Version tested Xbox 360
Contrary to what the slogans will tell you, these Transformers offer exactly what meets the eye. This is a game-of-the-film so beholden to formula that you can probably finish the review in your head right now, without even playing the thing. Did you imagine repetitive gameplay, uninspired missions and shiny characters stomping around a strangely inert and lifeless gameworld? If so, give yourself a biscuit.
Marginally better than the horrible 2007 Transformers effort, developer Luxoflux has addressed some of the more glaring problems but sadly hasn't managed to apply the same sheen that made its Kung Fu Panda game such a nice surprise. The problem of how to balance a game that needs offer third-person action, plus driving and flying, all within the narrative and time constraints of a blockbuster movie remains unsolved.
Once again split into two campaigns, Autobot and Decepticon, the openworld approach of last time has been ditched in favour of self-contained arena levels. You thunder through a story even more garbled and illogical than the one Michael Bay put on-screen, undertaking missions in Shanghai, America and Egypt, with a brief diversion to the ocean to explain how Megatron managed to rise from the depths.
Objectives are simple and limited in number. At their most basic you simply have to destroy a set number of enemy robots. Other times you're be required to find a tiny digital Shia LeBoeuf or Megan Fox and carry them from one place to another, or stand next to broken equipment and press a button to fix it. Escort and protection missions - oh joy! - make up the rest, with a couple of checkpoint races for good measure.
It's gaming by numbers, in other words, but few would expect anything more from a movie tie-in. As long as you get to wreak havoc as a giant shape-shifting robot, who cares about things like innovation or ambition? Those who subscribe to that reductionist philosophy will certainly be amused (though I suspect they could be just as easily distracted by shining colourful lights on the wall and playing a kazoo) although even the most determined unthinking player will probably begin to flag under the sheer weight of repetition.
Some curious control scheme changes don't help matters. Unlike previous Transformers games, where pressing a button turned you into vehicle form with a-chunk-a-chunk-chunk, this time around you can only remain in vehicle mode as long as you hold down the right trigger button. This also acts as your accelerator, so transforming - an action that should be pretty central to a game about Transformers - becomes something of a nightmare.
As soon as your legs are replaced by wheels, you're rocketing off. There's no way of stopping or reversing - you just keep moving forwards. The left trigger allows for handbrake turns, but given that many of the levels are full of tiny cramped streets the whole design of the vehicle side of the game is a recipe for frustration. This goes double for the planes, which get jammed on walls with depressing frequency, laughing in the face of physics as they go. Complicating matters even further are an array of advanced combat moves. Charged by holding a face button while in vehicle mode, then releasing the trigger while keeping the button held down, it's a clumsy, finger-boggling way of activating something that should be bread and butter.