Transformers Prime: The Game
Wii | Activision / Now Production | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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4th December 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
The game follows Optimus Prime and the rest of his heroic gang on a quest to learn more about an entity by the name of Thunderwing, whom the Decepticons intend to recruit for their own fiendish ends. The basis for all these happenings is tied to the animated series of the same name (minus "The Game" part, obviously), and as such, you'll learn about the unplayable human characters who also make up Team Prime. Following relatively brief, bot-specific story arcs that eventually converge into one final front, you'll not only be performing rescues, engaging in pseudo-escort missions, escaping from unstable environments and chasing after bad guys on wheels, but also go up against fearsome foes such as Airachnid and Knock Out. Thirteen missions in total step on these grounds of standard mission objectives with both mid-level and dedicated boss encounters, providing enough variation to greatly distance the presence of repetition.
As can be expected, each member of the Autobots team controls differently, with movement speeds and vehicle forms unique to them. The very first stage will partner you up with Optimus, whose movement is rather sluggish, as though he were being weighed down with extra armour. And as far as the transformation aspect goes, roaming around an open space (or a linear one, as the case may be) during Vehicle Mode isn't influenced by the most smooth of motions. These observations are amplified further when taking control of Bulkhead, whereas Arcee and Bumblebee, on the other hand, move much more comfortably. As a result, it is very much within the realm of possibility to push past any doubts that may be had in the initiation and look forward to the systems that are more effectively embodied by other members of Team Prime.
The major commonality across the different characters that is of importance to the player is that the controls remain consistent, which helps affirm a sense of stability. The model is one that caters to combat-based mechanics, as per the action-oriented content that the game identifies with. Melee attacks have been assigned to shakes of the Wii Remote, and just in reading that I'm sure some will immediately have a feeling of worry set in -- and rightly so, considering how many times motion controls have all but shattered one's ability to grab the horns of a troublesome system. Allaying some of these worries is the general responsiveness of your motions, but you'll find that with pretty much all the characters the combat feels...not lifeless, but not solidly grounded either -- in the sense that not only are they not the most intuitive, but the delivery produces very little in the way of satisfaction. Seeing as combos are tied to back-to-back shakes of the controller, it most definitely raises an eyebrow, but there are other aspects to the control system that present their own problems.
The B Button is used to fire a shot from your arm cannon, and by holding it down you can continue to do so automatically. To execute a charge shot, though, you must quickly press the B Button a second time and hold it down. You'll often fiddle with charge shots and automatic fire, and though there is a green field that appears near the body of your character to differentiate the former from the latter, it becomes clear this wasn't the best decision. Also meddlesome is the manual camera system. There are generally few issues to speak of with how the camera angles fluctuate during play, with one of the only exceptions being when an enemy traps you in a corner. Even still, there will be times when you may wish to affect the camera to better see what's behind you, and this can be done through use of the D-Pad. Unfortunately, this is not an independent feature. Changing the camera will affect movement at the same time, which in other words means that you can't, for example, keep moving in a straight line while looking to the side. Looking down is also out of the question, so if you're firing at an enemy from a platform up above, you may have a blind spot that you can't pull yourself out of without abandoning your view of the target.
Downplaying the depth to the system is the presence of defense-penetrating moves that, when in close-range, require you to hold down A on the third or fifth execution (or shake) of a melee move. Why it doesn't add to the combat effectively is largely because players will still feel the same about the method of delivery. It certainly isn't an unreasonable request, but it's still a somewhat finicky requisite for these attack phases to have, and I'm pretty sure there could've been another way to ensure these are better supplied. Perhaps it might be easier to forgive if there was an on-screen indicator that showed the growth of the combo multiplier as it happened. That way it would be a little easier to track. But it still wouldn't change the motion controls being lacking in visceral effect.
Related to these points, a green bar in the top-left corner of the screen will progressively fill up as your enemies take on damage until it maxes out, at which point you can press A and B at the same time to trigger a limited-time upgrade. Under this mode, you can deliver more devastating blows with the help of a weapon add-on while also extending the limits of your combo. Admittedly, these finishers are much more exciting and as a result, players can feel a measure of satisfaction in their delivery of these attacks. But the feelings on their general lack of spontaneity still linger.
Of similar note is the presence of a lock-on system (mapped to the Z Button) and the complications that can arise simply by making use of something that should theoretically make things easier for you. The most obvious concern is how this impacts aerial fire. Even when a target reticule is fixed on an enemy a few feet away, if you choose to jump and fire a charged shot, it'll often go past the enemy without damaging it at all. This isn't always the case, but the point of this not always being a reliable mechanism is a tad irritating. Similarly annoying is when the system automatically links up to an explosive object as a preference over pursuing enemies, because while you can adjust the targets with the D-Pad, it's often time you don't have. This is especially true if the enemy is coming from the side or behind you and the camera then must adjust, leaving you with about a split-second to re-calibrate your vision.
