Transformers: The Game Hands-On

Michael Bay's summer blockbuster is almost here. We got to play Activision's tie-in action game on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

The hype machine is running at full tilt for the upcoming July 4 release of the Transformers film, Michael Bay's big action-movie reimagining of the classic giant-robot cartoon and toy franchises that many adult gamers came to love in their halcyon youth. It's not surprising--given the affection many such fans hold for the property--that excitement for the movie is running high right now. (We personally witnessed applause for the latest Transformers trailer on a recent theatrical visit.) It's also no surprise that Activision, along with developers Traveller's Tales, Savage, and Vicarious Visions, are prepping licensed games that tie into the movie for every conceivable platform. We recently got to try out almost all of them, including versions on the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, the Wii, the PSP, and one of the two games coming out for the DS.

Getting to play as a giant robot--one that can stomp on everything in sight, climb up building faces, or pick up and hurl city buses--seems like a concept that sells itself. We have to admit, we giddily hammered on the "transform" button, changing from robot to car and back to robot for a good couple of minutes before we moved on to the rest of the game. In the console versions of Transformers, you'll actually get two single-player campaigns; one from the perspective of the heroic Autobots and the other casting you as the duplicitous Decepticons. The Autobot storyline will follow that of the film's, which (from what we know so far) focuses on the struggle of the good guys to keep the mythical AllSpark, the device which gives the Transformers life, out of the hands of the bad guys. However, when you choose to play as the Decepticons, you'll actually get an alternate version of the movie's plot, which envisions a scenario where the bad guys prevail over the forces of good.

Expect familiar Transformers to show up, albeit with some extensive makeovers.

No matter which side you're playing, Transformers proceeds in an open-world fashion, where you'll move around a hub area picking up story missions from hotspots on the map. Or you'll just wreak robot havoc on the poor populace, if you feel like it. You'll also pick up energon cubes hidden throughout the environment, and each time you collect 20 cubes, you'll unlock new optional side tasks. These include scavenger and survival missions that you can complete to then unlock some nifty bonus content (more on that later). If you want to take a break from all the story and side missions, the game will offer an achievement system of sorts, whereby you'll be ranked on performing flashy actions, such as power sliding in car form or hurling an object particularly far. Once you max out your performance in one of these categories, you'll see an award for it on your pause screen, and these awards will also contribute to unlocking bonus content. There will also be several unique hub areas in which you can get all destructive. We got to see one set in a medium-sized town that afforded lots of opportunities for breaking and exploding things.

The game will give you an assortment of four Autobots and five Decepticons to play as, though we only saw Bumblebee and Optimus Prime from among the former; Barricade (the police car) and Starscream from the latter. Each character also has a unique melee attack. For instance, Barricade uses a set of spiked nunchaku and light or heavy projectile attacks, including lasers and missiles. And then, of course, there's the transform ability, which lets each character assume a unique vehicle form, mostly of the four-wheeled variety. However, Starscream will become a high-speed jet, and Blackout will give you the chance to fly an attack chopper. Most of the missions in the game will require you to perform tasks in both robot and vehicle forms. For example, in one mission we played, Bumblebee had to do battle with Barricade in one urban location and then transform to chase his enemy to the next location.

Because Transformers is a franchise with a devoted following, Activision would have been remiss in not throwing in a few nostalgic nuggets to please the most diehard fans. Indeed, it looks like the console versions of the game will offer quite a bit of material those fans will want to unlock by completing side missions and pulling off the in-game performance achievements. Of course, you'll find plenty of archived image material, such as comic book covers from a number of different Transformers series and old toy boxes from the franchise's original run of action figures.

Each version of the game will offer a number of Autobots and Decepticons that you can control.

However, our favorite part of the bonus material is the inclusion of a number of playable "generation one" Transformer characters. You can expect to either terrorize or defend the populace with Optimus Prime, Megatron, or Jazz (among others) in all their old-school glory. The game will even feature some bonus missions featuring Transformers that weren't included in the film. We got to see a sequence with Prime fighting Shockwave, who looked very similar to his original incarnation from way back when. However, this version of Shockwave will be a triple-changer, which means he has robot, turret, and helicopter forms. At any rate, serious Transformers fans will no doubt be quite pleased to see the inclusion of series elements outside of the film's milieu.

Activision and its developers have collaborated heavily with the filmmakers in crafting all of the Transformers game. Industrial Light and Magic actually provided the game developers with the original model files for the Transformers used in the movie. The in-game characters we saw on the 360 and PS3 looked very similar to their film counterparts. Music will be provided by the movie's composer, Steve Jablonsky, who--on the game side--also provided the score for Command & Conquer 3. Likewise, the team had access to the actual samples that the film's sound designers created for the biggest action sequences. The developers even worked directly with toy company Hasbro to create the nine "fodder" enemies featured in the game, four of which are set to become Transformers action figures in their own right.

