I’ll start off with the eternal question – When will movie producers ever learn to stop making video games after their movie releases if they’re not interested in their quality? Probably never, considering that they’re in it for the money (after all, who isn’t?). So now we have a new adaptation of a summer blockbuster – Transformers – which was directed by Michael Bay, with none other than Steven Spielberg as executive producer.
I also wonder how many people even remember the G1 Transformers cartoons, in which benevolent giant robots were fighting against evil and equally giant robots, with all of them being able to transform into vehicles, weapons and such. I for one, can safely say that I had a lot of fights with kids of my age when I was young about who wass the best robot in the Transformers universe. A universe which now makes a comeback on the PC, but suffers from its multiplatform development.
Those who have already seen the movie will already be familiar with the story: two alien factions, the Autobots (the good guys) and Decepticons (the bad guys), had a huge war on their home planet of Cybertron for control over a powerful artifact called the All Spark. In a last-ditch attempt to prevent total defeat, the Autobots jettisoned the artifact into space, where it traveled for thousands of years until it crash-landed on our fair blue planet. So now the battle for the All Spark has come to Earth, and the Autobots are here to help us against the Decepticons. As you can see, the story isn’t something to write home about, so there’s no point in detailing it any further. Suffice it to say that the story is advanced through a series of pre-rendered cinematics, while the intro movie for the game was produced by Blur studios, famous for their work on the pre-rendered cut-scenes from Warhammer 40.000: Dawn of War or Marvel: The Ultimate Alliance.
The first mission from the Autobot campaign will remind you of the good old Grand Theft Auto 3. You’re in a city, full of cars and people, people who by the way cannot be hurt or killed (seems they have god-mode enabled). You’ll also get the strong vibe that you’re playing an arcade game. Again, I’m under the impression that the producers only wanted to get as much cash as they could from the franchise, period. That’s because the control scheme is horrendous, especially for the vehicles. You simply can’t drive around without hitting a car, tree or building. As a result, you’ll go crazy trying to finish a chapter. Did I mention that there’s no save-game system, only an autosave between chapters and levels? Moreover, the camera doesn’t help either, because on certain occasions it will leave you with zero visibility. The result? You’ll end up dead, either because you’re facing a stronger opponent that won’t cut you any slack or because you have to complete your objective in a very short period of time.
Getting back to the first Autobot mission, you’ll take control of Bumblebee and attack some Decepticon drones after which you’ll transform into a gorgeous Chevrolet Camaro from ‘80s… with NOS!!! And even though the controls are awful, the producers introduced a “Drift” system which you can use to unlock various bonuses. A good idea, in theory, but due to the horrendous control system you’ll end up in the first tree or building once you start going faster. Later on you’ll meet other Transformers (Ironhide, Jazz, Blackout, Barricade, Starscream and so on), some of them being exclusive to the game – like the Decepticon Shockwave.
And even though the environment is almost completely destructible, the physics system leaves something to be desired, because some objects behave like they’re made out of cardboard. Nevertheless, considering that you’re controlling a giant alien robot, you’ll have an incredible power at your disposal, with which you can destroy cars, buildings, trees and so on. These can also be used as weapons against your opponents. Need a weapon? Grab a pole or car and smash the Decepticon scum with it. Or, when they’re down, pick them up and throw them to Kingdom Come to conclude business.