Transformers: The Game Preview
As a proud child of the 1980s, one who probably still has an unhealthy appreciation (not obsession) with the decade, I love anything that's ‘80s retro. I love watching those "I Love the 80s" shows on VH1, I love listening to the "Awesome ‘80s Weekend" on 106.5 FM, and I love all those trends and toys from back in the day. Of course, that has to include the great Transformers, which were entertaining to watch and even more entertaining to play with. And now, we learn about a new non-animated movie heading to theatres this summer, and as everyone knows, action movie blockbusters simply must have their video game counterpart. The only problem that faces each of these is one commonly accepted fact- games based on movies are rarely any good.
Then there's the question of how the designers would be portraying the storyline in the game; will they simply attempt to recreate what we see on the big screen, or will they pull a Ghost Rider and write an entirely new story? Well, the upcoming Transformers: The Game embraces the former scenario, as those of you who enjoy the film will certainly recognize the characters, environments and even specific scenes in the game. As fans may have expected, the story revolves around the Autobots, but there's a wee bit of mystery surrounding the super-rad (brace for lame '80s lingo throughout this preview) Decepticons. Guess what, fans- you can choose your side! Isn't that, like, totally tubular? But we won't get too in-depth with the story, ‘cuz that would serve as massive spoiler for both the movie and game.
Next up, we're sure you're wondering what type of game this will be; are we looking at something like the previous Transformers PS2 title - which wasn't half-bad, by the way - or will it be a little more open-ended in the spirit of this new generation? Well, you already got a hint when we revealed you could choose to side with either the Autobots or Decepticons. Indeed, much like Grand Theft Auto or the recently released Crackdown, you'll be looking at a go-almost-anywhere, sandbox-style environment, complete with a handy-dandy map and helpful radar. Choice is a central theme of this game, it appears, as you can choose to execute "good" or "evil" acts, thereby increasing either meter...how this will directly impact the game and storyline, we're not sure. But we've seen this in Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire, and...well, we like it.
Unfortunately, we don't yet have one important bit of info this previewer had hoped to find: just how often will we be switching back and forth between the many forms of the Transformers? I mean, if it's even remotely close to how many times I switched from car to massive robot (which never got old), shouldn't we expect some very diverse missions and objectives? I want the "roll out" action of Optimus Prime on screen, damnit! We know we'll be able to switch forms with the simple press of a button, but will there be a point to the transformation, or will it be little more than fanservice? Look, the game is open-ended, right? So that should indicate a fully fleshed-out and in-depth gameplay format where each and every robot form should serve some purpose. Right? Yeah, we should just take a chill pill. It'll be cool, we're sure.
There is one other aspect of the game we're completely stoked for: environmental and background interaction. So many titles, especially certain action and beat ‘em ups, always get a ton of criticism for not having enough of this, but Transformers isn't going to skimp in this department. You'll be able to pick up or smash just about anything you come across, and best of all, a lot of what you nab can be used as a weapon. You'll even be able to use the enemies themselves as potential weapons; kick the crap out of a pesky Decepticon and fling him through the air like a slingshot! Remember, we'll be controlling gigantic and powerful metal heroes, so snagging trees, cars, and even helicopters makes perfect sense. And yes, it seems humans will make an inauspicious appearance in the game, although we're not sure how they're implemented into the storyline. We figure we'll find out when we see the movie.
Activision has this title scheduled for all platforms, but we'll be most interested in the next-gen versions, obviously. The biggest challenge, regardless of the platform, will be managing to depict such a huge environment without sacrificing too much in the way of clarity and detail (ala last-gen GTA). The thing is, the Transformers, be they in a 20-year-old cartoon or in a high-profile, big-budget film for 2007, rely on a lot of visual impressiveness to deliver the ultimate experience. Early reports on the game say the modeling and refinement of the environment isn't all that great right now, which concerns us, but at the same time, early builds of a game are often lacking. Oh, and as for the camera, if we get something like Lost Planet, we're good to go. If it's more like Gundam: Crossfire, we're screwed.
But all early indications, despite having what we'd like to call temporary drawbacks, point towards a very positive-looking title. There's going to be plenty of the action, plenty of stuff to do at every turn, we'll have full and complete control over our awesome transforming robots, and the open-ended format offers a veritable goldmine for options, choices, and decisions. It's always difficult to create a mech-based game that's both accessible and deep enough to grab our attention; sometimes, the control is just too far off base and the action can slow and grate. But if the developers can manage to design a game that's pleasantly well-paced, appropriately complex, yet still accessible to all gamers, they'll have pulled off a winner. So far, it seems Activision is heading in the right direction with Transformers: The Game.
And finally, for those of us, who enjoyed the Transformers so much back then, we hope the publisher will include some sweet retro extras for us in the final product. After all, even though it's a game based on a current feature film, the original cartoon and toys still holds a great deal of allure for us old-fashioned folks. The non-animated action film probably won't remind us of that cartoon, and neither will the game, and in some ways, that's a good thing. But on the other hand, let's not completely abandon our roots...all kinds of extras from a time boasting the likes of Thundercats, Smurfs, He-Man, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (not the odd futuristic version they have now) would be appreciated. The Transformers can only live forever if we remember the beginning!
We don't yet have a release date for the game, but the movie is due out July 4, so the game should arrive right around that time.
2/12/2007 Ben Dutka