Review: Transformers (PS2)

Genre: Action
Platform: PS2
Rating: T (Teen)
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Melbourne House
Release Date: 05/11/2004

After the fecal Transformers games produced in the past (Mystery of Convoy on the Famicom, Beast Wars on the N64 and Playstation, and Transformers Takatai on the PS2), Transfans will be pleased to hear that their beloved ‘bots are back in true form on the PS2. This time, however, we’re dealing with the current Armada/Energon universe, rather than the classic characters from the ’80s. Hey, blame Hasbro for that one; they know where the money is.

STORY

If you don’t know the basic tale of the Transformers by now, then get the hell out. C’mon, it’s your classic good versus evil, Autobot versus Decepticon, Optimus Prime versus Megatron deal. The main difference is that we’ve got slight different versions of the characters, and the addition of a third faction (the Mini-Cons) to the long-running Cybertronian war. Anyway, the tale opens up on Cybertron in the present day, with Optimus and Megs beating the piss out of each other atop a tower. There’s a great Transformers: The Movie reference here, but I won’t spoil it for you. Anyway, their fight gets interrupted when a transmission comes in, explaining that the long-lost race of Mini-Cons has been found on Earth. Knowing that Mini-Cons would amp up his forces considerably, Megatron bolts for Earth, with Optimus and his team in pursuit. This is where the player comes in, as you command various Autobots as they try to get to the Mini-Cons before the Decepticons do. (Rating: 8/10)

GAMEPLAY

If you’ve played a third-person run ‘n’ gun shooter before, then you’ll be right at home with Transformers’ gameplay mechanics. The game’s broken up into various missions, and you can select Optimus Prime, Red Alert, or Hot Shot as playable characters. Each one has his own advantages and disadvantages; I enjoyed playing as Prime, but he’s slow as dirt. Hot Shot’s much faster, but not as strong. Red Alert’s defense is high, but his attack rating is lower. And, as expected, you can transform. This isn’t used often, but it is necessary in some levels, for jumping across wide chasms and the like. There’s also a “recon” mode that turns the game into a first-person shooter, but you won’t use that often; you move very slowly in this mode, as it’s really only designed to get a good look at faraway enemy installations and pick off unsuspecting ‘bots. As you progress though the game’s various levels, you’ll destroy Decepticlones (generic footsoldiers built by Megatron and his cronies), grab powerups, and find both Mini-Cons and Data-Cons. (More on that later). After the first mission, each character will also have a personal Mini-Con that will follow them around during the missions. This fifth Mini-Cons allows you to “Powerlink,” increasing your stats considerably. The only downside is that this depletes your Energon (life), so use it sparingly. The other advantage is that the Mini-Con who follows you can’t be killed, but it will take potshots at enemies. Weak shots, but it’s better than nothing. At the end of each mission, there’s the inevitable boss fight, usually against one of the main Decepticon characters, like Cyclonus or Starscream. These f*ckers can be really tough to beat; Starscream in particular was fast as hell, and took a little while to bring down. He pales in comparison to the titan known as Tidal Wave, though. The guy’s the size of a damn mountain, and rains missiles upon you like nobody’s business. Definitely not an easy fight, but very memorable indeed. You’ll eventually face off against the mighty Megatron, but what else did you expect? (Rating: 8/10)

GRAPHICS

Holy f*ckin’ Moses. M$ and Nintendo fanboys may bitch about the PS2 being less graphically powerful than their consoles of choice, but Transformers looks amazing. The various levels in the game are huge and sprawling; the draw distance alone is staggering. Animation is incredibly fluid, with no drop in framerate whatsoever, even when the screen is loaded with enemies. The level of detail is impressive, too; you can see individual bolts and rivets in the various robots, plus scorch marks and other battle damage. No one’s clean and gleaming in this game…this is war! (Rating: 10/10)

