Transformers Prime - The Game Review
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On 12/05/2012 at 12:32 PM by Jon Lewis
I present to you - the Matrix of Mediocrity
For younger Transformers fans.
As a fan of the television series Transformers Prime, I have to admit that part of me enjoyed parts of this game that is clearly aimed for a much younger audience. Earlier this year, I got my Transformers fix with High Moon’s Fall of Cybertron, but I felt that Prime had an opportunity to do justice to a different part of Transformers lore. The universes are both part of Hasbro’s initiative to create continuity within the cannon and not only that, but a dark and grittier tone is also shared by both. After playing Transformers: Prime however, I was left disappointed.
Let's start with what this game gets right. I have to say that I was pretty happy that it does keep the intro from the television show, which I think is pretty awesome. Anyway, once you start up the game, you have single and multiplayer options. Single player puts you in the shoes of the primary Autobots of the series, Arcee, Bulkhead, Bumblebee, Ratchet, and of course, Optimus Prime. Each mission lasts between 7 to 10 minutes and there are about 13 missions total, making for a pretty short game overall.
As I said before, part of me enjoyed this game. It offers some decent fan service to the television show, and pretty decent combat. The production values for this game are definitely above what you might expect for a game based off of a television show. This is evident in the solid gameplay, the surprisingly competitive multiplayer and the return of the voice actors from the series.
In story mode, each mission is pretty straight-forward. You take control of the given Autobot and must defeat enemies as you progress through a stage. Combat is based on a lock-on system; players will lock on to enemies that they can shoot, or attack up close with melee attacks. There are only a few combos available, so don’t expect anything too deep, but what’s there works well on an elementary level. Charging up the blaster is a bit cumbersome, since it asks you to double tap the RZ Trigger, and then hold rather than just holding down the trigger. Ultimately, it's simple and effective. Every stage has some hidden collectibles, and a few goals attached to it for completionists to engage with. These aren’t the most engaging of goals, but just enough to satisfy someone looking for a little extra to do.
Each character has a unique style to their attacks which is a nice detail. Arcee is small and quick while Bulkhead is slow, but durable. Players will likely find a favorite that they might want to try in the game's surprisingly fun multiplayer. There is also an ability called Upgrade, which is a power boost that characters can access to make their attacks more powerful and their weapons more effective.
The game does a decent job recreating the atmosphere of the show. While it doesn’t look quite as good, the experience is salvaged by the return of the voice cast and familiar level designs. While most areas are new, they do look like they belong in the universe for the most part. Lastly, one huge plus is the Wii U’s ability to play the game on the Wii U GamePad screen. For me this made playing through the game a lot easier since I didn’t have to dedicate all of my attention to the game during the more boring sections.
While there is a decent amount of quality to this title with the voice acting and simple but effective gameplay, there are a lot of missteps that make it much more of a cash-in rather than a fully fleshed out game. This is especially noticeable when you are looking at it as a Wii U title. As stated before, the visuals are a huge disadvantage. It’s clear that this game was made for the Wii and ported over to Wii U and up-scaled to HD, rather than being built with a stronger engine. Character models look accurate, but ultimately unimpressive in the grand scheme of things. Environments in particular lack detail and are very bland and forgettable. Most stages will put you in areas that are straight forward, and as you walk (or drive) through them, you notice everything looks plain. You have levels based off of deserts, and volcanoes and military bases, but overall they lack any qualities that make them memorable.
Gameplay, while not broken, is very boring. Combat comes down to mashing out combos and fighting with an incompetent aiming system. Some characters move slower than others, so even doing things like strafing can be a hassle. There are also driving sections in the game which aren't all that great. While in a regular zone you can transform and drive normally; these specific sections ask you to drive using the motion on the GamePad. While they aren’t exactly difficult, it's not necessarily a good use of motion control, or even fun for that matter. This is because the steering isn’t as responsive as it could be. With no way to adjust how sensitive the motion control is for these sections, it becomes something that you end up having to deal with to progress. I wouldn’t blame the motion control potential of the Wii U, but it’s easy to say that steering isn’t its best usage. Despite the issues it has, these sections don’t drag on too long.
The plot of the game is also too basic for its own good. The series does a good job of making a kids' show that has a dark and interesting narrative to keep people invested. The game however does a simple plot around a herald of Unicron named Thunderwing. Megatron wants to harness his power, and the Autobots need to stop him. It’s as simple as that. This is a shame since the show provides something much more interesting (especially since they bring up Unicron). There was an opportunity to get into some good content, but they ultimately fail at creating anything too engaging.
One of the game's saving graces, the multiplayer, could have been something that took this game's enjoyment level higher. There are three modes: Brawl, Battle for Energon, and Emblem match. Brawl is your standard arena beat-em-up, while Battle for Energon and Emblem Match provide for a pretty interesting multiplayer offering. In Battle for Energon, you gain points for each kill, and lose points for being killed, making point value the primary goal. In Emblem Match, players grab hold of an emblem and have to hold it for a certain amount of time in the match to win. In a party setting, these modes can be pretty hectic and fun, especially with a younger crowd; sadly, they're not online-enabled.
Overall, I give Transformers Prime some credit. It does represent a good show, and for the younger audience, I think there is a lot of fun to be had. It’s a shame that the Wii U version of the game didn’t get many features to help distinguish it from the Wii version. The HD graphics and being able to use the Gamepad to play the game make it the better of the two versions, but it’s not as much of an upgrade as it could have gotten. For older Transformers fans, one could do much better, whether you are a fan of the Prime series or not. Younger Transformers fans might find something enjoyable here, even if it’s short lived.