There are also cases where secondary enemies during a boss fight will interfere with your ability to concentrate on the primary target, or when homing in on targets during Vehicle Mode might send you accidentally careening over an edge, and these just get in the way of your being able to engage effectively. Of course, there are some good elements to the system, such as how it lends to the use of a cover-based defense method to conceal yourself from ranged attacks. But the disruptions often fostered by the mechanism do get under your skin. Since we're on the subject: The HUD provides enough direction so that younger players will be able to find their way pretty easily (with the exception of one mission where a path was obscured by rubble), and there are markers set to appear when you're being targeted. But it is missing a boost gauge for chase missions, during which players will be pressing Down on the D-Pad frequently.
Younger players will find the overall difficulty to be not too thick that they can't feel competent in their abilities to overcome mid-level challenges, such as switch-activated doors; defeating groups of enemies (some of which could display better AI); or crossing gaps by using Vehicle Jump, which, when having to execute this multiple times over a short space, isn't always quick to revert you back to form. But as you can get a pretty good idea for yourself by what's already been considered, there is plenty of room for upset as well. The absolute worst setting whereby the challenge escalates to a place of potentially unbalanced gameplay is during boss fights. I will put forth this preamble and say that these encounters provoke tensity by design, and as such, players both young and old will find their hearts racing during these fights. However, sometimes these palpitations are prompted for wrong reasons.
Preserving health pick-ups and learning to activate your shield at the right moment are absolutely essential strategies to adopt, because you'll definitely find that a majority of these bosses are made frustrating excursions because of the tactics they employ. Some of them absolutely pulverize you when they are low on health and given the chance, using ridiculous combos that you can't bounce back from easily, if at all. The second-to-last boss fight is particularly unfair at times, with opportunities for combos being speedily cut short. You are encouraged to activate Vehicle Mode at the right time as a recovery tactic, but I'm positive most won't get it to work when they need it most. Really, throughout the entire game, this is a regular thing you have to deal with, and while I did enjoy the boss fights for what they brought to the table, some of them just aren't designed well for younger audiences and will doubtlessly be the root cause of stinted progress by such groups of players.
Transformers Prime: The Game may not be the most graphically inspired game, what with its traditional-looking locales and level designs that perpetuate some of the clunky mechanics. But it does have a nice surface look to it that touches on every facet, from the well-built character models to the always steady framerate. They've also done a fine job with the voice acting...with some exceptions (e.g., "You will never reach the children!"). One thing that bugged me a bit was the use of cutscenes, how they would be triggered for a downed barrier after the area was cleared of surrounding enemies. But at least they're not always abrupt and can usually see them coming -- a dead end is a pretty good sign, wouldn't you say?
I don't foresee the campaign lasting anyone more than three hours, but there are artifacts that can be collected to unlock character bios and concept artwork, a list of emblems that you'll likely meet most of the conditions for by the time you complete the final mission, and letter grades that can be improved through faster times and limiting damage intake. What helps the game's replay value is the presence of a multiplayer mode, wherein you'll find three different gameplay types to participate in over single- or two-player settings (with CPU's being up for consideration as well). These involve free-for all, point, and carry-the-object-type matches, with five different arenas to play on. Battles can get pretty crazy regardless of what mode you're in, but in the case of Emblem Battle, it's hard to form a winning strategy when the limitations put upon the leading player feel extremely limiting. I will also say that the unfair advantages that some of the bosses use to their advantage in Story Mode carry over to multiplayer. While I thought it was fun to toy with the evil entities, they appear overpowered, especially those with flight-type characteristics. But then again, controlling planes and helicopters is also at the cost of some bad controls and a less flexible form of the lock-on system, so perhaps it evens out in the end.
Reflecting on my experience with the game and thinking about how younger players in particular will respond, I won't be so quick to recommend this game, and I say that because despite my positive perception of certain attributes, the dominating qualities are more in favor of dissatisfaction. Seeing as a considerable part of the frustration stems from the boss fights, it's good to know, moving away from those, that the standard levels are of a good quality and put you in situations that can be rather fun. It's a shame that the combat and the mechanics don't bear an especially meritorious quality. But that being said, the good qualities come close to tipping the scale in contrast to the somewhat careless implementation. And so, to those looking for a fun, action-oriented title for kids or themselves, while the game's flaws will prevent you from having a thrilling time or viewing it as an especially memorable creation, the overall outcome of Transformers Prime: The Game is one yielding a mixture of enough good elements to be worth considering.
19/30 - Good
Gameplay 6/10 - Combat isn't the best but can be managed, problems stemming from controls and the lock-on mechanism, bosses aren't balanced well
Presentation 7/10 - Manipulating the camera will prove disadvantageous, looks great in certain areas, overall look is pleasing, cutscenes can irritate
Enjoyment 3/5 - Variety minimizes repetition greatly, will be exposed to some fun situations, boss battles can be a source of much frustration
Extra Content 3/5 - Collectibles to seek out along the way, unlockable bonuses, multiplayer modes are mostly fun but also have issues
Equivalent to a score of 63% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System