IGN Review of Transformers: The Game
There I was -- a Transformer stuck in a demolition derby in some big empty arena with retractable spikes -- and I had no idea what was going on. I had been beating on Decepticons a second ago as my clan -- the Autobots -- tried to find this doodad called the AllSpark and save earth, but now, I was in a derby. I began destroying cars, succeeded and was greeted by another wave of generic vehicles. I beat them, and some transformers came out. I beat a few of them and some laser cannons came out. I beat them, finished the level and began kicking crappy cars outside of some facility.
You don't know how much I hope Transformers: The Movie will be like this.
As if Shia LaBeouf's one-man attack on the TV commercial landscape wasn't enough to let you know, robots in disguise will attack movie theaters everywhere this Fourth of July. Basically the war between the Autobots (good guys such as Optimus Prime and Bumblebee) and the Decepticons (bad bots such as Megatron and Barricade) has spilled onto our turf.
Transformers: The Game attempts to bring this experience to the PSP by letting players run through a story mode that switches between both mechanical perspectives and uses some nifty, original cutscenes featuring the familiar Transformer voices. At the onset of a mission, the player chooses which four weapons his or her bot will carry into battle along with each device's pros and cons -- a machine gun can fire quickly but won't pack much of a punch, while a shotgun will knock opponents on their buns of steel but need time in between shots.
Crosshairs will always be at the center of your screen -- the triangle and X buttons will control the pitch of the 'hairs while square serves as your attack. You can lock onto the bad guys by tapping left on the D-Pad, and you can transform at will by pressing the shoulder buttons together.
I think that the five paragraphs above sum up everything remotely interesting about Transformers: The Game. By no means is it broken or frustrating, but the game is boring. The missions are varied -- clear all the enemies on a map, sneak into a space shuttle launch, protect a fellow robot, etc. -- but they feel mundane.
In a Decepticon mission, I was transforming between Barricade's smash'em robot form and pimped-out police car, when I noticed that I wasn't having a good time destroying turrets and smashing defenseless enemies. Maybe the lack of fun was due to the game's reliance on gray, drab environments -- seemingly every level is build on washed-out, jagged rocks; maybe it was the cumbersome robot control scheme -- every time I moved my Autobot, I watched him labor to his goal; or maybe it was the extremely loose steering controls as a vehicle -- every turn I took ended with Barricade fishtailing and his wheels screaming.
Whatever the cause of this war against enjoyment, it isn't cool. Robot-on-robot action is supposed to be the pinnacle of machine-based combat, and the fights in this title can't compare to what the upcoming movie is supposedly packing. You'll spot an enemy, lock-on and fire some weapons, but the attacks will do little damage. To counter, you'll run up to the bot and begin smashing it to death. Your opponent won't stumble backward, it won't crumple to the floor when beaten, and you don't get any animation on your side letting you know you're hitting something. You bash the bad guy until its health bar runs out, and you get a health boost as a reward.
There aren't any fun mismatches with smaller enemies either. You'll come upon a tank or military jeep and simply kick the crap out of it. Imagine what it looks like when you repeatedly kick a wall; that's what this looks like. When the unit's health is exhausted, it explodes. It doesn't flip end over end into the sunset or get crushed beneath your gigantic foot; it just explodes. This is one of the examples that lead to you never getting that sense of being a huge monster in a world you can dominate. Transformers should be juggling cars and throwing trees into the sky, but everything seems anchored the ground in this game -- even when you get an airborne Transformer such as Blackout the helicopter, it's a struggle to get up into the air and maneuver efficiently.
When the missions end, you'll get a set of stats -- objectives completed, enemies destroyed, melee kills and deaths -- as well as what you've unlocked. Performing well in the single-player campaign will bring about new weapons, new missions, multiplayer options and points to spend on the close to 50 pieces of game art and music.
There are four multiplayer options for you and three of your ad-hoc friends to try out -- deathmatch, team deathmatch, Secure the AllSpark (capture the flag) and Ascension Rites (king of the hill). At the onset of each brawl you'll get to choose your weapons -- just like in the single-player campaign -- and then select one of ten maps to do battle in. Because the arenas are all pulled from the main story mode, they suffer from the same bland visual drawbacks, except this time the levels feel even emptier. Although fighting a military convoy in a washed-out canyon by myself was never thrilling, at least there was stuff to do. When you return to the level in multiplayer, the convoy is gone and you're left to chase opponents across desolate terrain. When you catch them, it's the same kicking-a-wall battle from single-player.
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