Videogame Review: Transformers (2004)

Time to Roll Out that PS2 and play us some Transformers. WARNING SPOILERS!!! Yes I will speak of things that if you have not played the game or watched the TV shows or also the movies.

You start out with a beautiful cutscene on Cybertron showing the epic battle between Autobots and Decepticon, Megatron vs. Prime. Then a beam lands between them with the location of the Mini-Cons on earth. And our story begins with these two factions racing to see who can reclaim the Mini-Cons first.

Mini-Cons are smaller transformers that can meld with larger ones to increase their power. They are used more as upgrades than relatable characters though. You get to choose your Load Out of four Mini-Cons before you warp out to a new location. You can also use Mini-Cons that you find later in the game to further explore the earlier stages. They upgrade everything from your speed, blaster strength, even your ability to glide / fly. Very early in the game you are teamed up with a Mini-Con buddy that tags along with you throughout the game. He can also join up with you to increase the damage you can inflict at the cost of your Energon Health Bar. He is not part of the four smaller Mini-Cons in your Load Out.

The game has you choose between three main Autobots; Optimus Prime, Hot Shot and Red Alert each with their own distinctive feel in robot and vehicle modes. Honestly though, you’ll find yourself leaning towards playing as Prime because, well, he is bloody Optimus Prime. He is like the robot Jesus after all.

You’ll start to ask yourself “what the hell” after a while, a giant robot in a jungle, really? Then a frozen wasteland that is a bit much but redeemed after a boss fight with Starscream. Speaking of Starscream he is your first real boss battle and they don’t pull any punches. You’ll learn fast in this fight that your Mini-Con Load Out means everything in this game if you wish to survive.

The boss fights are very different in this game making you change how it is you fight each Decepticon. They give you fairly entertaining battles feeling organic in the areas that you battle in. One of the fights has Cyclonus grabbing Optimus Prime by one arm and spinning him around in circles while battling on the top of a temple. He’ll be hitting you against nearby objects or walls in the rotation before throwing you off the Mayan Temple. You’ll watch Optimus rag doll (Rag Robot Maybe) down to the jungle bottom as Cyclonus jumps up transforms in the air and following you down in a cut scene like camera angle. Starscream’s has you avoiding an aerial assault until you cause enough damage for him to come down an transform in to robot mode. Then rinse and repeat till he dies, or does he? The fight with Megatron is alright as long as you get your Load Out set up right to avoid the massive amount of damage he can inflict on you.

One of the notable fights is against the massive Decepticon Tidal Wave. This is a fun level as you gain the Mini-Con ability to glide around the level. You’re in the middle of the ocean and are trying to destroy a Decepticon aircraft carrier. The fun part is that you actually get to run around inside of the aircraft carrier before you exit and watch it transform in to a huge robot. Oh yes, its only weak point is its head by the way.

The first two levels will drive you mad. Falling down a chasm that is just high enough to not be able to jump out of or so deep you have no idea where you are. The platforming takes a little to get used to. You are a few tons of metal after all. The overall feel of your weight is evident right off the bat with slow lumbering movements. Walking is not your only mode of transportation as you are given the option to transform at anytime. Your vehicle mode is cool but is clunky. The game forces you into tight wooded roads where you’ll fall off edges or down chasms. The driving never really feels good. The turning is almost unresponsive and you’ll be crashing into things constantly. This does bring out the fact that you’re a car in the jungle. Why not a city or an urban environment?

The enemies are very few throughout the game. A lot of the heavy hitters are notable but the majority of what you fight will be a clone army mad by Megatron. Yes clones, and they call them “Decepticlones.” They should have called the game Transformers: Attack of the Clones. This isn’t a new idea in the universe but it is an old one that has been used in the T.V. shows prior. There are different types of enemies but they lack any notoriety save for two. One is a leader class that has a striking resemblance to the one G1 design of Megatron with changes here and there. The other is one that looks like a ball. Yes, a transformer that changes in to a rolling ball. Are they out of ideas already? I get that enemies have to be repetitive in video games but there is a huge list of Decepticons and Autobots to choose from. They killed pretty much the whole main T.V. cast of the G1 Autobots in the 1986 movie including Prime.

You’re given warp gates strategically placed around the world allowing you not only a checkpoint but a warp in later on when you come back to hunt down Mini-Cons as well as Data-Cons. This is a strange type of check pointing and works well until you get to the later levels where the check points aren’t so nicely placed throughout the levels. Another problem is the load time to get to a check point. There is one level in particular where if you don’t take out the Decepticlones they shoot you off a very thin ledge that you are on. You end up falling to the bottom of the mountain. Then the painful wait comes as you run to the nearest warp out, to warp in, to the top of the mountain. That is fine once but a few more blind hits from Decepticlones will have you pulling out your hair.

One of the things I looked forward to was the last level/boss fight at the end of the game. You get to use a super combo of all of your Mini-Cons to fight Unicron as he tries to destroy and basically eat your home planet of Cybertron. Anyone who has seen Transformers: The Movie knows the epic scale that this fight will have. It doesn’t live up to the movie epic final battle though. You spend your time chasing down Unicron as he chooses different locations to destroy around the planet which seems very small as you fly around it. Attacking him is ok but it just seems like the same thing over and over again till he blows up. The disappointment comes from that fact that he doesn’t transform. You would think that a game that has you fighting everyone from Megatron to Tidal Wave would let you save Cybertron from the planet sized robot form of Unicron but he just stays in planet form. His planet form is nicely detailed with nods to the movie here and there.

This game has nostalgia extras all over it. You find Data-Cons scattered throughout all of the levels. They have pictures and old T.V. spots that will have you humming the old T.V. theme song. The robot designs are nice, keeping with a much more detailed version of what they did back in the G1 cartoon but not the cell shaded cartoon that came out after Armada. Of all the nostalgia in this game, the voice actors will do it for anyone who grew up on the CGI Beasties (Beast Wars) and Beast Machines cartoons as well as Armada, Energon and Cybertron series. Gary Chalk plays yet again another Prime and David Kaye reprises the roll of everyone’s favourite bad guy Megatron.

It has to be said again that this game is fun but unfairly difficult. If it isn’t the unfair boss fights, it is the poor level designs. The game becomes so hard by the end that you don’t want to go back to the previous levels to hunt down Mini-Cons. They are worth it in the end though. Making everything about the game easier but you still find yourself hating the repetitive enemies and boring landscapes. Not all of the levels are boring but a quarter of them are. About half are fun and the other quarter are hard as hell if not downright unfair, even with cheat codes on. The game looks good but in the end is only fun for a Transformers fanboy as anyone else will feel cheated. As much as I love Transformers I couldn’t help but want to be playing Transformers; War for Cybertron as I went on this nostalgic undertaking.

You Can Read More Of My Reviews At www.tiltcast.com In WineMakerJoe’s Game Cellar.

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