Let’s face it: The Transformers are toys. Whether you are a fan of the original animated series or a newbie who has only seen the current summer blockbuster, one thing remains constant… you are watching a commercial for toys. In the case of the latter it is a very long and very expensive commercial, but a commercial nonetheless. Technology has marched on since the eighties and the toys have evolved to now include high-tech games for your expensive console. The part that remains the same is the oldest part of all: no matter how pretty the wrapping or expensive the commercial, some toys are absolute junk. Those involved in these “animated afternoon advertisements” of the mid-eighties really hit the jackpot, and here we are, nearly twenty-five years later, once again pulling the lever on this one-armed bandit and watching all three slots land on the head of Optimus Prime. Trouble is, at least one of the new toys is total junk.
Players will get most of what they are expecting in terms of the game’s storyline, as it is taken directly from the film and yet it does not contain much in the way of movie spoilers. The Autobots and the Decepticons are after the AllSpark and will stop at nothing to get it. Decepticons have no reservations about killing humans to further their pursuits, whereas the Autobots have a more respectful approach (the old "good car, bad car" scenario). The game is split into two different sections in which players will be able to command Transformers on both sides. Not since “Rise of the Robots” for the PSOne has such an outright boring control and combat scheme been presented, and considering we are two generations of consoles later this is really disappointing. Regardless of what Transformer you are controlling at any given time, players are limited to the same rudimentary three-hit combo over and over again when battling other Transformers. The only variation on this “unflavored oatmeal” of a combat system is the ability to hurl a random environmental object at your foe. Yay. It is titles like this, which are diluted to the point of laughable gameplay in an attempt to appeal to the “broadest” age range of audiences that lead to the unflattering moniker of “button masher” becoming a widely used derogatory term within the gaming business. The sixaxis motion control is present here when controlling a Transformer that can fly, but if there ever was an argument that the whole sixaxis system is a poor excuse for rumble this is it. In all fairness, it can be debated that no developer has come up with a really great use for this feature as of yet.
Graphically, the game does have its moments of shining beauty, mostly in the Transformer models and environmental destruction. Players familiar with the Hulk game of last generation will get the gist of what it is like to rip apart a city and level its buildings, except this time around with the Transformers it’s a lot prettier. It is poetic that the game’s shining point is it’s graphical prowess around the area of the Transformers themselves… after all, they have to display their toys err… characters in the best light, right? The title also suffers from an extremely poor camera system and falls victim to that old hallmark of poor camera design, getting stuck between two (or more) objects. The Transformers can be placed in their vehicular incarnations and be driven down the many streets, but the control of these “cars” is so loose and janky it feels as if the developers are indirectly suggesting that you not drive these things around at all since there is "so much more" to do.
The entire game, from start to finish, barely lasts longer than the movie itself. This will go largely unnoticed if your age falls within the 5-13 bracket, but for fans or experienced gamers this will leave you with a distinct feeling of having just been ripped off royally. There are a few side quests you can partake in to pad out the length of the game (5-7 hours of total gameplay here), but you can probably generate more thrills and excitement by putting the game on pause and strolling out to see if the daily mail has arrived yet. The whole lot of sidequests is of the “Hey, go blow this up… kill this guy…” variety, and are about as interesting and fun as clipping your toenails. Certain missions will unlock certain bonus materials like film clips and such, but there is nothing here you aren’t likely to find on the movie’s DVD when it is released.
The voice work of the Transformers is quite good, all things considered. The developers were smart enough to hire the original series’ voice actors (who reprised their roles in the film as well), so for the old-school fans this may be a redeeming quality within this otherwise banal six hours of gaming purgatory. Games that are movie tie-ins have earned a horrible reputation over the years, and it is rushed, uninspired and unfinished games like this that has lead to this kind of a thing. Some feel that no gamer should “expect” too much from a movie tie-in, and although they are correct, the publishers are still charging top dollar for these titles.
There is no way that anyone in good conscience can recommend spending sixty-some-odd dollars of your cash for this latest “toy” in the long line of Transformers “toys,” when you could spend one-fifth of the retail cost and buy yourself an actual Transformer action figure and probably have just as much fun chasing your significant other around the house with it. It can be said that Transformers: The Game is the best twenty-dollar game you will ever pay sixty dollars for, and in this case you can rest assured that there really isn’t any “more than meets the eye.”