Transformers Hands-On Impressions

We go toe-to-toe with the Decepticons in a more complete build of the new Transformers action game.


Transformers (2004)

At a recent Atari press event, we got to try our hand at a new and fairly complete build of Transformers. For fans of the original Transformers franchise, which began some 20 years ago, this game is based on the new generation of Transformers cartoons and toys that have been on the market for a little while now and have garnered an impressive level of success. From what we saw, Transformers looks to be a fitting video game incarnation of the new Transformers milieu, and it appears to be a solid action game to boot.

Transformers will let you play as three of the heroic Autobots in their continuing fight to win the war against the Decepticons. Everyone's old favorite, Optimus Prime, is on offer, and you may remember that he transforms into a tractor trailer. There are two newcomers to the game, including Hot Shot, a brash robot who transforms into a sports car (so he's fast but a little weak), and Red Alert, who is the most-balanced of the three in terms of strength and agility. He transforms into a rescue vehicle. You'll select your Autobot at the beginning of a mission, and then you'll choose his loadout, which is enabled by a miniature group of Transformers called the Minicons. There are a ton of Minicons on offer in the game, each of whom provides some sort of unique offensive or defensive power for your fighter. We saw basic Minicons that simply upgraded the strength of your weapon or your movement speed, but others enable much more obvious powers, like a dash maneuver, an energy shield, stealth camouflage, and a sniper weapon. You'll have to collect Minicons throughout the game to enable these new powers as you battle the Decepticons. Of course, in addition to your Minicon powers, you'll be able to transform quickly at the touch of a button, which can come in handy in tight situations when you need to get a move on. Purists will be happy to know that the classic "transforming sound" that many of us tried to emulate in our grade school days is in full effect.

The game is set up in a linear, mission-based format. You'll start off in the Amazon in pursuit of a signal the Autobots have received from earth, and the game will eventually take you to such diverse locations as Antarctica, the Mid-Atlantic, and even Cybertron. Even if you're unfamiliar with the new generation of Transformers, you'll encounter plenty of familiar names and faces in the game. Megatron is, of course, still the leader of the Decepticons, although now he transforms into a tank rather than a gun. Even the enormous, planet-eating Unicron makes a rather, shall we say, imposing appearance in the game (though we don't want to give away too much). Speaking of enormous characters, one boss fight really caught our eye. You'll go up against Tidalwave, the Decepticon who transforms into an aircraft carrier. You'll literally have to fight Tidalwave in his robot form from the ground, and we were advised that in real-world terms, he's something like 900 feet tall. When you see this boss fight for yourself, you'll know what we're talking about. It's truly an impressive sight. Could this be the single biggest boss ever?

At this stage of development, Transformers is looking quite good and is running smoothly. Developer Melbourne House has refined its PlayStation 2 engine over the course of several projects, and it shows. There weren't any graphical hitches to speak of, and the game has a cohesive look to it, complete with expansive environments that can be thoroughly explored and detailed Transformer models that exhibit pretty good rag-doll physics when they're terminated. Following our initial experience with the game, we certainly have no complaints about the graphics.

From the looks of things, Transformers is on track to meet its May release date and will make for an entertaining action experience. It seems as though Melbourne House has really taken the Transformers license to heart and has created a game that capitalizes on the unique features of the franchise rather than just having made a generic action game with some notable characters. There will even be a raft of fan-oriented bonus material included in the game that you can unlock, although the specifics regarding this material have so far eluded us. In any event, we'll bring you more coverage of this promising action game in the coming weeks.

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