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Transformers: Autobots (and Decepticons)

For: DS   Also on: Mobile, PSP

Good game in disguise

Product: Transformers: The Game | Developer: Vicarious Visions | Publisher: Activision Blizzard | Format: DS | Genre: Action, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc), wireless (network) | Version: US
Transformers: The Game DS, thumbnail 1
Like the mechanical monstrosities themselves, the DS game based on the Transformers film seems to come out of nowhere. First impressions are it's likely to be just another movie blockbuster tie-in, albeit one that comes in two possible flavours: you can either buy Autobots or Decepticons versions.

Get into the game, however, and it's not long before its true colours swing into view – overall, the package is almost as shiny as Optimus Prime's paint job.

Something that doesn't matter much in a game like this is the story. In the case of Transformers: Autobots (which is the version we reviewed), you take control of several Autobots — ranging from Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, Ironhide and Ratchet, as well as your default bot — as they attempt to stop their nemeses, the Decepticons, from destroying Earth. Obviously, if you buy the Decepticons version, the roles are reversed. As Barricade, Brawl, Blackout, Starscream, Megatron and friends, your task is to destroy the Blue Planet.

But, in reality, this standard good-versus-evil scenario is only important because of the way it sets the stage for plenty of action.

The single-player Story mode consists of free-roaming gameplay delivered across a handful of locations, three of which are shared between the two game versions and one of which is exclusive to each. You're able to traverse each at will, engaging random enemies for experience points, taking on 20 side-missions, or furthering the story by completing 20 main quests.

In the case of the Autobots, your sorties tend to be positive – stealthily gathering information, escorting human vehicles or defeating the Decepticons. Unsurprisingly, the bad guys do bad things, so as them you're smashing things up and breaking into military bases. Between the game's missions and general exploration there isn't a ton of variety, but if you're looking to mash a few buttons, you'll certainly enjoy Transformers.

In either case, combat is relatively simple. You have melee and ranged attack options so expect to wear out your A and Y buttons. Defeated enemies reward you with experience points that go towards increasing the levels of all controllable transformers. Unfortunately, however, leveling up is automatic and doesn't let you customise attributes or unlock abilities.

Another niggle is the game's automatic targeting and camera system, which often fails to work properly, requiring you to adjust it using the DS's L and R shoulder buttons. As a result, you'll find your hands stretched across the top of your DS, with fingers primed over the face buttons and D-pad.

Adding to the awkward grip issues: at any time you can switch from transformer mode into vehicle form by tapping the transformation icon on the touchscreen. It's a cool process, as you can jump from a building, switching to vehicle form in mid-air, and drive away on landing, but in terms of knowing where to put your hands, it can get a little too much.

Transforming is important to the gameplay, though. You'll find it especially useful for outrunning enemies or police, should you get yourself on the wrong side of the law. This matters because whenever you destroy property or openly engage another transformer in public view, your police rating increases. Much like the wanted rating in the Grand Theft Auto series, a bump up on your rating equates to a rush of police cars and military vehicles to your location. If you're not careful, their gunfire will slowly drain your health, so it's best to avoid confrontations by staying out of trouble or racing away in vehicle form.

But if you want to see where Transformers gets really clever, you'll want to explore the online mode. There are a couple of standard adhoc four-player Deathmatch and Capture the Flag options but much more impressive is the AllSpark Wars mode.

Linked into the two versions of the game, you connect via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and download a single-player Autobots or Decepticons-dedicated mission. Missions are played offline and usually involve breaking as many objects as possible within a set time or defeating a group of enemies.

Do this and then upload your score to the game's server, and it will be tallied along with those from other players possessing the Autobots (or Decepticons) version of the game. The Allspark Wars' website shows the ongoing tally of which side is winning the current weekly challenge. Individual high-scores are displayed and you can also join clans and earn Wi-Fi Tokens, which are used to unlock vehicles that can only be accessed by playing AllSpark Wars.

Much like the machines themselves, Transformers ends up being more than the sum of its parts. It's a surprisingly enjoyable outing from Activision and developer Vicarious Visions, and one that's greatly superior to the sub-standard Transformers PSP game. Time to choose your side and enter the war.
Transformers: Autobots (and Decepticons)
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 23 July 2007
The definitive handheld version, Transformers DS boasts decent gameplay, good presentation and clever online features that go beyond traditional movie-licensed fare
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