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Transformers: Autobots

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1; 2 - 4 (Multicard)
Genre: Action/ Free-Roaming/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Transformers: Autobots looks pretty good considering the DS' graphical capabilities. This open-world game (that should say a lot right there) has a good bit of variation between different road vehicles and buildings to keep each location from looking like a badly repeating texture.

The first two locations, Casino Strip and Tranquility, are both bustling cities, but not only do they look different enough from each other that you shouldn't get them confused, but the various streets and areas within those cities look distinct enough to keep you moving in the right direction.

Also, the main transformers (i.e. Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Barricade, etc.) all look pretty close to their movie counterparts. While the system doesn't have the capabilities to reproduce their design on the level that the PS3 and 360 can, you can still make out very distinctive traits (like Bumblebee's doors mounted on his back like wings).

The sound isn't all that bad either, again when you consider this is a DS game. While text scrolls across the screen, you are treated to some voice-acting (though I don't know if it is the same actors as from the movie) reading off the lines, and sound effects seem to be pretty dead on. While playing next to Starscream (the reviewer, not the Transformer), who reviewed the Decepticon version (of course), he couldn't help but notice the distinctive laser sound from the original TV-series.


When I first heard that the DS version of Transformers was going to come in two flavors, Autobots and Decepticons, I was very curious. How would they handle this? Would it be in a Pokemon style where the two games are the same and there are only slight differences (the obvious one being which side of the war you are on), or would it be the same story from two perspectives (a story-telling device I have always loved and applauded). The answer is a mix of the two.

Transformers: Autobots brings you in on the side of the good-guys. Your character is a wet behind the gears Autobot sent to Earth to help the war effort and stop Megatron and the Decepticons from getting the AllSpark. Instead of playing as one of the main Autobots throughout the entire story, you play as your personalized Transformer in most missions and level up his various stats by completing missions and destroying Decepticons.

Each open-world location has a series of missions that fall into two categories, Challenge and Story. As you would expect, Story missions follow events from the movie and continue the overall plot. You are rarely in control of your personal-bot during these missions. Instead you take control of one of the main characters from the movie and face off against another main enemy. The Challenge missions aren't required to complete the game or even advance the story, but if you want to level up your Autobot to help the effort in the Battle for the AllSpark mode, you will want to play through them.

For the most part, it seems like both versions of the games try to portray the same story from different perspectives, but when compared side-by-side, you get the feeling that the game was more of a model-swap than a true multi-perspective story. For instance, both games have a fight between Bumblebee and Barricade. In the Autobots version, our little yellow car drives up to Barricade's location, the two exchange a few words and then Bumblebee chases the police car throughout the city to end in a climactic (and hard as hell) fight. While watching Starscream play his version, I was expecting to see Barricade get approached by Bumblebee and have to escape from him. Instead I saw pretty much the same sequence of events take place. Barricade approaches Bumblebee, he chases Bumblebee and they fight. I was pretty disappointed by this. But I also found it odd that the fighting part of the mission was different between the versions. In the Decepticons version, the fight is broken up by a series of chases, making the overall effort seem less dragged-out. This confused me even more because it felt like if the developers would put the effort into making the missions different, they could have also put in the effort to make the two stories line up (i.e. have whoever is being chased be consistent between the two stories).

There are a few other aspects of the game that just seems to make sense in the Decepticon version and not the Autobots. While running around the city, the more human things you destroy (cars, trees, lights, etc.), the higher your threat level rises. In the Decepticons game, if you get it too high, Autobots come after you. In the Autobots version, its Decepticons. To me, this seemed odd - why would the evil robots have a problem with you destroying the humans' stuff? This and several other aspects of the game made me feel like the Decepticons version was of a higher priority and Autobots was more of an after-thought.

With the two versions of the game, you get a couple of other benefits though. These are in the multiplayer games. There are two multiplayer games, Deathmatch and Capture the Flag. Which team you are on depends on which version of the game you have. This is a nice twist and makes a lot of the multiplayer setup easier.

The other mode that is of interest is Battle for the AllSpark. Here everyone uploads their Transformer's stats to a centralized server and compare it with everyone else. That might not sound too interesting, until you see that your stats combined with all of the other stats from your side of the war will help determine which side is currently winning. Its a nice little thing, but it takes no time to do, and its interesting enough to actually participate.


Transformers: Autobots's biggest issue is difficulty. The Challenge missions are typically really easy and really help to up your character's levels. The random encounters with generic Decepticons are typically easy to overcome and usually not even worth the effort. Yet the Story missions, typically the ones that end in a boss battle, are overly difficult.

I can't tell you how many times I had my trunk handed to me in that fight between Barricade and Bumblebee. Your lasers do hardly any damage, while their weapons take out a non-trivial chunk of your life. This means that you need to get in close and use your melee attacks. Unfortunately, these boss Decepticons aren't lacking in power in that department either. I found myself attempting these missions over and over again and it seems like the only time I was able to get past them was by luck, not skill. It was during these boss fights that I really got mad at the game and it caused me to put it down more times than I like. I'm not sure how much of this type of balance issue shows up in the Decepticons version, but I do remember Starscream getting past that same event a lot faster than I did.

Game Mechanics:

Controls in Transformers: Autobots are okay, but take a lot of getting used to. Since you start off being able to only transform into a car, I was expecting standard car controls while transformed.

I was expecting either the shoulder buttons for acceleration and brake, or the (B) and (Y) buttons. Instead, (B) is the accelerator and (L) is the break. This odd mix of the two feels very awkward. The (Y) button is used to shoot your weapon, and because of its proximity to the (B) and your typical desire to hold down the gas while shooting, firing your weapon while driving is even more awkward. These controls make a little more sense when in other forms like the helicopter, but overall, it just doesn't feel right.

In the end, Transformers: Autobots is really only a game for fans. Its open-world setup is very nicely done and the possibility of the same story from different angles is intriguing, but the game's difficulty issues make it very unreachable for the less than enthused. If you are still considering picking up this game, then I would recommend the Decepticons version over the Autobots, since things just seem to make more sense in that flavor.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Sony PlayStation Portable Legend of the Dragon Nintendo DS Transformers: Decepticons

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated