July 02, 2009
The Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen video game has two large stigmas attached to it. First of all, it's a movie tie-in. As we all well know by now, they are rarely any good and almost always a quick cash grab from whatever franchise they are attached to. Second, it is based off a Michael Bay film, which has its own issues. Famous for pointless "popcorn" movies, Bay generally fills a movie with hot girls, explosions and cool effects. I know, I know... that's a good thing! To me anyway. Movie critics and people who just can't appreciate a good escape don't see them as having any worth though, but I can't get enough. So, which stigma does the video game adaptation latch onto?
The game loosely follows the plot of the movie (par for the course for any tie-in), though if you're not a fan of simply listening to robots talk, you won't be taking in much of the plot at all. Aside from maybe three small game-rendered cut scenes at the beginning, middle and end of the game, all plot is handled by voice-overs before and after each mission. Before the missions they are treated as computer-viewed briefings, and after, the robots simply stand around their "War Room" talking about what happened. Well there goes the Michael Bay stigma out the window. Guess which stigma we're left with? That's right, true believers, this is a movie cash-grab.
When you load up the game, you have the option straight away of choosing either the Autobot (good guys) or Decepticon (bad guys) campaigns. You can stop and switch to the other campaign at any time if you need to balance out your karma, or finish one and then tackle the other, the choice is yours. Each campaign has about 13 main story missions and 10 extra side-missions, all of which will run you only a few hours for each side. To progress through the campaign you are unfortunately forced to play the missions as quickly as you can. The faster you go, the better score you will rank, from a bronze medal to a platinum medal, with each rank earning you points to unlock new missions. A good idea in theory, but forcing players to rush through an already short game never pans out well.
The missions themselves are all fairly generic. You'll either need to wipe out the opposing forces or protect/capture some civilians, depending on which side you're playing. The side-missions are comprised of races, simple killing missions and again defend/destroy missions. So you have three different types with small variations for all 46 missions in the game. Color me excited. The only real incentive (aside from achievements) to even playing the side-missions is to earn extra campaign points in case you're having trouble rushing through the main story missions.
One thing that can help you cut your time down are "skill shots;" five of which are hidden in every level. Hitting or shooting these will freeze the clock for ten seconds, allowing you extra time to complete your objectives. Filling up your "overdrive" meter is another key to quick completion. Killing enemies while jumping or with special "advanced" takedowns (attacking while transforming from vehicle back to robot) will all add to the meter. Activating the overdrive will then give you a vast increase to regeneration and weapons cooldown, allowing you to go berserk and take out large groups of enemies quickly.
Each mission will also award you with Energon, again the better you do in each mission (the faster you complete it), the more Energon received. This can be used to upgrade your team, boosting your damage or speed, lowering your weapon overheating or increasing its cooldown, etc. The strange part is that it is an overall team upgrade for either side, instead of being able to focus on individual 'bots. I suppose the overall effect is nice in the end with how much things start to cost at third upgrade level, but it seems a strange choice. Surely they could have made things more personal and split the overall cost up between the 'bots.
Speaking of the individual 'bots, Revenge of the Fallen surprisingly includes a multiplayer mode where you can slug it out between the two sides. They are decently balanced, though the Decepticons seem to have an edge with a bit more firepower and aerial mobility. This is most evident in the One Shall Stand gametype (essentially Gears of War's Guardian) in which Megatron has a special ability laser while Optimus Prime only has an absorption shield, but each side has a 'bot who can heal, one with a turret, etc.
The online mode is unfortunately where the game's biggest pitfall becomes most prevalent: over-complicated controls. Most frustrating while in vehicle mode, the game simply has too many buttons and commands. To be in vehicle mode you have to hold the right trigger, while obviously driving with the left stick and trying to see where you're going and where your enemies are with the right stick, then adjusting your speed with the left bumper and shooting with the X button. That's right, to be effective you need to be in control of five buttons at once. Through the campaign you're mostly in robot form, so it's not as bad, but attempting any kind of dogfighting during a multiplayer match is pretty much out of the question unless you have the reflexes of a ninja.
The game was developed by Luxoflux (Kung Fu Panda) and they did a pretty decent job with some the graphics, worse for other parts. The transforming animations are incredibly fluid and look great. It would have been nice for a slow-mo option to really take in the change, but otherwise it's nice to watch. The landscapes are unfortunately extremely bland and generic. Nothing seems like a true representation of where you're supposed to be in the world, but instead seem like some random cityscape they made up. It does the job overall, but it's not much of a step up from Kung Fu Panda and definitely does not capture the scope of the film.
Thankfully one aspect they got right was the voice acting. Unlike the recent Terminator adaptation, all film stars were on board for the game. Shia LeBeouf's frantic, high-speed rants are delivered well and the major players in the Transformers voicing are back and on top of their game. Megan Fox's slower, more innocent speech seemed extremely phoned in though, like she literally did the job over the phone and not in a studio... while hungover. Probably not the worst job I've ever heard, but it certainly wasn't even close to what we’d class as good.
The best part about the game is the optional "Unlock Challenges." None of these were all that difficult, some as easy as simply completing story missions, but each unlocked a nice bonus. Either new characters (or simply new character skins) for the single or multiplayer portion of the game, artwork galleries or even full episodes of old Transformers cartoons. Too few games really hearken back to their roots through unlockables these days, so the inclusion of this feature in a game that really reeks of dirty, money-grubbing hands was a savior for it.
The achievements are extremely drawn out. Finish every mission in the game with a Platinum rating, finish all the Unlock Challenges, kill X number of enemies and collect Y number of Energon for each campaign... basic stuff. Then there are a few multiplayer achievements, most of which can be knocked out by yourself in local matches, though you will have to kill and taunt someone online who has a viral achievement to snag it for yourself. A nice touch, if a bit annoying. The entire endeavor should only take 12-15 hours depending on how quickly you can master the Platinum medals.
Overall we're looking at a fairly generic movie tie-in here. Lacking the all-out action that the movie offered, the repetitive campaign missions, bland graphics and tacked on multiplayer don't offer anything I'd hope for in a Transformers game. If you're a huge Tranny nut (that doesn't sound right...) I'd suggest only a rental at best. For everyone else, there are much better options out there.
Aside from Megan Fox, the voice acting is all very well done. Sound effects and whatnot as usual are industry standard, but nothing crazy good.
Overall very bland levels, though the Transformers themselves look good and the actual transforming animation is fantastic.
Extremely overdone and complicated vehicle controls really hamper the multiplayer and parts of the campaign, though time spent in robot form are a lot simpler and easier.
Little variety in the campaign missions, an online aspect that offers nothing new and no cool special effect cut scenes all add up to a poor offering. The bonus unlockables are sadly the best part.
A bland list with little variety separating it from any other action game. The lack of collectibles like in the first game was a plus, but the online achievements cancelled that right out.
The game isn't downright awful, but there is little to distinguish it from any other action game we've seen, save the Transformers brand attached to it. Yet another movie tie-in with endless possibilities, that does not take advantage of anything it's given.