Have you ever wondered what ever happened to the Transformers? What ever became of the Autobots and Decepticons, Optimus Prime and Megatron? Did they ever resolve that whole take over the Earth/World Domination thing? Or are they now just rusty memories in an abandoned corner of the junkyard? Well, wonder no more for Hasbro Interactive has resurrected them and recreated them for the 90's and ooh, are they slick.
Just as in the original Transformers series, the Maximals (Autobots) and Predacons (Decepticons) have crashed landed on a prehistoric Earth after a fiery and devastating battle in space. This Earth is rich in pure energon, a substance that is harmful to the Transformers in robot form. In order to survive and adapt to this new environment, they take on the forms of the various creatures found within the vicinity. Just as in the original, the Predacons get to be the cooler creatures, including a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a tarantula while the Maximals get to be jungle creatures like a gorilla and a rat. Each side is trying to gain control of the planet and crush the other side in a predictable war between good and evil.
Battles are waged in the form of various missions, from search and destroy to rescue. Before each mission, you choose the appropriate robot for the mission using such criteria as strength, agility, and energon resistance. Now that I've ruined the FMV for everybody, it's time to see what the game has to offer.
Beast Wars loses a little something in the transition from animated series to video game. Make no mistake about it, the graphics are nothing to shake a stick at, but after watching the TV show, I expected a little more bang for my buck. To be fair, the terrain is laid out beautifully with realistic contours and techno-urban landscapes. You know where you can go and what is off limits. The color scheme is excellent and the shading/shadowing is superb. The characters are well-drawn in the robot mode, but things just fall apart when you transform into beast mode. Megatron turned out to be a big purple dinosaur that bears a more than striking resemblance to a certain widely hated children's dinosaur. Optimus Primal is a little better, but I found that looking up a gorilla's ass the whole time I'm playing is a bit too disconcerting. The same could be said for the rhino Maximal. The only character I don't mind is the ant.
The sound in Beast Wars is a little better than the graphics. I hate games that are too quiet, and playing in the background is your basic high energy soundtrack which actually enhances the missions. The new trend these days seems to emphasize the use of hearing to locate your enemies. High flying enemies tend to go unnoticed because there is a lack of peripheral vision. However, you can hear them cruising by if you learn to detect the distinct whining sound. There is nothing like watching your enemy go down in a spectacular fireball punctuated with a rumbling explosion, and Beast Wars doesn't disappoint on either count.
While playing the game, I came across several things that irked me. For instance, you must watch your energon meter and transform to beast mode when it is too low. However, you are defenseless in beast mode and if you come across any enemies, you're toast. To further exacerbate this problem, it takes a while to transform. Though the transformation itself is visually pleasing, it serves no practical purpose. Basically, you end up running around in beast mode while you explore and do all your fighting only in robot mode.
Also, enemies not at eye level are hard to detect. Flying drones and gun placements on top of towers pose special problems. In order to destroy them, you must lock on and use your missiles. However, the lock on only works if you are looking up. This leaves you wide open to attack from enemies on the ground. Furthermore, the lock on takes several seconds and you cannot avoid getting hit by the guns you are trying to destroy. Even if you are not locking on, avoiding laser and proton blasts can be a real pain because the robots are not very responsive.
Beast Wars was not all I expected it to be. After watching the cartoon, I expected to see the same kind of animation used in the game, but it almost seems as if the game was a knock-off of the real thing. The levels are drawn well, but the robots in beast mode was very disappointing. Combine the average graphics with the slow and unresponsive control and the result is a game not worthy to bear the Transformers name.