At High Moon Studios, we had the opportunity to play two levels of story mode; from what I saw of those two levels, I was very impressed! Here are a handful of highlights…
· Story mode play consists of your central chosen playable character with 2 (computer controlled or online multiplayer) characters who fight along side you. The computer controlled characters seemed surprisingly helpful; the AI was very well done. In a presentation we had heard prior to playing the game, we were told that a central theme/philosophy about designing the game was that “Transformers were really always about the team, and that a central theme in the show/TF lore was that when they work solo, things don’t end well, so it was important to High Moon from the get-go to incorporate team play into the entire game. This game design philosophy came across quite nicely in all modes of play.
· Each vehicle has a typical drive/flight mode (front wheeled steering – for cars, meaning that forward motion must happen in order to turn), which is engaged by holding down a button. When the button is not depressed, your character defaults to a hover mode. I was not sure how I felt about this when I first saw the videos, but in game play, I found this hover mode extremely helpful and quite enjoyable to use. If you’re used to platform games, think of it as strafe weapon/camera control for vehicle mode. You can move sideways around a target while shooting without driving towards it. This feature/play mode is brilliant, and a LOT of fun and takes very little getting used to.
· Each character has a special ability: Optimus has the “battle cry” which momentarily boosts his (and every near by Autobots’) protection and damage. Ratchet has a healing ray to ‘fix’ his team mates while in battle. Bumblebee has an energy blast that damages all near by enemies. Air Raid has cloaking abilities rendering the character invisible to enemies (as seen in the new multiplayer trailer).
· Characters have room to hold two primary weapons. Only a few weapons (Prime gun for instance) are character exclusive. Most characters can put down their standard equipped weapons, in order to have room to carry an extra weapon. When a character picks up a new weapon, that weapon not only integrates into the characters arm, but takes on that characters primary color as well (i.e. the assault riffle takes yellow accents for Bumblebee, red for Optimus). There is only one melee swipe move, no combos, uncertain weather characters can upgrade their melee weapons. Characters can not walk around holding their melee weapons; they only pull them out to use them. When walking, characters are always at the ready with one of two equipped arm guns.
· As characters lose power the sound gets muffled, and vision blurs/crackles. Really cool effect: feels like power is being diverted to core systems leaving sensory inputs drained.
· Trypticon talks (didn’t get to play, but this level was demoed for us). Kind of reminded me of a Giant robotic Bowser.
· Transformation is a toggle button as opposed to holding down a button to stay in the alt mode. The standard controls are set up such that transformation is achieved by pressing in on the left analogue control stick.
· Fantastic game play and controllability of the characters, really feels like you’re there. My only critique of the game play is that you can only invert the vertical axis for the camera. I usually set up my controls to invert both the horizontal and vertical axes, thinking of my right hand thumb control as which way I want the camera man to move, not the character. I mentioned this to a number of the developers including Matt Tieger, and am still holding out hope that this added control set-up feature might end up in the final release of the game. I’ve got my fingers crossed. While I found myself running into walls out of force of reflex, I did begin to get used to this after a while.
· All in all, you can really tell how much the developers care about this game. It is meticulously designed, and beautifully executed. With the innovative drop-in/drop-out cooperative online multiplayer story mode, I think this game has the potential of giving the highly acclaimed “Batman: Arkham Asylum” a run for it’s money, as far as striking gold on developing/re-imagining a licensed fan-favorite property/brand for the video game market. Way to go High Moon, I’m thoroughly impressed.