Wednesday, 09 February 2005
Come on, how many of us children of the 80ís didnít have wild fantasies about being Optimus Prime? Surely most of you dreamed of leading the Autobotís against those despicable Decepticons? It does make you wonder about the video game publishers when something with such a huge fan base as the Transformers finally finds itself only now having its first console title make an appearance. But is Transformers the game worthy of the name?
Obviously storyline wise, were not looking at a game oozing with depth and complicated plot lines. It basically boils down to (like every Transformers TV show) Autobots (the goodies) stopping the Decepticons (boo hiss) from taking over. In order to prevent this happening, you have the opportunity to control Optimus Prime, Red Alert or Hot Shot, all three of which have slightly different characteristics, and points of extreme strength and weakness. Helping you out however are the ďMini-consĒ, a type of tiny little Transformer who follow you along giving you certain abilities that can be triggered by a tap of the L1 button (or whichever button you specify for that particular mini-con. One of the earliest available of these gives you a sort of mild variation of the bullet time brought to our attention by the Max Payne series. Trigger this and time slows to a crawl, with the exception of your controlled mechanical behemoth, giving you a tactical advantage in a fire fight, especially when your under attack by a large number of decepticons. The only problem with this particular Mini-con ability is the more you use it, the more energy it drains from your health bar, meaning the youíll need some real tactical nause to get the most out of each ability, trying to keep yourself alive while giving opportunity to progress.
You can have with you up to four mini-cons, each put into slots triggered by the four shoulder buttons. These arenít just your usual offensive power boost, or your defensive shield that youíd expect however. Thereís also a hang glider mode mini-con that gives you the ability to swoop around high above the huge expansive levels that Transformers has to offer. Of these four mini-cons your able to use, the ones you choose from the 40 you have on offer (you find more and more mini-cons as you traverse the various levels, so be sure to check every little corner to collect each and every one) each take up a certain amount of your power limit. For example, take 2 of the huge powerful weapon modifications, and your left with little power left for anything else. Itís yet another cunning, if simple, piece of strategy shoe-horned into the game.
Transformers being what they are, you can expect to get into huge fire fights at every possible opportunity. Itís an attractive sight to see a Decepticon blown into smithereens as your meticulously aimed rocket smacks into the side of his head. In fact, the graphics on a whole are quite attractive, especially for the PS2. The huge levels are packed with quite a bit of detail on certain levels, with only the second snow based level being something of a let down in the detail stakes. The cut-scenes too are obscenely attractive, even managing to approach somewhere close to the graphical stunning qualities of the Final Fantasy series cut scenes.
The ability to ďtransformĒ your Transformer into their alternative mode is something that serves quite a shallow purpose. Each of your three playable characters can at any point switch into the a vehicle based mode, for not quite as numerous reasons as many of us had hoped. At times youíll be forced to transform, purely to get over a jump thatís impossible to traverse while your meandering along. At other times its simply a case of transforming so it takes less time to reach your next port of call. And then thereís times you can make the change purely to run down a couple of Decepticons when your running low on health. Now considering this transforming ability is what the whole Transformers thing is based upon, its something of a disappointment to see so little actually made of it.
There are quite a few other minor niggles with Transformers, many of which become more and more irritating as you progress. To actually control your Transformer, youíll be feeling a very sluggish and irritating way of moving your character around. Some seem to think this is intentional in order to portray the image that your in control of a huge machine. I on the other hand see it more as a purely poorly implemented part of the game. Jumping up sections of a cliff can be incredibly frustrating as your Transformer refuses to point in the correct direction, or refuses to move forward while you jump. The fact that the vast majority of the game is a pure blast through wave upon wave of Decepticons doesnít exactly portray a game brimming with depth, which is certainly something that Transformers lacks.
The only real problem with Transformers is that it leans on itís license just a little too much at certain times. Would Transformers receive as high a mark if it starred some generic 3rd person action character in a contrived plot? Not a chance no. Obviously if youíre a fan of the genre, as well as a fan of Transformers craving the chance to live out your childhood fantasies, then this game is one youíll absolutely adore. Itís just a shame that taken on its pure gameplay merits then you cant help but feel slightly let down. Transformers is a perfect example of a game just missing greatness because of a small collection of minor flaws. Perhaps a sequel will reach the potential this first game promised?