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Could Transformers 2 Be Not-Horrible?

Robots! Giant robots! Giant robots that turn into cars! If there's a property more ideally suited to action videogaming than Transformers then I'll eat my decepti-hat. Apart from Transmorphers, obviously.

Sadly, them robots in disguise haven't been treated well by gaming, with the exception of the fairly pleasing Transformers Armada PS2 game a while back. The only PC game was 2007's abominable tie-in to Michael Bay's Transformers movie. Truly horrible, despite being handled by Traveller's Tales, they of Lego Star Wars fame. With a second movie due this Summer, there is, inevitably, a second game. Will lessons have been learned? Could we, finally, maybe, oh lord please, get a decent Transformers game?

The official site for Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen (a subtitle that sounds straight off the George Lucas drawing board o'idiocy) went live today, and it's got a few Cybertronian tidbits to pore over. It's looking pretty, as well it should - games can do shiny, angular metal very well these days. Cars are easy, and thus so should robots that turn into cars. Neither the handful of pictures or the press release really reveal much about the game: it'll have robots who can transform and take on "any available mission", apparently. Which sounds pretty much the same as that wretched first game, which loosely attempted a GTA structure, but hung it around giant robots repeatedly having to drive to specific spots on the map before a timer ran out. Really, the Autobots fail to save the planet if Bumblebee doesn't make it to exactly this 5 square metre spot within exactly 30 seconds? That's not epic heroism - that's American Gladiators.

Now, while the vast bulk of movie spin-off games are made in just a few months in order that they can visually reference the finished movie adequately, in this case half of Transformers 2's robot cast already existed - surely that meant there was more space and time to get this right?

Or not. The game was only announced back last July, which means there's a strong chance it's only enjoyed an 8-month development window. And with Traveller's Tales now purchased by Warners, this game has an entirely different studio working on it, quite possibly having to start from scratch. (The PC port, incidentally, is being handled by a third studio, Beenox, but it's simply a conversion of the console game rather than a whole new game). Developer Luxoflux's finest hour to date is the True Crime games, decentish GTA-likes: other than that it's been mostly so-so movie tie-ins. Though their last, Kung Fu Panda, was reasonably well received. Dare we to dream?

I want to dream, but I'm not going to until I hear mention of one specific thing, something that's notable by its omission from the press blurb so far. Trashing buildings, people! That's the single most important element of any game about giant robots! It wasn't in the first game, and it sounds like it's not going to be this one, which means I'm fearful it's simply going to be more hand-mangling melee combos and driving to waypoints as fast as possible. TRASHING BUILDINGS, dammit. Say it's in there and I'll start smiling about this game.

Well, we'll see. On the more positive side, sounds as though there'll be a vast array of big ol' robots, including the massive, flying Decepticons. No word on if we'll get to play as Devastator, a really big fella who's made of six robots stuck together, but surely any developer with an ounce of vested interest in making this game would stick him in. Surely?

On another note, a while back Kieron and I had a horrifyingly geeky conversation about how to do a Transformers MMO. It's ripe with possibility - but that's a post for another day...

Oh, and here's the press release:

Based on Hasbro's legendary TRANSFORMERS property and one of the most anticipated films of 2009 from Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures, TRANSFORMERS: Revenge of the Fallen thrusts players into a battle for supremacy across the globe as either AUTOBOTS or DECEPTICONS to drive, fly, fight and blast their way through intense, pressure-packed levels. Delivering more control than ever before, gamers can select from the largest, most diverse range of playable TRANSFORMERS – each with distinct personalities, abilities and weaponry – and jump straight into action as they instantly switch between robot, vehicle and weapon modes to fight for the preservation or annihilation of all mankind.For the first time in the TRANSFORMERS universe, players can also fight the epic war between AUTOBOTS and DECEPTICONS online in explosive multiplayer combat.

The Choice is Yours – Players can step into the shoes of their favorite AUTOBOTS and DECEPTICONS such as Optimus Prime, Starscream, Bumblebee and Ironhide, along with new characters making their first appearance in a game. With two distinct campaigns that allow gamers to save or destroy the human race, gamers will unlock missions and be able to play them in any order they desire and with different characters for a whole new experience.

Outmaneuver Your Opponents – Instantaneously convert from a colossal robot to a dynamic land or air vehicle such as a diesel truck, sports car, military chopper or fighter jet. New, ultra-fluid transformations can be performed in-motion anytime and anywhere, allowing players to strategically propel through and decimate hordes of enemies with incredible agility.

Take the Battle Online with Friends – For the first time ever in the TRANSFORMERS universe, gamers can engage in full multiplayer action, taking the epic war between the AUTOBOTS and DECEPTICONS online to play with friends in a multitude of competitive game modes as they utilize their characters' unique weapons and abilities to lead their teams to victory.

Demolish Your Enemies – Each TRANSFORMER can unleash a unique array of assaults on its enemies ranging from powerful missile attacks and rapid-fire chain guns to explosive energy blasts and visceral melee strikes, allowing players to pick from a variety of weapons and moves in their character's arsenal that deliver diverse gameplay in every brutal encounter.

Intense, Heroic Missions – Every second is precious as players drive, fly, fight and blast their way through gripping, pulse-pounding levels straight from the film and beyond to determine the ultimate fate of the world.

"Every second is precious", eh? That sounds far too much like waypoints and timers to me. "Optimus, you have exactly 45 seconds to save the world! And no, you can't drive through buildings to save time, despite your being a 10-ton truck."

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