I am a child of the 80s. I look back at that vacant and depraved period, and all I can see is waste ? a decade of crap music and awful hairdos. But out of the darkness, one thing shines brightly, and will always shine brightly for me.
An ingenious mixture of guns, robots and cars; all crammed into one little cartoon. It was all a little boy could ever ask for. The craze swooped the 80s, but after awhile it just seemed to disappear. But now, the franchise has received a rebirth ? with a brand new image, and even a new computer game for the PS2.
The storyline revolves around the eternal battle of good versus evil ? in this case, the Autobots versus the Decepticons. These two forces have been waging war against each other for thousands of years. At the heart of the story are the mini-cons ? powerful robots that attach to Transformers, greatly increasing their power. A dormant vessel carrying mini-cons has been awakened on earth, scattering mini-cons all across the land. Here’s where you come in: you take control of an Autobot [either Optimus Prime, Hot Shot or Red Alert] and travel the globe, trying to collect mini-cons before the Decepticons get to them.
The story might seem quite grandiose: a power struggle between the forces of good and evil during a brutal and titanic war. But after awhile, it just seems irrelevant ? it’s just a reason to travel from level to level, blowing up loads of robots. And that’s what you’ll mainly be doing ? blowing up things. Bullets will fly, and metal will be destroyed ? the gun battles in Transformers are kinetic and action packed.
The way in which you approach a gun battle will depend on the situation, and on what mode you choose to have your bot in. Each autobot has three different modes ? vehicle, robot and recon. Recon mode is a first person shooting mode, used when you want to sneakily approach an enemy. Your bot crouches down and moves very, very slowly ? it’s perfect when there are a few enemies around, and you want to pick them off one by one. It’s also good for shooting enemies at distance ? recon mode allows you to snipe enemies. Robot mode is a third person shooting perspective: your bot moves around much more quickly then in recon mode, so it’s good when you’re surrounded by enemies, and you want to run circles around them whilst shooting. Vehicle mode is just that: a mode in which your bot transforms into a vehicle. You can use this mode to A) run over enemies ? la Grand Theft Auto, or B) is perfect for that speedy getaway. Each mode has it’s own specific advantages and disadvantages, and the different modes is not just a cheap gimmick ? you will use all the different modes throughout the course of the game.
What makes the gun battles so challenging is the enemy AI ? it’s extremely advanced, nearing the dizzying heights of Halo. Enemies will attack you from many different angles, and will respond to your actions accordingly. Example: during a gun battle, if a rocket is fired towards an enemy, they’ll try to jump out of the way. Amazing. Also, if most of the enemies’ squad gets killed in the crossfire, the remaining survivors will try to run away. Ingenious. Even on the easiest setting, these bots can become quite a handful, and it’s always satisfying to get into a gunfight, due to the immense intelligence the enemies show.
The level design is very good indeed ? the levels are absolutely huge, but you never feel lost, or uncertain of where to go or what to do next. This is because HQ will radio in at regular intervals, telling you exactly what to do next. This might seem as if the game nurses you through each level, and in a sense it does. But the level maps are so large, that it’s necessary that the game does nurse you through the levels just a bit. But it never feels like the game is patronising you, or treating you like you’re stupid ? the radio messages are helpful and a necessary addition.
As I’ve already mentioned, the level maps are huge ? and this gives a great, wide open space for large battles. This gives you the freedom to have battles in many different ways: close combat, where trigger happy fingers are always a welcome, or battles executed from long distances. Close combat is perfect for some situations, especially when your health bar is ample, and the enemies you are facing aren’t that tough. These enemies can be blown up quite quickly with a few well-placed shots. The tougher enemies are a lot more difficult, but close combat is still possible, you just have to use the large areas in the game to your advantage: running circles round the enemy whilst dodging bullets and dealing some serious firepower of your own.
Or you can approach the battle in a stealthier manner, not engaging in close combat, but using the area and the distance between you and your enemy to your advantage. Using the recon mode, you can zoom onto your enemy, and approach them from quite far away. The enemies’ AI is quite advanced, so they won’t be able to see you from far away; especially if you hide behind trees, rocks or other surroundings. There, you can snipe enemies from a distance, quickly dispatching of them.
Whilst it’s fun blowing up huge robots, the levels do have specific objectives. These are basically discovering mini-cons littered throughout the area, then proceeding to the end of the level to face a boss. Once discovered, the mini-cons can be used as upgrades for your bots. These upgrades range from a better gun to a protective shield, and the mini-cons different abilities can be accessed via the shoulder buttons. It’s a format that runs throughout all the levels: collect mini-cons, destroy robots, fight boss. This could have been very repetitive, but it’s not: each level still feels fresh and exciting.
The boss battles are fun, but can be extremely frustrating: even on the easiest setting, some of the boss battles seem near impossible. It takes a lot of trial and error to find the perfect tactic to defeat a boss. A lot. I spent nearly three hours trying to defeat the boss ?Tidal Wave’, and when I finally killed him, I pumped my fist into the air and smiled; finally relieved I beat the bastard. Whilst frustrating, each boss battle is quite exciting: each boss demanding a different kind of tactic and specific mini-con upgrade to help you defeat it. It means that each battle seems fresh and exciting, constantly demanding something more from you.
But the game’s not without it’s faults: the music is awful, and as I’ve said, the boss battles can get extremely frustrating. The linear nature of the game means if you can’t defeat a boss, you can’t proceed in the game, resulting in a lot of trial and error gameplay. But these are just minor quibbles. In the main, Transformers is an exhilarating, action packed title that will last a very long time: and you’ll enjoy every minute of it