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PSP  header logo

Transformers: The Game

For: PSP   Also on: DS, Mobile

Megatron isn't nearly as bad as this

Product: Transformers: The Game | Developer: Savage Entertainment | Publisher: Activision Blizzard | Format: PSP | Genre: Action, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc), wireless (network) | Version: US
 
Transformers: The Game PSP, thumbnail 1
With so many ports filling its library, you couldn't be blamed for expecting your PlayStation Portable to magically transform into a PlayStation 2 upon powering it up.

The good news, then, is that Transformers: The Game isn't a dumbed-down port of its console cousin. The bad news is sadly this doesn't prevent it from being a substandard game.

Transformers offers two modes of play: a story-driven single-player campaign and competitive multiplayer. Both are heavy on the action, with tons of driving, flying, shooting, and melee combat.

Naturally, given its ties to the motion picture, the campaign takes center stage. You play as over a dozen different transformers – both Autobots and Decepticons – as they wage war on Earth for the AllSpark. As the source of all Transformer life, the AllSpark represents raw power to the Decepticons, who seek to dominate and destroy; on the other hand, the Autobots are driven to preserve and protect, fighting in order to disarm Decepticon schemes.

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Through the course of approximately 20 missions, you switch several times between Autobot and Decepticon perspectives. Conceptually this isn't confusing, but weak narrative and shallow characters end up making a mess of the story. The game only loosely follows the plot of the film, veering instead into territory covered in the graphic novels. This is handled so poorly, though, that most of the time you don't understand what's going on. Worse, the characters end up severely underdeveloped due to the fact you're constantly changing roles each mission.

Additionally, the game assumes intimate knowledge of the comic series by thrusting transformers into the game that never appear in the film, without any explanation. This ought to please the small cadre of Transformers fanatics who will undoubtedly pick the game up without regard for this review, but for the rest of us it's a perplexing affair.

Still, Transformers is intended to be played as a game, not an interactive remix of the movie. And that's where it fails miserably, with atrocious controls, bland action, and laughable graphics.

The control system is unwieldy, attempting to blend first-person and third-person commands. Movement and horizontal adjustment of the camera is done with the analogue nub, while vertical camera changes are handled via the Triangle and X buttons. Tapping right on the D-pad cycles through your weapons, although you can't cycle back by pressing left. As if things weren't frustrating enough on the default control scheme, the button configuration then changes depending on the transformer you're controlling.

Transformation sequences are about the only thing the game does get right. At any time, pressing both L and R morphs your character into whatever vehicle is associated with it, and being able to turn into, for instance, a fighter jet or sports car on-the-fly is a thrill. And although the large number of playable characters effectively destroys the story, it does make for great variety, with numerous different transformations to toy with.

It's a shame the combat element isn't nearly as exciting, suffering from enemies that are disappointingly unintelligent and a targeting system that only seems keen to work half of the time.

There's a general lack of challenge, with no foe too difficult to be taken down with a few well-placed shots – even bosses can be dealt without much trouble. Something of a considerable issue when you realise missions are designed with combat in mind; in other words, nearly every stage throws a group of enemies on a map and tasks you with their obliteration.

Perhaps the mindlessness of the action would be a little more enjoyable if the game looked half-decent. Alas, Transformers is easily one of the ugliest games to hit PSP. Environments and characters lack any detail, appearing more in line with an original PlayStation game than a current Sony handheld title. It's even difficult to read the in-game text, which is inexcusably blurry.

As mentioned, complementing the short single-player campaign are several multiplayer modes. Here, up to four individuals can link up locally via ad hoc for a smattering of options including deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture-the-flag variant 'Secure the AllSpark', and king-of-the-hill remix 'Ascension Rites'. You'll have to unlock multiplayer maps by playing through the single-player story, which is a bit of a pain, but at least there are loads of maps, with most of the levels from the campaign reworked for competitive play.

Despite the obvious potential, though, Transformers doesn't possess anything in its multiplayer offering that you haven't already experienced in other action games. Limiting the number of players to just four has a negative impact on matches, simply because the action isn't nearly as intense as a six- or eight-player game. With online gameplay supported, this could have perhaps been avoided.

Ultimately, the multiplayer section is simply further indication of the failure here to craft a compelling experience with the PSP version of Transformers. While certain elements in the game are passable, barely, too much has been botched to make it worth your while.

Poor presentation, atrocious controls and uninspired action merely head up a continuing list of other problems that mar what could and should have been a decent title. The fact Transformers is not merely a PS2 port is in this case of very little comfort.
 
Transformers: The Game
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 29 June 2007
From the outdated graphics to lacklustre gameplay, the game possesses more shortcomings than strengths, making it impossible to recommend to anyone but the Transformer faithful
 
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