In this iteration of Picture This, I’m going to talk about a game concept that’s a blend of different factors. We all know of Transformers; whether it was the cartoons from the ‘80s or Michael Bay’s contemporary rendition, I think it’s safe to say that most of us are familiar with the war between the Autobots and Decepticons.
If you haven’t played War for Cybertron, you should. It’s a great 3rd-person shooter, and the art style is fantastic as it blends both the cartoon and Bay art styles into one. Typically, licensed properties don’t translate well into videogames, and usually the reason is because of time restraints. The game developers are forced to release a game with the film’s release, giving them an extremely limited amount of time to build an entire game. War for Cybertron had no such time limit, and therefore when it released, it was actually finished. This kind of generous development cycle is what would be necessary for this ambitious concept- Transformers: Road Warriors.
Essentially, Road Warriors would be a one-on-one fighting game with Transformers. There are plenty of Transformers on both sides of the Cyber-aisle, so character variation wouldn’t be a problem. I’m sure many of you out there (myself included) would be totally fine with just a typical fighting game featuring Transformers, but Road Warriors would have something special to help it stand out amongst the competition. Amidst the 2D fighting, the game would organically transform (sorry) into a combat racing game!
Michael Bay’s Transformers series often has moments where the Transformers, still disguised in their vehicle forms, would reveal an assortment of cannons and weaponry, allowing them to engage in combat without sacrificing speed. This would be the heart of the combat racing sequence, as players would transform into these versions of their vehicle counterparts as they race each other in an A-to-B style dash.
Mechanically, this would work with some sort of audio and/or visual cue during the main fighting sequence, prompting both players to hit their “Transform” button (which would be an inactive button when the cue is not present). The player who transforms first would recieve a slight initial speed boost, giving them the edge. As the two players race against each other, they’ll have to blast through environmental obstacles and each other in an effort to reach the end first.
Whoever wins the race will absorb a piece of the Allspark and be treated with some sort of buff, be it offensive or defensive (maybe both!), upon reentering the fighting mode. This would keep players constantly on their toes, forcing them to not only focus on the fight, but on the environment as well. The blending of both fighting and racing genres could also work really well in my opinion, and there’s simply no better existing franchise than Transformers to pull it off.
Alone, the combat racing would be rather dull (*cough* Full Auto *cough*), but mix it in with a nuanced and complex fighting game, and I think it could be something truly special. Now, I’m not huge into fighting games myself (I’ve pretty much only ever played Mortal Kombat), so I can’t draw a direct comparison with confidence. That being said, I imagine the fighting to have multiple health bars (maybe three), and three sets of classes based on their vehicle counterparts: light (aircraft), medium (cars/trucks), and heavy (tanks). Speed, attack and defense would increase and decrease based on the class you’re in.
Now even though I’m not a fighting game fan, I do understand how critical character balance is, and how difficult that is to achieve. It doesn’t take much to make one character over- or under-powered. The development work would be substantial in this area alone, but the real challenge would be in maintaining that balance during the racing sequences. After all, how the hell is a tank supposed to out-race a jet? The answer would be in the environment.
If you pick a lighter character, you’ll have to deal with more environmental obstacles, and their impact would have a more substantial effect on your speed. The faster your vehicle, the easier it is to lose your flow. On top of that, firepower needs to have a dramatic effect, making the combat during these sequences not based on opportunity, but on necessity. The slower your vehicle, the more effective and accessible your weaponry.
Lastly, the environmental obstacles need to be randomized. For instance, the PowerPlays in Split/Second were environmental-based, but static; once you knew the map, you knew exactly where each PowerPlay resided, and could use that knowledge to your advantage against newcomers. This sort of map memorization would ruin the balance between characters. A randomized set of obstacles would make it so improvisation and quick reflexes would be paramount to success.
This is not an easy game to develop, I understand. It’s a lofty, ambitious game; even if someone did try to make it, it’s still very possible (if not altogether likely) that it would never achieve the balance needed to succeed as both a fighting game and a combat racing game. However, if a team were somehow able to refine both areas of the game, and find a way to make them mesh organically, Transformers: Road Warriors could be a game unlike anything we’ve ever seen. And besides- we could always use more Transformers in our lives (preferably without Michael Bay attached).
*Note- Yes, I know that name sounds terrible, but it was the best I could do.