The main version of Transformers, coming to PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, and PC, consists of two separate, entirely self-sufficient single-player campaigns. One centers around the forces of the good guy Autobots, and essentially corresponds to the plot of the feature film, while the other centers around the Autobots' nemeses the Decepticons and presents a hypothetical turn of events by which the Decepticons succeed in their nefarious objectives.
Each campaign is structured fairly linearly and plays out according to a strongly defined storyline, but most of the environments within that linear structure are open and mission-driven, giving players plenty of room to stomp around cities and military bases causing havoc and completing objectives before proceeding on to the next area in accordance with the plot. Some early reports mischaracterized the game as a Grand Theft Auto-style sandbox game, but Activision reps were quick to state that game is rather a linear plot-driven game with large environments.
While the game, like the Bay film, roots its narrative in the lives of its two human protagonists, actual gameplay is presented solely from the perspective of the Autobots and Decepticons themselves. Activision reps noted that though the two opposing campaigns overlap chronologically, their mission objectives and geographical locations are entirely distinct.
From the perspective of human society, despite the Autobots' noble intentions, it appears that whichever side wins, we lose. Buildings are entirely destructible, and Activision reps had no qualms about taking full advantage of that gameplay feature while playing as either side. As a massive Transformer, most objects can be thrown or destroyed, including signposts, dumpsters, cars, and buildings. The game's target lock feature can be used to toss things into enemies, a strategy that can be necessary at times. In one of the game's first boss battles, Autobot Bumblebee faces off against Decepticon Barricade, whose defenses seem nearly impervious to Bumblebee's missiles and shotgun-like weapon. Pelting the foe with heavy objects from the environment will startle him into lowering his guard, however, at which point he is more vulnerable for a few moments.
Each Transformer is armed with a primary and secondary weapon, both of which are accessible in either of its two forms. In the Bay incarnation of the franchise, all Transformers transform into vehicles of some kind, with Autobots tending towards civilian vehicles and the Decepticons towards military hardware. "In general, Autobots tend to be cars," explained an Activision rep. "GM cars," he added, laughing. Autobot Bumblebee transforms into a Camaro. In total, nine Transformers are playable in the game, four in the Autobot campaign and five in the Decepticon campaign. While most Transformers are better suited to combat in their robot configuration, some missions are structured to take advantage of vehicle forms, such as a Decepticon mission that has Blackout bombing a remote desert military base as a missile-wielding helicopter. Other playable Transformers include Optimus Prime, Megatron, Scorponok, Ironhide, Starscream, and the aforementioned Barricade, leaving one more yet unrevealed character.
Savage Entertainment's Transformers on PSP will feature similar third-persion action gameplay to its home console cousins, but will feature only one campaign. Rather than splitting the story into an Autobot plotline and a hypothetical Decepticon plotline, the PSP version alternates between player control of the Autobots and player control of the Decepticons depending on the needs of the narrative. Its missions are more straightforwardly linear than those of the home console games, which are set in fairly open environments.
Few further details were shared regarding the PSP game, but it is known to feature some exclusive content. While the home console game features nine playable total Transformers, the PSP version features no less than twenty split between the two factions. It also contains four versus-style multiplayer modes playable via local wi-fi.
According to Activision reps, gameplay on Vicarious Visions' Nintendo DS version of the game is more similar to the home console games with their open environments and mission-driven structure. This comes as little surprise from Vicarious Visions, which tends to be more ambitios with the DS than most studios; the company's upcoming Spider-Man 3 on DS features a nonlinear city structure, a first for the portable series.
Taking a page from the Pokemon school of game sales marketing, the DS version will come in two flavors--Transformers: Autobots and Transformers: Decepticons, each one of course featuring a campaign centered around the corresponding faction. In a surprising twist, the player's choice of version actually has an effect on a broad war being fought individually on Nintendo DS systems worldwide.
Vicarious Visions has always taken fuller advantage of the DS' Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection online service than any other third party developer, and it looks to cement that reputation with Transformers on DS, which will allow players to download a new challenge from the developer's server every day. Players' performance on these challenges will be recorded by the studio and continuously tracked on the game's official website, allowing players to keep tabs on which faction has the upper hand at any given moment.
Also included in the DS verison of the game is a Create-a-Bot mode, modeled off of Tony Hawk's Create-a-Skater feature, allowing players to visually customize the vehicles into which their Transformers transform. Like the PSP game, the DS version includes local wireless multiplayer modes.
Activision plans to release Transformers: The Game this summer. It is being developed by Traveller's Tales for PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, and PC; by Vicarious Visions for Nintendo DS; and by Savage Entertainment for PSP.