We also got a quick look at the Wii version of the game, which (along with the PlayStation 2 edition) will contain all of the same content as the 360 and PS3 games, but it will have expectedly lower-quality graphical assets. Still, we were fairly impressed with the relatively few compromises that were made on the Wii, and the game's controls seemed to map well to the Wii Remote's motion controls. On the PSP, developer Savage has created a third-person shooter, which--unlike the console versions--gives you a single linear storyline that will see you playing as both Autobots and Decepticons. The game will feature a ton of playable characters--purportedly about 25--many of whom you'll unlock during the campaign. You can then play as any of these characters in the four-player ad hoc mode, which features such game types as capture the flag, king of the hill, and good old deathmatch. The PSP game is said to feature more generation-one characters, such as Shockwave and Hound, as well.

Just being able to transform at the touch of a button is awfully satisfying (in a slightly nerdy way).

With two distinctive factions, the Transformers franchise is just screaming for the Pokémon treatment, right? OK, maybe not, but Activision will indeed provide two separate retail Transformers games on the Nintendo DS, each focusing on the Autobots or the Decepticons. Each game will naturally feature different characters for you to play as, in addition to distinctive single-player campaigns. You'll use touch-screen controls to access a lot of features, such as transforming. Your characters will also accrue experience and gain more strength as you play through the story mode. Vicarious Visions seems to have gone above and beyond with the multiplayer modes for the DS games as well. If two players have the same version of the game, they can play co-op; if their games are different, they can play deathmatch. However, the most impressive feature here is the "Battle for the AllSpark" online mode, which pits owners of each version in a persistent, ongoing online war. The winning side will be periodically tallied, and the game's Web site will then be themed after that side for a period of time as a way of publicly displaying the winners.

Transformers is due to hit theaters on July 4, and Activision's console games are currently slated to appear on shelves on June 26 (with the handheld games even coming a bit before that), so you Transformers fanatics can get your fix in just a matter of weeks. Look for reviews of all versions of the game to hit GameSpot as close to the retail ship date as possible.

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137 comments
GreenXMega
GreenXMega

I thought this was going to turn up a crappy movie game, but this one shows promise!

Yoshi-chan
Yoshi-chan

I am excited to see that this game is on the way, although i did has some worry with the movie, as the skins are completely different from what we would expect from our previous TRANSFORMERS; it goes without saying there will be no side story cartoon after this. Whats more important I noticed the lack of a 2 player mode....if developers haven't noticed....a huge majority of systems shave multiple player slots...and to this i say WTF for -.- there is never any impasses put in on multi player. Here is a hint....multi player can take a game from the status of worse to good....imagine what it could do to a game already announced as good

cyw1988
cyw1988

The robotic skins just look exceptionally good and it's probably what one would expects if transformers do exists in real life. But at the end of the day, we still got to look at gameplay and storyline.

lord-of-gamers
lord-of-gamers

i was nvr really a transformer fan but this looks really interesting and could, if done well, pull me back in :P

Testament
Testament

i agree with donmega1, movie based video games tend to get a low score due to the lack of time they have to put them out in the stores. from the previews i hope this turns out to have a higher rating, because it would be sad to see a good story like this get a 7.0 or lower due to rushing and not taking time needed to fix all the bugs. other bad movie video games: x-men, blade I and II, spiderman, superman, pirates of the caribean, ghost rider, flash, the list goes on...........

madmaxx101
madmaxx101

hopefully Sony will have the Rumble and Sixxais together...the Sixias is fun on Motor storm

Sanguis_Malus
Sanguis_Malus

I know what you mean, being both a 360 and a PS3 owner myself. I prefer Rumble to Six-Axis, but if games do actually start making good use of the Six-Axis it could be fun. Price is an issue as well, here in the UK the Darkness is being advertised at

kevy619
kevy619

now that i have a ps3 and xbox 360, these multiplatform games are going to be confusing...

masterchief375
masterchief375

Im gettin the PS3 version which is gonna be awesome!!!

donmega1
donmega1

add another movie based game to the junk list..............early prediction, 6.5 - 7.5 hope im wrong.............

JeffGenocideX
JeffGenocideX

Please goto my profile and Read the Transformers Movie Review you n00bs.

ciezar
ciezar

This game looks great , I grow up with transformers comics in my hands.

whitey3221
whitey3221

The fact that they got the models from the movie makers just makes me think about what work did they actually do besides programming?

retwakm
retwakm

I agree with nevershort

nevershort
nevershort

The actual movie trailer looks absolutely incredible (lets just hope they don't blow it by adding a cheesy love story or something else like that in it)!!! As far as the games go, we will all see at release time, just remember it is a movie game and most of those end up suckin'...