SOUND

Eh. Rather weak, if you ask me. The music is fairly standard scifi-action game fare, and gets boring quickly. Certain boss fights are more interesting, because there’s a remixed orchestral version of the original Tranformers cartoon theme playing in the background. Voicework is minimal, and generally relegated to cutscenes and mission briefings. The good news is that Armada/Energon voice actors Gary Chalk and David Kaye reprise their roles as Optimus Prime and Megatron, respectively, and all the other voice actors are there as well. And, as expected, the transforming noise is present, though it’s a slighly retooled version (used in the Energon cartoon most recently). (Rating: 5/10)

CONTROL

Every game has its low points, and for TF, it’s definitely the control scheme. The left analog stick is for movement, and the right stick is for looking and aiming. Firing and jumping are handled by the various L and R triggers. Secondary functions (like transforming, zooming in, and Powerlinking) are handled by the face buttons. You may often find yourself hitting the wrong buttons, especially during the heat of boss battles; this is due to most other games using a “standard” control scheme. Grow out of that fast, or you’re slag. Plus, there’s no “lock-on” function, so you’ll often be swinging around wildy with the right analog stick to get a fast-moving enemy in your sights. Another annoyance is that you can’t remap controller buttons, but I guess it makes sense; you wouldn’t be able to use the right analog stick to aim and use a face button to fire simultaneously. It’s just irritating overall. (Rating: 3/10)

REPLAYABILITY

This is where Transfans will bust a nut. There’s tons of Mini-Cons and Data-Cons to find, so you’ve got incentive to replay levels over and over again until you get all of them. Lay off the Pokémon comparisons. Mini-Cons will add additional weapons, shields, and enhanced abilities. These are definitely necessary, and some abilities (like flight) will enable you to find even more hidden stuff. Up to four of them can be equipped at any given time, not including your personal Mini-Con that follows you around during later missions. Data-Cons are simply data disks; they have no in-game function, but they unlock hidden items in the “Extras” menu on the title screen. Unlockable stuff includes original CG renders of the various Autobots and Decepticons, artwork, and even TV commercials and toy photos! Well worth hunting down. (Rating: 8/10)

BALANCE

The difficulty curve isn’t sky-high, but it progresses nicely as you plumb the depths of the game. It won’t take forever to get through, but it’s not a game you’ll complete in an hour. Exploring each level to its fullest is essential, plus you’ll need to figure out which characters are suitable for each mission. Factor that in with using different characters to acquire the various Mini-Cons and Data-Cons, and you’ve got a well-rounded game. (Rating: 7/10)

ORIGINALITY

This is a tough call. The Transformers themselves aren’t exactly original; they’ve been around for 20 years, fer crissake. However, since Hasbro’s going with the more recent series rather than the old stuff, it’s more a fresh take on a classic tale. Megatron’s unquenchable thirst for power is still there, but this time, the Mini-Cons are caught in the crossfire more than the people of Earth. (Rating: 7/10)

ADDICTIVENESS

Personally, I found the game very hard to put down, even in the more frustrating spots. You’ll get your ass kicked repeatedly by a boss, but you won’t be able to stop playing until you’ve turned him into a pile of twisted metal. Even though the story’s somewhat generic, it’s very entertaining to watch it unfold. (Rating: 8/10)

APPEAL

If you’re a TF fan, you’ll shit yourself playing this. Non-Transfans won’t be drawn in nearly as much, but fans of the shooter genre will likely enjoy it. It’s not blood-and-boobs GTA3, but there’s plenty to enjoy here. C’mon, making robots explode into tiny bits never goes out of style. (Rating: 7/10)

MISCELLANEOUS

What else to say? The boss fight with Tidal Wave is unreal. It almost justifies the purchase of the game in and of itself. The unlockable art and TV stuff is cool as hell, too. Game developer Melbourne House really went all-out for the fans. (Rating: 8/10)

Final Scores:

Story: 8/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 5/10
Control: 3/10
Replayability: 8/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 7/10
Addictiveness: 8/10
Appeal: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10