Optimus Crime

By Alec Meer on July 23rd, 2007 at 5:23 pm.

I’m preaching to the converted I’m sure, but whatever you do, do not buy, play or even pirate the Transformers game. It’s no worse on PC than any other platform, but it is quite astonishingly dreadful. Part of the reason for this I lay not at the feet of the developers (Travellers Tales, best-known for the diminishingly excellent Lego Star Wars series, but in fact with a history of horrific licensed titles behind them) but at the nature of the game.

Given its cast is, in the movie, demonstrated to be more or less invincible except at set-piece moments, the game has a hell of an albatross-o-con around its neck. It needs to devise something that sufficiently challenges the player without making them feel like they’re not, in fact, a giant robot but are instead just another action game character with a health bar, who just happens to be 50 foot tall.

I’m not convinced that, at least whilst at the technological point the current generation of games hardware clings to, Travellers Tales has a lot of options on that front. Having to get Bumblebee to /exactly/ this spot within /exactly/ 30 seconds or the game ends is a horrible horrible horrible disappointment for anyone wanting big stompy robot kicks, but I understand why that was deemed a better choice than just making him as weak as John Q. ThirdPersonActionAdventure. There’s a reason so many licensed games are as inspid as they are, and it’s because of the restrictive nature of their brainless blockbuster source material and its immortal heroes. Incidentally, the reason the Transformers PS2 game a few years back did work well was because its approach was entirely different – no cities, no people, just one robot versus thousands. Without humans, there was no sense of being gigantic, so the brain happily settled into playing a standard but polished action-platform game.

The unbelievable paucity of both the driving and fighting mechanics in this game (and driving and fighting is, really ,the only thing a game about Transformers needs to do well), however, does scream of a lazy and complacent developer. While this game will undoubtedly outsell most anything this year that doesn’t have ‘Sims’, ‘Halo’ or ‘Grand Theft’ in its title, it’s utterly destroyed critical goodwill towards Traveller’s Tales. I know some of my RPS colleagues have the greatest respect for TT, but as far as I’m concerned anyone working there with a desire to make good games really should get out now and set up shop seperately, rather than continuing to take the Activision dollar for drek like this. Sympathy for the conceptual difficulty of a task like this aside, there isn’t even an attempt at making a great videogame evident here. And what, in all honestly, are TT going to be able to do with Lego Batman that they’ve not done with Lego Star Wars? I’ll be a happy, happy man if I’m proved wrong for saying that.

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6 Comments »

  1. Rossignol says:

    It’s probably worth noting that TT’s work on Star Wars Lego was directed by a slightly different team to that working on Transformers.

    I think we’ll see Batman being a considerable leap on from Star Wars, given that this is where their focus will lie.

    Perhaps Transformers is so bad *because* they’re focusing on Batman?

  2. admin says:

    Just a test so I can see where everything goes…

  3. Alec says:

    Perhaps. Though I thought LSW 2 sorely lacked the fun and invention of the first, so fear Lego Whatever is just another theme to be exploited until it’s dry and barren.

  4. Jim Rossignol says:

    Hmm that’s interesting. I enjoyed the second LSW much more – perhaps because the vehicular sections were fun, but also because I thought most of the puzzles were better too.

  5. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    Got here through the old ‘Revist an Old Story’ button, but wasn’t another huge problem with Transformers the fact that buildings crumbled when you brushed up against them? A game like this cries out for an advanced physics engine.