To make things worse, the game’s difficulty level is all over the place, and for all the wrong reasons. It’s actually quite hard to die from health loss; there’s usually a power-ups knocking around within easy range, while others can be gathered from felled enemies, either human vehicles or robot. No, the problem here is time restrictions. Most missions require you to get to the next action area within a time limit or you fail, and some ask you to complete your objectives within a set period.
Sometimes this is fine, but get caught up in an ad-hoc skirmish, find yourself stuck behind scenery or take the wrong route through the city, and you can fluff the entire mission in moments. To make this even more annoying, the game doesn’t checkpoint you during the mission, so if you blow the countdown near the end of a five-stage epic, tough. You’re going to have to do the whole caboodle once again. Given that the missions already give you deja-vu on the first attempt, this isn’t exactly a great design decision.
The more you play, the more you’ll also notice how generally ropy the physics engine is – horrible car handling rules OK – and how limiting the combat system is as well. The weaker robots – dubbed drones – can be dispatched with just a few blows, while named characters have formidable strengths (usually a seemingly unbeatable melee defence or special attack) but also an Achilles heel that, once spotted, soon leads to their easy demise. The only challenge here is spotting the weakness, particularly when logic has so little part to play. You can see, for instance, that Barricade needs to be knocked off his feet before you can get past his defences, but how are you meant to know that the only way to deal out damage is to pick him up and throw him around? Why do your blows have no effect on his health guage?
Now, you’d think that having a choice of campaigns would give you more variety, but in fact there’s no real change in gameplay from one to the other. Some Decepticons can fly, which should be cool, but at these points the game turns into a dodgy version of the old 16-bit favourite, Thunderhawk, with even more silly than normal time-restricted missions like ‘blow up twenty planes in three minutes’.