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‘Transformers’ fails to translate

For a franchise whose tagline reads “more than meets the eye,” Activision’s new Xbox 360 title Transformers: The Game doesn’t provide much more than initial curb appeal with eye-catching explosions and rudimentary game play.

The game, based on this summer’s blockbuster movie directed by Michael Bay, is not necessarily bad. It features all the chaos and mayhem you would expect from a game based on giant transforming robots; however, after a few hours of repetitive robot-on-robot combat and tedious chase scenes, it becomes clear that Transformers: The Game is just another in the long line of shallow, unimaginative titles created solely for the purpose of cashing in on a popular movie franchise.

One of the most entertaining aspects of the game is the ability to play through a full – although short – campaign for either the Autobots, the group of robots trying to protect Earth, and the Decepticons, their arch-rivals bent on destroying the planet.

Each campaign allows the player to control various transformers from the movie, including the legendary Optimus Prime of the Autobots and Megatron of the Decepticons. The in-game models of the transformers themselves are easily the most impressive aspect of the game. Watching the highly detailed transformers speed around a city rendered in beautiful next-generation graphics while changing from vehicle to robot form and back again is very entertaining for a while. But looks can only take you so far.

The title’s game play consists mainly of driving or flying from point to point in an open-ended Grand Theft Auto-style city, destroying whatever opposing transformers you encounter once you reach your destination. The first few battles can be quite enjoyable, thanks to the game’s fully destructible environments, which allow you to blast holes in buildings and wield light posts and cars as weapons. However, the combat becomes boring rather quickly, as the majority of the enemies look identical and the process for defeating them is always the same.

The developers tried to throw in some variety between battles with chase levels in which you must follow specific vehicles around the map as they attempt to escape. These levels can be entertaining as they allow you to use unique shortcuts and jumps hidden throughout the map, but the game’s loose driving controls and unrealistic collision mechanics often make them more irritating than entertaining.

As far as the storyline goes, Transformers does feature quality voice-acting in the cut scenes and during the game play. However, the developers’ desire to not give away too much of the movie means that the story often comes across as vague, and there are several parts where you’ll have to bring up your objectives screen to remind you of exactly what you’re trying to accomplish.

Ultimately, Transformers: The Game can provide the average action game fan with a few hours of entertainment, but not much more than that. It can be quite fun running around blowing up buildings as a three-story-tall robot, but that excitement only lasts for so long. After you get bored with watching how cool it looks when a giant robot seamlessly changes into a combat helicopter or a shiny yellow Camaro, you realize that there’s not much more to the game than repetitive robot battles and tedious driving missions.