Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ReviewBy Matt Keil - Posted Jul 02, 2009
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is one of those movie games that you figure has to be better than the movie. At the very least, a big, loud, borderline-incoherently-plotted three-hour action scene would seem to be ripe for the videogame conversion treatment. The results aren't perfection, but this is arguably a step forward for transforming videogame robot-kind.
- Versatile control system
- Good integration of Transformers concept into multiplayer
- Original Prime and Megatron voices
- Slightly convoluted control scheme
- Bland single player campaign
- Can't play as Devastator
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is one of those movie games that you figure has to be better than the movie. At the very least, a big, loud, borderline-incoherently-plotted three-hour action scene would seem to be ripe for the videogame conversion treatment. The previous Transformers movie game was an exercise in mediocrity, so this time the development duties were turned over to Luxoflux, veterans of the Vigilante 8 games, and thus old hands at vehicular combat. The results aren’t perfection, but this is arguably a step forward for transforming videogame robot-kind.
“I want to tell you about the Transformers!”
The two-sided campaign lets you pick the Autobots or Decepticons and play through a series of missions vaguely following the plot of the film. Unlike the linear structure of the first game, you now pick missions from a world globe in your respective faction’s home base. It’s an admirable attempt at non-linearity until you realize that there are really only three or four mission types total. In every mission you’ll either kill things until you win, protect something until you win, or destroy specific objects until you win. The bland missions barely manage to differentiate themselves from one another, and each faction only gets one mission in which you fight alongside a fellow Transformer. Otherwise it’s just you against the world while the other members of your team bark orders at you over the comm channel. Worst of all, all the missions are timed, requiring you to complete them as fast as possible to earn campaign points that allow progression. Instead of letting you explore and take your time, a constant deadline is put on you that only serves to pull you out of the game.
“You left a piece out!”
It doesn’t help that the expansive destructible environments of the first game are now gone, replaced by smaller levels that only allow you to destroy structures designated as such by mission objectives. Overall it just feels sterile, like going through the motions. It doesn’t help that the story is told through static dialogue sequences in the briefing rooms between levels, even if Peter Cullen and Frank Welker do voice Optimus and Megatron. It almost seems like the movie side wasn’t talking to the game side much outside of very vague plot outlines. This becomes most hilariously apparent at the end of the Decepticon campaign, when Megatron turns on The Fallen for no apparent reason whatsoever, while The Fallen himself argues with the previously dead Optimus Prime on the radio.
One advantage Revenge of the Fallen does have squarely over its predecessor is that Luxoflux put a lot of effort into making the gameplay reflect what a Transformer should be able to do. Instead of hitting a button to transform back and forth, you hold Right Trigger to stay in vehicle mode and release it to change back. It’s a bit awkward at first, but doing it this way allows you to combine face button presses with the release of the trigger, leading to attacks that flow directly out of transformations, leaps that can carry you much further than a normal jump, and ground pounds to keep crowding enemies off balance.
An unfortunate side effect of all these options is that the control scheme is a bit convoluted. It can be a bit of a Twister game with your fingers until you get the hang of it, but it is actually a versatile control scheme. The learning curve is somewhat intimidating for someone not intimately familiar with an Xbox or PS3 controller, so casual gamers may find it difficult to really get a handle on all the moves available. One other nice addition is that each character has a special move, generally one specific to their function (healing for Ratchet, teleporting for Skywarp, etc.), which makes each of them play differently.
“Merge for the kill!”
The Transformers themselves look nice, if you don't mind the Bayformer designs in the first place. The battle against Devastator is also better than the movie's, primarily because there is one. Plus, Devastator does not have wrecking balls hanging from his crotch, I assume because the people who made the game aren't twelve years old. The only real disappointment in the Devastator department is that the Decepticon campaign doesn’t have a mission that lets you play as him. Even a simple “smash stuff for a minute” level would have been a nice addition, and would have helped break up the monotony.
The best part of the game is actually the multiplayer, which pits up to eight players against each other in a variety of online modes. Here's where the controls show how versatile they are and allow you to really feel like an Autobot or Decepticon ripping up your enemies. As a bonus, characters not available in the single player campaign can be used online, such as Seeker (basically Skywarp) and Protectobot (essentially Prowl). Team Deathmatch in particular is a blast, although sometimes it’s tough to find enough players to get a game together. When you can, though, it’s the best Transformers-related gaming experience so far, damning with faint praise though that may be.
“I’ve got better things to do tonight than die.”
If you loved the movie, and for some reason a lot of people did, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is worth a weekend rental. It gets more things right than the first film’s game, but still doesn’t quite rise above the “average” threshold. There’s clearly a good game to be had out of the Transformers property, though, so here’s hoping Activision keeps trying while they have access to the license. Spider-Man: Web of Shadows proved that you don’t need a movie tie-in to make a good licensed game, so maybe next year’s recently announced Transformers title will follow suit.