Summer blockbuster films always seem to find their way to video game consoles. In the past they have nearly always ruined the time and money we’ve spent playing those titles. Over the last few months we’ve had really good movie-based games, X-Men Origins: Wolverine Uncaged Edition, and Ghostbusters: The Video Game to name a few. Does Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen continue this trend, or does it fall victim to old conventions?
Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer. While there are issues (I’ll get to those in a moment), it delivers on a level that surpasses the first title, while clinging to the roots of the first title. This isn’t a bad thing. For all its shortcomings, the first Transformers title had a lot of great elements to it that I really enjoyed and wanted more of.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen loosely follows the movie. When I say loosely, I don’t mean good loosely, as in this is an attachment to the story we didn’t see in the film. No, I mean the bad loosely where there are just enough spoilers to give you the gist of what happens in the movie without going any deeper whatsoever. The Autobots have aligned themselves with the U.S. military to further protect Earth and combat the remaining Decepticons on the planet. Sam Witwicky has gone off to college and life is somewhat normal for the planet, except for the irrational attacks Decepticons make and the Autobots confront them and do billions of dollars in property damage.
To kick things off, you have your standard tutorial for controls. Even though some things are slightly different depending on the side you choose, Autobot or Deception, each story basically mirrors one another. The endgame is the same just with Autobot or Decepticon influences. This is probably where the lackluster story suffers the most. As I said earlier, the story picks the meat off the proverbial bones of the movie. Add to this the non-descript changes between the good and evil sides of the story, and you’ll be hard-pressed to play through a second time to see the outcome of the other side. Contributing factors to this are the “cutscenes” if you can call them that. Consisting of merely a war room setting with the Transformers standing around talking about what is happening. Not only did it feel boring, it actually made me care less about what was going on; I just wanted to do missions to destroy robots.
Structured as a strict mission-based game, it allows for short gameplay sessions, but it also creates a problem for exploration in the game because of the timer. I thought we had moved passed level timers in games, apparently not. These timers are not just for level completion but instead are for medals. The medals can help you acquire more Energon to spend on upgrades for your team, while you do still receive Energon by other means than the medals you earn. Earning the medals is the only way to obtain campaign points. The points are used to unlock zones and missions in the games. This bothers me a little because it basically forces you to play through levels several times just to progress through the story. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if those missions were varied from ‘destroy this set of enemies,’ ‘repair these devices,’ ‘escort this group to safety,’ etc.
Even though those sound varied, that’s not exactly the problem. The repetition is the problem. Even the missions where you have to repair devices are reduced to ‘look at an enemy, kill it.’ This is my biggest problem with the game. While the first title allowed for a little free-roam, this title confines the Transformers to battle royal status. Literally, when the missions start, your selected robot comes into the mission in a fashion that, at times, I wondered if I was playing a fighting game based on Transformers. The single-player experience felt more like multiplayer sessions than actual single-player campaigns.
Speaking of the multiplayer, Revenge of the Fallen actually surprised me with its online functionality. While there’s nothing revolutionary in the online modes, it felt really satisfying combating every robot that moved on the screen. My particular favorite mode was One Shall Stand. In this mode, one player is selected as Optimus Prime on the Autobots’ side and another Megatron on the Decepticons’ stage. It’s similar to VIP modes in other online games. It’s just sort of satisfying to have the option to face off against your longtime enemy reminiscent to the 80’s cartoon feature film. Except I think both Optimus and Megatron probably had a better control on where they were shooting.
The controls take a little bit of time to get used to. While I am not entirely sure why the need to change the way you transform was implemented, it’s not completely ruined on this new control scheme. Instead of just the pushing of a button, you have to hold down the button to maintain the transformation. Similarly you have to hold down your aiming button as well to stay in that mode. The aiming mode or ‘Weapon Mode’ isn’t as much of a bother. The Vehicle Mode, however, takes way too much time to get used to. The camera also helps in lengthening the problems of holding down the button for the Vehicle Mode. When you are in your robot form, the camera usually has no problems, but when you slip into the Vehicle Mode the camera gets rather nauseating at the worst moments.
Thankfully, the A.I. of enemies allows you to adjust after the sporadic camera hiccups. At times, when things are really heated, the A.I. will just wander away, stopping their attack on you, or they will get stuck on a roof in some random rubble, or they too are having trouble holding down the Vehicle Mode button, since you will see them transforming every two or three seconds.
Graphically, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen captures the look of the Transformers from the film very nicely, where with the first title, there were a few minor issues with the appearances of the Transformers; the transforming looks more fluid as does the general movement of the Transformers. The environments have a bit of blandness, but then again, with as much destruction that can visibly be seen in the game, there’s not much to complain about. Though admittedly, I would have liked to have seen a little more variance in the environments.
While actor Megan Fox and Shia LaBeouf reprise their roles in the games, their performances are on the same level as the voice actors of the Transformers. In a nutshell, the voice work is fairly decent, even if occasionally “robotic.” The main problem with the voice work is once again repetition. Too often I have heard the same lines echoed over and over during a mission that took only four minutes to complete. The score for the game falls victim to the same process, though, due to the heavy action sound effects you may never hear the actual score.
With the multiplayer being its biggest redeeming quality, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen doesn’t really improve upon the formula of the first title. If anything, it takes a step or two back overall when it comes to the single-player experience. If you are looking to play a game to get the experience of multiplayer while not actually being online, this may be the game you’ve been looking for. While the fun of giant robot battles may draw you in, the multiplayer experience will keep you coming back to this title. Even with all its problems, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ranks up there with most worthy movie-based games.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
The visuals run into the same problem as the movie, nothing to distinguish them apart from the other Transformers, though they do stand out in the flat backgrounds. 2.9 Control
After you get used to them, they work fine. Getting used to them is the difficult part. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Having the voices of the Transformers helps a lot, but after about the 600th time you here the same line of dialogue, you’ll regret hearing them at all. 2.5 Play Value
Repetition is its greatest fault. The lack of involving gameplay outside of running and gunning ruins most of the experience. 3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.