Transformers is a 2004 video game for Sony's PlayStation 2, developed by the Australian-based Melbourne House, and published by Atari. It is based on the Armada series, though it does not follow any pre-established storyline. It was released in the US on April 11, 2004, and in the European market on April 7 of the same year. In September 2005, Atari released a "Director's Cut" of the game exclusively in the UK. The only difference between this and the original was a bonus DVD containing a "Making Of Documentary".
Gameplay & cast
In the game, players take control of one of three Autobots (Optimus Prime, Red Alert or Hot Shot) to battle Megatron and his vast army of Decepticlones over the recently-discovered Mini-Cons on Earth.
Decepticons who appear in the game include Megatron, Starscream, Cyclonus and Tidal Wave, but not Demolishor. The Mini-Cons Sparkplug, Longarm and Jolt join their toy-partners after the player completes the first level, acting as support fighters. The Decepticons' Mini-Con partners Leader-1, Swindle and Crumplezone do not appear as individuals, but are seen attached to their partners. The final boss of the game is Unicron in planet mode; a colossal Dead End in "moon" mode can be seen attached to him.
As well as allowing players to transform into vehicles whenever they wish, the game uses Mini-Con collecting as a way to acquire new weapons and abilities, introducing multiple new (non-toy) Mini-Con characters. Some combinations of Mini-Cons also have additional synergistic effects, such as faster weapon recharging or a larger life meter. In addition, the main partner Mini-Cons follow the player, shooting at enemies. The player can also "Powerlinx" with their partner Mini-Con, allowing for a Max Payne-style "bullet time" mode, though this drains the player's health.
As well as Mini-Cons, players collect Data-Cons that unlock bonus features in the game's main menu, ranging from game artwork (development sketches, renders, and the like), toy instructions, toy prototype photos, the toy pack-in mini-comics, and five previously-unavailable-elsewhere Generation One-era PSAs (in the same style as the old G.I. Joe cartoon PSAs).
Every level in the game is a very large, detailed environment which allows free exploration rather than short, linear maps. Players can leave levels without completing them through warp gates, and return to any previously-played level to discover more areas using their newly collected Mini-Cons. The game engine used is unknown, but appears to use technology similar to that of Croteam's Serious Engine to allow large, detailed outdoor levels with no slowdown. One part of the game is the fact that if one is hit hard enough, the character will be blown back and crumple, rag-doll-style.
The reasoning behind the inclusion of a small cast of playable characters was a simple matter of gameplay logistics. By having only three distinctly different characters, the game provides a different experience to players and forces them to adjust their strategy according to whomever they chose. A larger roster of characters would have made it difficult for Melbourne House to create different styles of gameplay, especially considering most of the Armada Autobots were cars and other land vehicles. The noticeable exclusion of Jetfire was down to the fact his flight capability would negate much of the challenge in exploring each level whilst using different Mini-Con loadouts.
Melbourne House's Gavin Parker composed much of the in-game music while Rick Formosa provided the music for the cinematic sequences. American band Dropbox and Australian band Regurgitator were recruited to create their versions of the classic Transformers theme song to promote the game, while funk band The Brown Hornet sung over the end credits.
Impressions & sales
The game was well received by critics and fans alike, and is often considered to be the best of all Transformers video games (until War for Cybertron), despite this being damning with faint praise. Some review sites and magazines seemed to reject the game outright for not being based on the Generation One series, though some seemed to begrudgingly accept it due to the gameplay and graphic flair.
The most common actual gameplay-related complaints are the disappointingly small roster of characters, sometimes stiff control, high difficulty level (not born of bad design, the game is just set too tough), and a lack of a "directional" guide resulting in players getting lost in the vast environments.
Transformers was the #7 top-selling game across all consoles for the month of May 2004 — and that's only because the incredibly popular "Red Dead Revolver" was on two different consoles. On the PlayStation 2 alone, Transformers ranked #6. It sold over 600,000 copies by the time the "Directors Cut" was released, although the total was ultimately less than what Atari had hoped for.
Melbourne House had begun work on a sequel based in part upon the Cybertron series. However, according to a member of the Melbourne House team, the Cybertron game was a few months into development but Atari moved the studio onto a different project, effectively nixing the sequel.
- At the game's launch party, Atari's venue served several signature drinks named for the game-exclusive Mini-Cons.
- One of the game's working titles was Transformers Armada: Prelude to Energon.
- Development sketches unlocked in the game show that several characters were ultimately dropped from the original plans. Demolishor was to be a level-boss in the caves, and Tidal Wave's partner Mini-Con Ramjet was going to harass players before they could board the Decepticon battleship.
- Much of the dialogue in the cutscenes are direct references to Transformers The Movie. A notable example is in the introductory cutscene where Megatron, much like his namesake manages to overpower Optimus Prime as his army has conquered most of Cybertron and utters that he 'would have waited an eternity for this!' Another is where Unicron says "Destiny! You cannot destroy my destiny!", before exploding. Also, when selecting Optimus from the character selection, he occasionally says "Till all are one."
- At the end credits of the game, Tidal Wave is doing push-ups while the Decepticon-Clones are all doing jumping jacks. So that's how Decepticons keep in shape.
- Surprisingly, Cyclonus's voice is far more like that of Starscream from the anime. And the Starscream in the game sounds nothing like it does in the anime.