Content Test 3

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Graphics: 5
Gameplay: 5.5
Sound: 6
Control: 4.5
Replay Value: 4.3
Rating: 5
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Traveler's Tales
Number Of Players: 1
Similar to the wait that DragonBall Z fans have had to go through waiting for a decent console version of the cartoon, fans of the Transformers series have had to wait a very long time to play a game worthy of the license. The latest Transformers game to give it a go is simply titled ďTransformersĒ and while it does feature the newer ďArmadaĒ series, there are enough old-school characters in the game that people that grew up with Optimus Prime will be happy. Developer Melbourne House has created the best Transformers game to date, but in the end, thatís not really saying much. A laughable story, poor controls, bland graphics and generally frustrating gameplay will have you transforming this disc into a drink coaster in no time.

Not only is the gameís premise lousy, itís incomplete. ďOne million years ago the Mini-Cons, a lost race of TransformersĒ thatís it, thereís nothing else. I had to reboot the game to make sure I didnít miss a sentence. Pressing on after the omission of the story, you see a cut-scene that shows the Autobots getting whipped all up and down the planet of Cybertron by the Decepticons. Suddenly an image of the Mini-Cons crashing to Earth appears and everyone gives up and goes to get them. For some reason not explained to us the Decepticons, who are getting ready to win the war, give up to go get something that will allow them to win the war.

From here on out, you control one of three Autobots: Optimus Prime, Red Alert and Hot Shot, each with their own strengths and weakness. Itís the usual fare, one is fast but weak and one is well-rounded, and one is slow but strong. After leaving Cybertron, and navigating the gameís terribly clunky menus, you find yourself in the Amazon, where you must find your first Mini-Cons. It turns out that Mini-Cons can be used to upgrade your abilities, and when you have more than one, they can be mixed and matched to get even more out of your Autobot. It doesnít make a whole lot of sense, but it is the coolest part of the game.

Since this is a mediocre third-person shooter, the assumption that itís going to have lousy controls, endless waves of enemies, too many frustrating jumps, and that itís going to be tough to aim, all fit in perfectly here. The controls are particularly poor because they donít work when youíre walking around and they are equally broken when you are driving. Making matters worse is that for some reason, after a jump, your inertia carries you another few feet Ė itís like sliding on ice. This makes precision movements very difficult, which isnít a good thing since youíll face a lot of jumps and spend a lot of time walking on narrow ledges.

Combat consists of endless waves of Decepticlones who are weak versions of Decepticons, with the only really interesting fights coming against the gameís bosses. The levels, while large are difficult to navigate despite the voice that keeps interrupting the flow of the game to tell you where to go. Perhaps instead of stopping progress every three minutes, a simple radar with the next goal highlighted on it would suffice. Also killing the flow of the game are the save points where you must go all the way back to your ship to get your life back. Why canít you just get your health refilled just by running through it? As it stands now, you have to run through it to activate it, run through it again, wait through a load screen, select your character again, select your level again, and then wait through a load screen again just to get back to where you were. Itís particularly baffling because just touching the save point activates the auto save feature. When was the last time it was easier to save a game that it was to refill your health? If you can make it past the gameís first few levels, it does get better, but the first level is so lousy, that many will give up.

Visually, Transformers has nothing going for it outside of some cool explosions and effects every now and then. The levels are large and the framerate is solid, but the game simply features nothing interesting to look at. The Decepticlones all look the same, the trees all look alike, the water looks like itís from a PsOne game, and the textures look like they were borrowed from an old Nintendo 64 title. There are worse looking games out there, but this one is about as vanilla looking as they come.

With all the problems with the gameplay and the visuals, no amount of magic in the gameís audio could help things, which doesnít really matter because thereís no magic to be found. The ďtransforming soundĒ from the old series isnít there (there is a sound, but I guess itís from the newer series), and the endless blabber of robots yelling at each other gets old pretty much instantly. The music fits the game well from the standpoint that it sounds like it would be in the cartoon, but itís not great music by any stretch of the imagination.

If you can look past the gameís pitiful story and technical flaws, playing Optimus Prime and wasting lots of evil robots can be fun. Unfortunately, itís near impossible to look past getting stuck in canyons with seemingly no way out, missing a jump and having to backtrack for five minutes, and endless load times to simply refill your health. Unlockables that include old clips from the television series and the original music are nice, but arenít enough to make up for rushing the product out the door. Itís a step in the right direction, but as it stands now itís just an attempt to cash in on the Transformers license.

6/29/2004   Aaron Thomas