Transformers Armada: Prelude to Energon Impressions
We get to take a look at the upcoming Transformers game from developer Melbourne House.
At a recent Atari press event, we had an opportunity to check out the first playable build of Transformers Armada: Prelude to Energon, which is currently in development for the PlayStation 2 at Melbourne House. As the title suggests, the game follows the events that transpire during the Armada portion of the Transformers universe, in which the Autobots and Decepticons are battling over a group of much smaller robots known as Minicons that can give additional powers to robots on either side--this is actually an integral part of Transformers Armada's gameplay.
The game begins in autobot headquarters, where you can select from one of three autobots, but only two (Hot Shot and Optimus Prime) were selectable in the current build of the game. Each member of the Autobot team has its own unique attributes that come into play over the course of the game. For example, Hot Shot is faster and more nimble than Optimus Prime, but Prime can carry more Minicons than Hot Shot, so you may want to change characters depending on the mission objective. At Autobot headquarters, you can also select which Minicons will join you on the mission, determining what abilities you'll have access to. Some Minicons can slow down time, while others let you view energon signature trails--a valuable skill when venturing through areas with low visibility. There's also a stealth Minicon that camouflages the Autobot it's equipped to, allowing it to sneak up on unsuspecting Decepticon drones and destroy them with a few quick punches. Some Minicons can even be combined to create even more devastating skills.
But Minicons aren't entirely necessary for just blowing up Decepticons in Transformers Armada. Of course, all the Autobots will have default weapons--in the form of guns and missiles--that they can use to attack enemies from a safe distance, but you can destroy foes by transforming. Hot Shot and Optimus Prime can transform into a sports car and massive truck, respectively, and both can plow through enemies at high speeds. Transforming can also be useful for evading enemies, especially some level bosses that will fire at you relentlessly. In addition, the vehicle mode of the autobots will help you get to areas in the level that would otherwise be inaccessible.
That aspect of the game is taken even further by the fact that you can't access parts of a level without certain Minicons. Since you won't start off with all the Minicons, you can't get to some portions of a level, but if you happen to find the necessary Minicon at some point during the game, then you can warp back to HQ (by simply entering one of the numerous warp points in each level) and equip that Minicon. This not only increases the incentive to find all the Minicons in the game, but it also provides an ample amount of exploration, which is fortunate, since the levels in Armada appear to be absolutely enormous.
One of the most impressive levels on display was the Amazon jungle level, which has an incredibly impressive draw distance. In fact, you can walk to a top of the hill, look across a massive valley toward another hill, and faintly see where you're supposed to end up. There was also plenty of detail, with countless numbers of trees and dozens of Decepticons lurking behind them. While there are some slight frame rate quirks, Melbourne House says that it will be able to fix all those problems before the game's release in April 2004.
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