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The ‘Transformers’ Franchise: Games vs. Films

The ‘Transformers’ Franchise: Games vs. Films

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Films and video games are different platforms with the same underlying purpose of trying to entertain their respective audiences. While their raison d’etre might be similar, the two mediums differ in such a way that some films simply cannot be translated into good games and vice versa. However since most major comic-inspired films seem to have a video game, it’s time to analyze how some developers were able to make superb games from less than stellar films. 

Pertaining to the question at hand, one series of films that really stands out in terms of having poor film renditions but excellent gaming releases is the Transformers quadrilogy. The movies, when examined in a vacuum, can be considered an economic and franchise success, with a 150 million dollar budget which was able to garner 700 million at the box office, while receiving an average rating by most media outlets. The sequels were much the same, scoring massive tikcet sales while being universally panned by critics.

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However, the first gaming adaptation since the start of the new franchise, Transformers: War for Cybertron, developed by High Moon Studios, was a third-person shooter played from the perspective of both Autobots and Decepticons. It received positive reviews and even spawned its own sequel, Transformers: The Fall of Cybertron. Both mediums told stories about the struggles between the two warring mechanized factions, so why was the game received so much better?

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In my opinion, the central shortcoming of the movie was that it was told from the perspective of a human protagonist, Sam Witwicky. In this case, the human-centric scope seems counter intuitive given the scale of the films. Is the audience really supposed to believe that the actions of humans in a war between a race of advanced alien species would have any impact on the outcome? The real protagonist should have been Optimus Prime, given that most of the series was surrounding his conflicts with Megatron. Meanwhile the character of Sam seemed more like a human witness to the chaos brought on by the robots.

It seems that gaming developers agreed with this assertion, given that War for Cybertron featured Autobots and Decepticons as the only playable characters in the game. In both mediums, the characters which face the most struggles and henceforth contribute the most to the storyline are the main characters. Sam’s contributions to the plot of the movie are minimal at best. If a game about Transformers was developed and the gamer played as a human character running from the 50 ft. mechanized robots, it too would be a hard sell. As a result, the poor choice of protagonist adversely affected the story telling capacity of the live action franchise, but not the game version of Transformers.

-YZC 

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