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Is Transformers Reactivate the co-op shooter fans have been waiting for?

Transformers Reactivate artwork

Transformers Reactivate – but where are the robots? (pic: Splash Damage)

There’s a new Transformers game on the way, from the makers of Brink and Gears 5 multiplayer, but why does the trailer have so many humans in it?

It’s always so much more fun to be surprised about a new announcement, at an event like The Game Awards, then merely having a new trailer confirm existing rumours. Even so, Transformers Reactivate was the second reveal today, where I originally had no idea the trailer was for a franchise I hold dear.

The first was the macabrely beautiful Hellboy: Web Of Wyrd, which initially seemed as if it was merely inspired by the work of Mike Mignola, not authored by him. The confusion in Transformers Reactivate was more complete though, in that there’s almost nothing in the trailer to identify it as a Transformers game.

For a start it’s infested with humans, which is never a good sign for any Transformers media, especially when it’s so reminiscent of the diabolically awful Michael Bay films. But even after that, none of the robots look like Transformers… or indeed any kind of robot.

There’s a brief shot of spaceships of indeterminate design, something that might possibly be a bunch of seekers (the Starscream style design of Decepticon jet fighter), then some weird cyborg-looking monsters,; some equally generic 4WD vehicles being attacked by more monsters, and finally a POV shot of what may be the Michael Bay design of Bumblebee.

I’m no longer up on every Transformers continuity (no franchise’s multiverse is as mad as Transformers) so maybe some of these designs are more recognisable to other fans but there’s a very obvious problem that nothing actually transforms in the trailer, except maybe Bumblebee – although he could’ve easily just been kneeling at the start.

I’ve always been convinced that transforming robots are a perfect gameplay conceit for video games, since the question of whether to play as a vehicle or a more static, humanoid figure is a tactical decision that, in my imagined dream game, would allow you a freedom of choice far beyond just looking for a vehicle to hijack or remove yourself from.

Technology and budget has never really allowed the concept to flower though and while High Moon’s two Cybertron games had some great moments, and surprisingly good storytelling, they were still held back by the technology of the Xbox 360 era.

The marketing blurb describes Reactivate as a 1-4 player online action game for PC and unspecified consoles. The story apparently takes place after ‘The Legion’, which are presumably the cyborg monsters in the trailer, have conquered Earth, with the game having you scavenging and ‘reactivating’ downed Autobots.

It’s not entirely clear what’s been happening behind the scenes, but the current theory is that this is what remains of a concept initially called Transformers Online, and then Transformers Rise, which was meant to be some kind of The Division style looter shooter by Halo co-developer Certain Affinity.

Leaked artwork from that original version suggested designs based much more closely on the Generation 1 toys/cartoon (i.e. the original ones from the 80s) and some kind of truce between Autobots and Decepticons to fight a mutual foe.

Transformers Reactivate trailer

Transformers Reactivate – if these are The Legion they look a bit like Quintessons (pic: Splash Damage)

How much of that original design is being kept is unclear but while new developer Splash Damage has had its ups and downs, its early work on the Enemy Territory games and the multiplayer for the most recent Gears of Wars titles has been very good.

The London based studio has also recently acquired fellow developer Bulkhead (coincidentally the name of a Transformer), which gives them a total staff of more than 500 people. The implication is that not all are working on Reactivate but it still sounds like a bigger project than this rather cheap looking trailer suggests.

Players will, ‘get to play as some of their favourite characters; unique, weighty, and powerful, seamlessly converting between vehicle and bot form as they battle’ claims the official blurb, which sounds great even if none of that is alluded to in the trailer.

We’re still not sure how anyone makes a trailer about Transformers in which nothing transforms but these are the strange times we live in. But maybe, just maybe, this will be the Transformers game I’ve always wanted… or at least something vaguely close to it.

Transformers Reactivate trailer

Transformers Reactivate – what even is that? (pic: Splash Damage)

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