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Okay, Maybe That Does All Fit Down...

I mentioned a while ago that while reviews of the Transformers movie were generally positive, the same couldn't be said of the video game tie-in. Still, of the various versions of the product, the PC version seems to have come in slightly ahead of the others, mainly due to slightly more responsive controls.

A few days ago, I discovered a downloadable demo for the PC version, and naturally downloaded it. I suppose I wanted to find out whether the game was really as mediocre as the reviewers all seemed to hold. I've played through it at least once, and discovered something interesting while I was at it - much like my experience with Grand Theft Auto III, driving a car around is pretty awkward using the keyboard (where touching the keys mapped for "steer left" and "steer right" sends the car into full lock), but if you plug an Xbox 360 controller in (or use a wireless connection device, much as I do), the game suddenly becomes a lot easier to control in either mode (robot or car). The graphics aren't fantastic, but they do the job and they run nicely and smoothly on my rig. Admittedly, the demo only comes with the low-resolution textures, but I didn't find that off-putting - I'm only even more interested to see what the Transformer models look like with hi-res textures.

And damn, it's fun watching Bumblebee transform on command. See, over the past few years I've stopped being a fan of Transformers who can shift mass and size around. I like the idea of a fairly sizeable Transformer who can fit down into a working car disguise without shrinking anything or sending bits of itself into another dimension, and I was pleased to read and hear in interviews with Michael Bay and the special effects team that they were of like mind (so no, fellow Transfans, I don't really want to see big-robot-into-little-cassette-deck Soundwave in any sequel). Thus I was a little disappointed when I first saw Bumblebee fold himself down from big robot to two-seater muscle car in the film; I remember thinking, "Hmm, there's some SFX skullduggery there. He looks like he just got a bit smaller."

But watching Bumblebee swap modes during the game - not to mention being able to get a decent look at him from all angles - I'm revising my opinion. The transformations actually look like all that big robot is actually going into that little car and back out again without having to pull a fast one on the audience.

As for the other criticisms of the game - well, yes, the controls are pretty basic, but having never had the patience to learn even the most basic button combos in Dead or Alive 3 I'm not particularly bothered. Also, I think I grok the fairly basic cutscenes and story in the game - I have no idea whether the designers intended this, but I think that Transformers: The Game is the version of the film for young 'uns whose folks won't take them to see the film (which, let's face it, aims its chrome-plated action and big explosions at the male mid-teen-and-up demographic). The cutscenes leave the story-depth to the movie's story toes and omit a the potentially iffy-with-parents content, i.e. Sam ogling Mikaela or creating the "ladiesman" eBay ID, instead serving as quick establishing pieces - here's where you are, here's the danger, here's how this fight you're in has suddenly changed, go! Combine that with the control scheme that reviewers claim is too basic, and I'd say this title is firmy for kids.

The only strike against it in that regard is the $100-110 price tag across the console systems, which is the main reason I decided not to splurge on the Xbox 360 version. However, the PC version is actually available in most places for $40-50 - so I might see if I can snag a copy this weekend. I can't wait to see how the other Autobots and Decepticons do their thing...

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