Phazevariance
Phazevariance

I wonder if the second movie will be Beast Wars... but it's pretty kewl that ILAM gave them the actual models from the movie to use in the game.

tomcat51
tomcat51

A Transformers Japanese style RPG based on the original cartoon series with ALL of the Transformers ever made would be cool, I'd buy it if they made it, which they wont, but they should. They Realy should.

goodspeed1989
goodspeed1989

the trailer looks wicked !!! i just hope the game play is as good.

ramanav
ramanav

Looks awesome and is awesome

lrsp
lrsp

Awesome. I can't wait.

raven98030
raven98030

I work at blockbuster so I can get 5 a week free

racerx737
racerx737

this game looks like it could be fun, I wont be buying it new for sure, I'll probably wait a while and pick it up used for less. I really like the sound of the DS version, it sounds like a lot of fun and I hope they do something like that with an online war for other versions too.

kira0x
kira0x

interesting... i'll be tracking it

Brokendemise
Brokendemise

Hey, EnderSR388, I liked Beasties...it didn't do anything to the plot but hey, it was cool. Anyways, looking forward to these games, as they have some good, smart producers behind them. I see this between the 7.6-8.4 range

greystone227
greystone227

If they can nail the balance between regular vehicle play and the "transformed" mode of play, I think this could be a good game. The transition animations look really sweet too.

cluelesspunk
cluelesspunk

I'm not really expecting the movie or the game to be any good, but because Transformers was such an integral part of my youth, I'm sure I'll invest in both. I just hope they still make the same transforming sound.

NikBZero
NikBZero

Game looks more interesting than the flm and unlockable gen 1 models ever better!

sens_rocks_40
sens_rocks_40

trigun123- you are the most negative person ever, anytime i see u post your always dissing everything. why even bother posting, your posts have no point.

rynmls
rynmls

i hope it will be a good game

EnderSR388
EnderSR388

trigun123 Transformers! whoo im looking forward to seeing the PG-13 version of a crappy show that went out of style years ago!! (Ill give you five dollars if you can guess if this game is going to suck or not) *************************************************** Transformers are still awesome, minus that Beast Wars garbage.

trigun123
trigun123

Transformers! whoo im looking forward to seeing the PG-13 version of a crappy show that went out of style years ago!! (Ill give you five dollars if you can guess if this game is going to suck or not)

Jaymer508
Jaymer508

The Transformers! More than meets the eye. Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the decepticons. The Transformers! Robots in disguise. The Transformers! More than meets the eye! The Transformers!

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

ds idea sounds good but it won't work for long

Myviewing
Myviewing

I sure hope this turns out to be as good as it looks. I'll be seeing the movie when it comes out, and I hope that both of these turn out to be something special. If not, then at least for one of either.

Tomdogg
Tomdogg

All of you, I have one piece of advice....STOP HATING!!!!!

JeffGenocideX
JeffGenocideX

all the Haters have no clue what they are talkign about and arnt even TF fans or even seen the TF:The Movie

DJedi
DJedi

I JUST dont get it, whats the FRIKIN point of holding all the plot about the movie for months and months, not showing one single transformer for more than a second, building all the hype in the world, to finally go and see the movie, if the dumb guy in charge of the videogame adaptation just decides that for his trailer to make sense he has to tell all of the things that happen in the movie, show all of the transformers, and basically SPOIL everything the movie has been trying to keep away for months? ... and to top it off, sell the game a week or two before the movie EVEN comes out... I JUST DONT get the point of keeping something secret and spoiling it 2 weeks before it comes out... thats exactly what I hate about movie to game adaptations... and I can BET the game will suck big time... as they always do...

NA3D
NA3D

Movie looks horrid, game looks okay, and to all of those that dont know. Safari is out for Windows. It has problems here and there, but it works pretty well. I would rate the potential of the movie: 1/5 (from 0-5) The potential of the game: 3/5 The potential of Safari on Windows: 5/5

grafkhun
grafkhun

hmmm... i think this licensed game may not be absolute cr4p like the rest. this polish and attention is what developers should be doing for licensed games, glad to see some effort for once for movie tie ins. i think it may get over an 8 maybe.

Absolutezerr
Absolutezerr

I don't know.. the only decent movie game I've ever played is the first spider-man the movie on PS2.

--Sinister--
--Sinister--

call me a nerd but i think this game looks pretty nice. the last transformers game turned out pretty well so if they use that as a ground book than this game should be decent at least. man this is a good june, im gettin "Tenchu Z" and "The Darkness" and if this gets good scores, than ill buy this too.