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Disguise has always been a key component of Transformer operations on other worlds. Pretenders attempt to take this concept to the next level. Pretenders are Transformers fitted with special external armor shells that can disguise their very nature as robots. Rather than hiding themselves as the machinery or vehicles of a world, Pretender Shells (also known as Pretender Suits) allow a robot to take on the appearance of a native life form itself.

On top of its exploration and infiltration uses, a shell can also function as powerful battle armor, aid in self-repair, and even function independently of its robot as a second combatant mentally controlled by its "wearer". The major drawback of the technology is that the core robot will feel whatever pain is inflicted on the shell, sometimes even more strongly than pain inflicted on the robot itself.

The most common style of Pretender is an inner robot with a single humanoid shell (usually resembling a monster for Decepticons or a human in battle armor for Autobots).

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