Judging by some of the chatter on online forums, the most anticipated feature of the new Transformers movie is Megan Fox's arse. Fair enough: it is rather lovely, after all, and it’s a natural work of art - unlike Michael Bay's über-expensive CGI creations. But for all the pleasures of seeing Ms Fox bent over a motorcycle, the real attraction of any Transformers movie should be big shooty robots.
It's a principle that equally applies to our industry, and yet somehow most of the previous Transformers games have been limper than a used prophylactic. Now, however, Activision has placed the licence in the care of Luxoflux - a company that claims to have a genuine passion for Optimus Prime and friends. Chief creative officer Joby Otero certainly seems to be a real fan, and he's promising that this will be the best Transformers game we've ever seen. Not a colossal claim to make, perhaps, but an important one nonetheless.
Otero states that Luxoflux's approach to the license has been built around three elements: a tight transformation mechanic, player choice (i.e. allowing people to replay missions as different bots) and a thoroughly meaty multiplayer mode. As welcome as those last two ingredients are, it's the first one that's really the most important. Whether you're a courageous Autobot or an evil-as-sin Decepticon, you can transform into your vehicle form at any moment you like, simply by tugging the right trigger on your pad. This same button also acts as an accelerator, and while you do have access to a handbrake you'll invariably find yourself powering ahead at high speed. If you relax the trigger, you'll slow down a bit; let go completely and you'll turn back into standard 'bot form.
This instant transformation is immediately enjoyable, but the real fun begins when you start mixing in other moves. By holding the jump button and releasing the right trigger you'll use your vehicular momentum to pull off a massive leap forward. Other buttons allow you to chain your transformation into a melee move or a ground-shaking stomp. There's a surprisingly wide range of movement abilities at your disposal, but everything feels extremely intuitive. Before long you'll be rocketing across the game worlds, switching back and forth between shapes and clambering up the sides of buildings. There's a highly pleasing sense of momentum here, and at times it feels a bit like you’re engaging in some form of massive robot parkour.
While in your normal two-legged form, combat is carried out much like every other third-person shooter on the market: the left trigger brings up your guns to let you aim, while the right fires. Each bot has a primary and secondary attack, reliant upon a cool-down system rather than a limited ammo reserve, as well as a melee attack and a special ability: Optimus Prime gets a to make himself un-killable for a short period of time, Ratchet can heal himself and Ironhide gets a deployable AI turret that can be used to guard turf. There are 15 characters in all, including Megatron, Starscream and Long Haul on the Decepticon side of things, and they each have different speeds, sizes and endurance levels.