Transformers: The Game Review
Movie-licensed videogames have been pretty dreadful so far this Summer, and I've had the pleasure and privilege of reviewing every single abysmally mediocre product. But hey, it's my job, and I must continue onward in hopes of maybe coming across that one solid movie-licensed game. Between Spider-Man 3, Shrek 3, and now Transformers, Activision is responsible for most of this Summer's movie-games. Disney released the boring Pirates of the Carribean game, meanwhile Electronic Arts published the surprisingly good Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the PS3. Unfortunately, I've yet to play the newest Harry Potter game, so I'm still foreign to the thought of a good movie-game.
Transformers makes a poor first impression on you as soon as you start playing it. Visually, it features the status quo sandbox/open-world environment where you are free to explore (unless you're confined to a mission). It's nothing special and the engine isn't doing anything remotely tasking. I was just thankful to see that pop-up was minimal, and the city wasn't just one giant cloud of fog. Unlike the PlayStation 3 version, which featured unusually grainy picture clarity no matter what resolution you're in, the PS2 version of Transformers is much easier on the eyes. But, a sure sign of laziness suddenly becomes apparent when you notice that the cut-scenes and CGs are horrifically compressed, featuring artifacting all over the screen. Poor compression quality like this was typically found in PlayStation games, largely because of storage-constraints of CDs. But we're dealing with an 8GB medium here, so this caliber of video is absolutely unacceptable.
Also, in the PlayStation 3 version the image was either too dark or too bright, and I found myself frequently losing an enemy. The PlayStation 2 version doesn't suffer from that problem, either, as the environment is always properly illuminated. Once you're past those issues, then you'll begin to evaluate the mediocre visuals on a technical scale. Nothing about the bots makes them pop or stand out, so the entire game just looks boring. Texture detail is redundant and nothing short of bland. The only decent visual aspect is that the framerate is surprisingly stable (at least compared to the other move-games), and that's an unusual feat. But that doesn't change anything, because once you realize how generic Transformers looks, you'll likely want to look at and play something much prettier.
Moving on...you know, usually multiplatform games that appear on two different generations of consoles tend to have little gameplay differences between them aside from graphics. Pirates 3 and Spider-Man 3, for instance, were a bit different between the PS2 and PS3 versions, so I had expected something similar here. But such isn't the case for Transformers. You see, for as long as I played the PlayStation 2 version, I couldn't find anything that was different about it over the PS3 version, aside from the graphics.
For your campaign, you get to choose between playing as the Autobots or Decepticons, and at any point you can switch story paths. Clearly, when you're playing as the Autobots your goal will be to protect and minimize the threat of the Decepticons, as well as protecting Sam. And when you're playing as the Decepticons, destruction and finding Sam will be your prerogative. It sounds cool in concept and all, but execution is poor. Gameplay features nothing that you haven't experienced before. Your bots can punch, jump, shoot two kinds of attacks, block, struggle to pickup nearby objects and hurl them. Oh, and of course, then you get to transform into a car or aircraft and drive around your open-ended world, going from mission-to-mission. Boring. There's absolutely no sense of scope, nothing grand about the game. The adventure is linear, and the fights are beyond tedious and unimaginative. And as far as the missions go, they tend to last no more than five minutes each. Oh, and those are boring too.
Then there are the driving controls, which are nothing short of broken and clumsy. Maneuvering the car around is like taking control over soap. The car just slips and slides every time you try to point it somewhere, which also makes some of the chase-missions an utter pain in the ass. And then comes more frustration when your car (which in reality, let's keep in mind, is actually a monstrous alien-robot) gets stuck in front of some minuscule object. So, you'll freeze upon impact of a tiny object, meanwhile crashing into another vehicle will send it flying 50 feet backwards. Brilliant.
Sure you get to play as a number of different Transformers, but replay value is seriously lacking here, folks. The game will take about 7-10 hours to complete, at most. But worst of all, there isn't a multiplayer mode in sight here. In a day and age where even the most basic action games have some sort of multiplayer facet, Transformers offers none.
Being a movie-game and all, that means the thing to look out for is voice acting. Before I get to that, I should mention that in terms of sound effects, Transformers is basically deaf. Despite the chaos you cause, the explosions are barely audible, which diminishes the scale of the game greatly. Everything beyond the explosions is totally generic, and the voice acting doesn't do much to make up for any of it. Yes, Megan Fox, Shia LaBeouf and Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) voice their respective characters, but that doesn't really lend much in terms of quality. Voice acting is decent, but nothing spectacular.
If you're the informed gamer, then you expected nothing less out of Transformers. This is the epitome a game that was quickly thrown together with the most basic and juvenile concepts videogaming has. There is nothing worth your time here, as everything about Transformers The Game reeks of mediocrity. As soon as you boot the game up and notice those grainy visuals, coupled with the poorly compressed cut-scenes, you know what you're in for. From there on, nothing gets better, as the gameplay is as generic as you can imagine. Avoid Transformers, you're $40 are better spent elsewhere.
7/29/2007 Arnold Katayev