After years and years of waiting, Transformers fans finally have a big-budget, US-released action game starring the robots in disguise to call their very own. Titled simply Transformers, this new third-person shooter from Atari is based on the recent Transformers toys and cartoon series, which have subtitles like Armada and Energon, rather than the original toy line and television show from the early '80s that most 20-something gamers will be most familiar with. However, you'll still find plenty of (slightly modified) familiar faces in the game, like Optimus Prime, Starscream, and Megatron. More importantly, once you dig into Transformers' gameplay, you'll find a surprisingly intense combat model that's pretty tough but also rewarding once you get a handle on it.
Autobots, transform and roll out!
The storyline in Transformers can be reduced to "Autobots versus Decepticons" without much effort. You'll play as one of three autobots--everybody's favorite Optimus Prime; the well-rounded Red Alert; and the quicker, weaker Hot Shot--and you'll fight your way through a linear progression of stages, blasting everything in sight. Both factions are scouring the earth in search of the mini-cons, a long-lost race of miniature transformers whom the big guys can equip to gain new weapons and other abilities. Each of the game's seven regular levels has several mini-cons scattered throughout, some that are harder to find than others, and you'll be able to revisit completed levels later to pick up mini-cons that you missed or couldn't access before.
Transformers' focus is squarely on shooting, and it's you against wave after wave of "Decepticlones," the endless army of lesser robots that Megatron has devised to eradicate the Autobots. You start off with only a basic blaster and jumping ability, and you're thrown up against daunting odds almost immediately--the game loves to throw a dozen or more fairly powerful enemies at you at one time. Strategic and varied use of your mini-cons is key to surviving the game's rigorous battles, since some weapons and abilities will be better suited to a given situation than others. You'll get various energy weapons, rocket launchers, and a sniper rifle (among others) to round out your arsenal, and an energy shield and recharge ability are just a couple of the defensive abilities you can gain. Even tertiary stuff like a hang glider and a robot version of thermal vision are available.
You can equip only four mini-cons at a time (one bound to each shoulder button), and since each carries a power rating that fills out a portion of your maximum power capacity, you can't have just any combination of the best mini-cons at all times. Furthermore, the mini-cons are color-coded, and if you match up colors properly you can even get boosts to your health and other systems. It might sound complicated, but coming up with new mini-con configurations is a big part of the fun in Transformers.
The other big part of the fun is, well, blowing up lots of robots. Once you start getting better weapons, you'll lay waste to the Decepticlone hordes with abandon, which is honestly pretty darn satisfying in itself. The enemies are governed by a rudimentary physics model, so you can fire a pair of spiraling rockets into a cluster of them and watch the robots go flying in all directions. The shower of debris that results from every successful kill is also gratuitous and rewarding.