Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Transformers: Megatron Face-Off

I should state right off the bat that I was never a big fan of the Transformers. Sure, they were cool - no young boy could say no to robots that turned into things and fought each other - but they were a product of the Eighties. I, as a child of the Nineties, was too young to watch He-Man when it was still a blatant twenty-five minute action figure commercial and too old to experience the untold violence wreaked by Pokemon cards. So, although I've always appreciated the show and once owned a Transformers action figure, I've never been a fanboy for it. That's why when the first live action Transformers movie came out I was willing to give it a shot. But I should have known it was going to be a steaming pile of donkey dung as soon I saw the words "A Michael Bay Film" written across the screen.

OK, I know it's easy to make fun of Michael Bay films and that everyone does it. But have you ever thought to ask why? Well, one look at his past credits should answer that question. From the lard-like dripping sentiment of Armageddon to the "Golden Hour only" shoot of Bad Boys 2, Bay's movies have been full of style but lacking substance. That his first director credit listed on IMDB is Playboy Video Centerfold: Kerri Kendall should tell you everything you need to know.

Anyway, Transformers. One of the few things Michael Bay does better than anyone else is blow shit up. So you would have thought a film based around giant robots beating the tar out of each other would have been simple for him. Yet, somehow he still managed to screw it up! How? Because apparently none of the test audiences wanted to see CG robots fighting. No, they wanted to see Shia LeBeouf running away from the robots! Oh, and when we do get to see the actual robot wars, make sure to shoot everything with shaky, handheld cameras and extreme close-ups, like Optimus Prime was suddenly Optimus Bourne.

Anyway, I digress... a lot. The inevitable sequel, Revenge of the Fallen, is set to explode in our faces on June 24th, but while we wait for that car crash clusterfuck, let's play Megatron Face-Off!

The game is a pretty straightforward beat-'em-up. Megatron is chasing after Sam Witwicky yet again (because God forbid we make the Transformers the main focus - sorry) and it's up to you to stop him. You can choose to fight with Ironhide or Bumblebee at first, with Optimus Prime becoming available should you beat the game. This implies that the game's designers thought people would want to play it more than once. Hey, you can't fault their optimism.

It doesn't really matter who you pick, as they all have similar controls, including the same special move. In all honesty, Ironhide probably looks too much like Megatron for you to easily tell them apart, so you may prefer to play as Bumblebee.

Regardless of who you use, they're all poorly drawn, including Megatron. OK, so there's nothing technically bad about the way they look. But there's something about them that just doesn't sit right, like they're all cardboard cut-outs fed into Flash and made to perform stiff, jerky movements.

The backgrounds are nice, but they just emphasise how out of place the robots feel and how poorly composed they are.

The game also breaks the cardinal rule of beat-'em-ups by having really bad controls. Hit detection is hard to see, and though you only have two attack buttons you'll be bashing them as if this was UFC Undisputed. The AI sucks; more often than not Megatron will stand there throwing punches into the air, allowing you to step back to a safe distance and pound him down with your special attack.

All of the characters, including Megatron, have some kind of laser attack. You'll be using yours a lot, mainly because it's the fastest and easiest way to win. While you can easily dodge Megatron's blasts (on the rare occasions he uses it and doesn't just beat up nothing) he doesn't seem too fazed by you blowing chunks of armour off of him until he falls down. It sort of subtracts from Megatron's menace when, every time you beat him, he stands back up as if someone is inflating him with helium and then flies off into the sky.

If you ever needed proof that Michael Bay doesn't give a rat's ass about Optimus Prime, this picture should put away any doubts. There's just something about this depiction of Optimus that makes him look like a wimp. Maybe it's that he's airbrushed more than Beyonce Knowles, but just putting him side by side with Megatron makes you realise why he needed Shia to save his ass at the end of the first Transformers flick.

On the bright side, he does have his kickass laser sword, so at least that's something. Nobody can look like a pansy when they're swinging around a blade of pure energy.


Transformers: Megatron face-Off is a perfectly fine game if you really love Transformers and/or bad beat-'em-ups. Otherwise, it's as bad as a Michael Bay script and had about as much thought put into it. If you're desperate for your Transformers fix, my advice is to close the curtains, grab your action figures and create your own robot spectacular. Hey, it's not like you could do any worse than the other guy.

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