In the world of comic books, television and toys, the Transformers stand tall as one of the most enduring, beloved and successful franchises of all time. And now, opening next month, Director Michael Bay and Executive Producer Steven Spielberg are bringing the Transformers franchise to the silver screen in a new, big-budget movie. Of course, nothing goes better with a Hollywood action movie blockbuster than a blockbuster video game and that's just what the team at Activision are doing – creating a game based on the franchise and the new movie. Recently, CBR News attended an exclusive preview of "Transformers: The Game" at a secret Santa Monica location to bring you all the exciting details.
In many cases when people think about video games based on extremely popular franchises or on big Hollywood movies, there's a tendency to dismiss the game as a marketing gimmick or a way for the studio to squeeze a bit more money out of a franchise. And, along with that, often the actual game suffers or seems thrown together and rushed without much regard for its playability as a game or its overall quality. Consequently, hard-core gamers tend to dismiss many games based on Hollywood movies as not worth their time and effort. Fortunately for video game fans and fans of the Transformers, that's not the case with Transformers: The Game.
With this game, the team at Activision tasked with bringing the game to a waiting public are not only avid gamers themselves who first set out to make the best game possible, they are huge Tansformers fans, too. Consequently, they worked extremely hard to ensure that this project would not only become a great game but would satisfy both gamers and Transformers fans alike. "We're huge fans of the Transformers," Daniel Suarez, Exec. Producer of the game at Activision told CBR News, "and we're thrilled to be able to work on this game. We have so much love for these characters since we were kids so we really put our heart and soul into it. It's great to see all of that work finally coming to fruition with the upcoming release of the game."
To help make sure Activision and the Transformers: The Game development team were able to achieve the level of game play they wanted and make the best Transformers game possible to satisfy the demands of the public and themselves, Suarez started with three guiding principals everything else put into the game would follow. "Scale, Destruction and Transformation is what we were striving for," said Suarez. "You're a giant robot roaming the streets with these great weapons and on top of that you can change into these really cool other forms. Everything else in the game comes from these three things that we had to get right." Another way in which Suarez and his team were able to make sure they were on the right track when developing the game was to work very closely with the film's production team and Director Michael Bay.
"We got together with Dreamworks and Michael Bay," said Suarez, "and they just said you know how to make a game and we know how to make a movie so tell us what you need and we'll make it happen." Suarez and his team were impressed and also relieved to receive this level of cooperation from the film's production team. Relieved, because sometimes, that level of cooperation doesn't always happen. "We were concerned at first, but after those first couple meetings it was clear to everyone we were all working for the same thing. Once we had that trust factor established, the studio people opened up to us and didn't treat us as an unwanted presence but instead, they treated us as part of the team," said Suarez.
In fact, not only were they able to work very closely with the studio and the film's production team, when it came time to design the look of the Transformers that appear in the game, Activision got an unprecedented level of help form the film's visual effects team at ILM as well. "At first we were worried that the guys at ILM would be a jaded bunch, but they ended up really coming through for us in so many ways," said Suarez. One of those ways in which ILM came through for the Activision team was by providing them with some very special items that allowed Activision to make the Transformers in the game look as good as possible and really showcase the power of the next-gen consoles: the actual Transformers models used by ILM for the film.
"Getting those models was a huge deal," said Suarez, "it really helped give us something to work towards and made us push that much harder to get the look we, and the fans, would be happy with." All of these elements of design, cooperation and yes, even a bit of love, have gone into the game to help ensure that not only will it look and play great, but it will satisfy the huge Transformers fan base who expect their favorite Autobot or Decipticon to be a particular way. And once fans see the game, they won't be disappointed.
The graphics of the game are quite stunning, giving the Transformers a very realistic 3D look and feel and showcasing the great work done by the ILM model makers and the artists at Activision. But even though the game is designed to take full advantage of the next-gen graphic capabilities of consoles such as the XBox 360 and the Sony PS3, players who choose to play the game on the Sony PSP or the Nintendo DS shouldn't feel left out. In fact, Activision put forth a great deal of effort to ensure that players will still get an exciting, satisfying and unique gaming experience while playing on those devices.
"We included some special elements unique to the PSP and the DS versions," Rob Caminos, Writer/Producer for the DS version of the game told CBR news, "Elements such as cooperative multi-play, the ability to create your own Transformers characters and change colors and forms are part of the DS version. On the PSP, there's the capability of local net multiplayer gaming, among other things." You can also take part in the "Battle for the Allspark" online and rank your performance against other players using the DS version. All of this together makes for exciting game play even on non next-gen platforms and helps players who choose those platforms enjoy the game as much as possible.
The story and characters of this particular game were also approached with the same attention to detail as the graphics and other elements and even though this game is similar in many ways to others, it also has some unique differences. One of the major differences between this game and others is that you have the opportunity to play as either a good guy or a bad guy -- and have a fully realized adventure as either one. When you first start the game, you choose between playing the benevolent Autobots or the evil, treacherous Decipticons. Then, you continue on your chosen side for the rest of the game.
Not only that, but this game is also one of the first, if not the first, where not only can you play as a bad guy but can win the entire game as one, too. Making sure you can play and win the game, even if you do decide to be bad, presented an interesting dilemma for the game's producers when they first started working on the game. "When we first got together with Hasbro to talk about the game, they told us about the huge, yet divided, Transformers fan base," said Suarez. "Some people like to be good and some people like to be bad so we had to make sure to accommodate that in the game. No other Transformers game has given you that choice before."
And once you've decided on a side, you begin the game following a storyline that contains many elements familiar to fans of the franchise. The story is also similar to the upcoming movie, but provides many other elements and backstory not found in the film. "The game is a great opportunity to explore story elements and characters we just didn't have time for in the movie," Tom DeSanto, Producer of the Transformers film told CBR news. "It's great that we are able to bring those elements to the game so that after you leave the theater, you can continue the adventure at home in the game."
The game takes place in what Activision calls an "Open world city style" where you have some freedom to roam around the maps, but you also progress through linear missions on each level as well to advance through the game. As you defeat the various bosses and complete the linear missions and advance, several other Transformers characters are unlocked for you to play along the way. If you're playing the game as an Autobot, your potential characters include: Jazz, Ironhide and even Autobot leader Optimus Prime. If you've decided to play the bad guys, however, your choices range from Starscream to Barricade to Decipticon leader Megatron.
Plus, as an added treat for fans of classic "Gen 1" Transformers, you also have the capability to unlock a few different, yet familiar, characters, including Optimus Prime – who, once you can see him, looks more like his old eighteen-wheeled self. Finally, as you move through the linear missions of the game and get the chance to play more a more characters – up to nine total in the game -- you eventually face the ultimate challenge and battle for possession of the Allspark, the source of ultimate power for all Transformers.
So, in the upcoming battle of good versus evil, which side will you choose? Will you join with Optimus Prime and rollout with the Autobots or will you take a different path and join Megatron and the Decipticons in a battle with the Autobots for control of the Allspark? Whichever you choose, the outcome is up to you as you fight for the survival of not only your friends but that of the planet Earth and the humans who inhabit it. Transformers: The Game rolls out on June 27th for next-gen consoles Xbox 360 and PS3 as well as the Wii, PSP and Nintendo DS.
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