serious firepower to blow holes in mostly smashable environments and turn other robots into scrap.  

But it all goes wrong. It’s arguably forgivable that every mission is some variation on the formula, “get from point A to point B and blow up X in Y number of seconds” – but when both driving and combat are broken, it’s time to transform this into some other game. 

 

We’ll start with the driving. The vehicles often have squirrely handling, you can’t switch from a robot to a car while in midair, and a tree sloth could climb buildings faster than you – handicaps that add up to tranquilize what could have been amazingly fluid and absolutely genre-destroying one-of-a-kind chase sequences.

Luckily, the Decepticon campaign has much less of a problem in this area. It’s focus on mostly flying and even burrowing transformers – and the less claustrophobic environs they travel – makes navigation a much simpler affair. Also, for one reason or another, the vehicles seem less swoopy in this version, and when you’re hot-rodding after an opponent with guns blazing, targeting them is simpler than in other console versions. It helps a lot.

But it still has other problems, which leads us to the blowing stuff up bit. Your target lock can’t remember what “lock” means, but it almost doesn’t matter. Why? Because, even though every single transformer has bullet-spraying space-artillery, every non-grunt enemy has a force field that renders him immune to gunfire, even in vehicle mode. You do have a basic, three or four-punch combo that you’ll find yourself tediously hammering out ad nauseum, but it too will be ineffective 90% of the time because these bums block so constantly, they should transform into turtles instead of vehicles.

Luckily, thrown objects like cars, trees, and chain link fences can inexplicably tear right through an opponent’s guard. So your skyscraper-perforating guns and metal-shearing punches may prove useless, but your enemy has no defense against the unstoppable power of an elm sapling you’ve pulled up and flicked in his direction. True, even heavy projectiles like cars rarely do more than nick your foe’s health bar, but they can stun him and give you a chance to squeeze in a punch or two before he resumes his invulnerable cower behind crossed forearms again.

And again, the Wii version’s controls win out here, being the only one that makes it easy to strafe, aim exactly where you want to, and heave whatever you’re holding at the other guy’s head. It’s a critical improvement, given what an unexplainably critical tactic throwing stuff turns out to be. But overall, this is still far from the bombastic giant robot battles we were eagerly anticipating.

We could go on and on about the stupidity of your enemies, the unimpressive look of basically everything that isn’t a robot (especially when compared to the 360 or PS3 versions, which aren’t even that hot themselves), the HUD that keeps getting in the way, the hell that is the Hoover Dam mission thread, and a dozen other things, but our point is made. The way better controls make this our favorite console version, but it’s still not great. Transformers: The Game should be a sleek, cutting-edge sports car; instead, it’s an old beater whose driver’s seat has a spring sticking out in exactly the wrong place. 

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