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Transformers: The Game Preview

publisher: Activision
developer: TT Games
genre: Action

PIV 2.0 GHz, 256MB RAM, 4GB HDD, 3D card
ESRB rating: T

release date: Jun 26, 07
» All About Transformers: The Game on ActionTrip

With Michael Bay's movie, Transformers, being only a few months away, Activision is slowly beginning to unveil more on their third-person action game set in the giant robot universe. The Transformers franchise had its days of glory during the mid '80's, when the cartoon series emerged and quickly turned into an international success. The animated series made its debut in 1984, starting out as a very effective endorsement for the Transformers toyline, and after the first season (later named "Generation 1"), children everywhere were hooked. Marvel Comics also published a comic book, which ran for 80 issues from 1984 to 1991. In the end, it was the cartoon that really made a memorable impact.

The greatest challenge of making a Transformers movie after all these years, is going for a look and feel that's going to interest a wider audience - both youngsters as well as fans of the good old Generation 1 series (so, I guess that includes all you twenty-somethings and above). On the other hand, word has it that the faithful fan base isn't really keen on watching the Transformers wrapped in a traditional Bay-style explosion fest. But, from a more neutral perspective, and seeing as Michael Bay is undeniably one of the best action-flick directors in Hollywood, we have no doubt we're looking at another potential chartbuster winging its way to the top of the summer 2007 box office.

Now as far as the movie is concerned, the plot and most of the 'goods' are under lock and key. Unfortunately for us, Activision's action-oriented title follows the movie script, so we cannot offer a lot of precise information related to the game's narrative. Essentially, all we know is that the game depicts the eternal struggle between the Autobots and Decepticons. Cast down from their home world of Cybertron, these robotic entities arrive unexpectedly to Earth and continue to fight against each other.

Design wise, Activision and developer Traveller's Tales (Bionicle, LEGO Star Wars II, etc.) are going for a rather interesting style, which represents a blend of Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Grand Theft Auto... in a Transformers setting. In short, the play style of the game comes down to a combination of shooting, flying and driving. The Transformers are capable of changing into a vast range of diverse vehicles at any time; a feature which notably widens the depth of gameplay. Though such mixes of gameplay mechanics are risky and often executed the wrong way, the team at Traveller's Tales seems capable of pulling it off.

Now the game has one unique twist, which the movie certainly won't be able to get across. At the beginning, you may choose to undergo the whole ride siding with either affiliation - Autobot or Decepticon. The Autobot single-player campaign, is largely similar to the movie in terms of the actual story and events that take place throughout. The Decepticon faction, then again, involves a slightly different experience. For that matter, choices that are morally significant might have to be made at specific points during the game. If, for instance, you happen to be playing as an Autobot, it isn't advisable to go around killing people and demolishing everything in sight. Gradually, you'll have to deal with the Police, the US Military and eventually the secret Transformers police (!?!). Again, an obvious, but probably well-placed, tribute to the GTA series.

Some Transformers included in the movie will be making an appearance in the game, such as Starscream, Jazz, Bumblebee, all of which may be controlled by the player. As you'd expect it, our robotic friends alter their shape, so be sure characters like the Optimus Prime (noble Autobot leader) will take on their familiar forms. Naturally, good old Optimus Prime transforms into a huge Peterbilt truck, Jazz becomes a Pontiac Solstice, while Starscream changes into a speedy jet fighter, a.k.a. the F-22 Raptor. Be on the look out for a fair amount of replay value as well, since it will be possible to come back and play the missions with a different Transformer.

We mentioned games like Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Much like Vivendi's console action game, Transformers also makes way for destructible surroundings. However, to what degree will players be able to obliterate nearby buildings and objects is still uncertain, but we do know for a fact that destruction is an important gameplay element. I'm sure most gamers will appreciate the freedom given in this respect - no matter which side you're on, it's possible to go on a rampage and just destroy everything in sight. Admittedly, this doesn't exactly go well with the trademark image of righteousness portrayed through most of the Autobot characters. Nonetheless, the open-ended gameplay recipe has its good sides, to be sure. Almost everything in the nearby area can be picked up, tossed about or simply utilized as an effective weapon against enemies. Lampposts and cars may be employed to knock out foes, while trees can be uprooted for similar purposes.

The beauty of it all is that players are free to transform any time they wish. And we're definitely curious to see how it turns out. For the most part, the game is still being tweaked and prepared visually, technically and gameplay wise. From where I'm standing, it seems quite obvious that Traveller's Tale and Activision are focusing more on the gameplay itself, rather than any groundbreaking next-generation visual splendor.

Although much is still being debated on whether the recently reinvigorated Transformers franchise will make it or simply develop into a colossal flop, the game still has a reasonable chance of offering a fun ride. Considering all the combined elements, popular characters, a solid back-story and broadened gameplay depth, this game could easily evolve into a satisfying adaptation of a much-admired universe.

The game hits store shelved in July, about the same time as the movie, for PC, X360, Wii, PS2 and PS3 platforms.



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