Getting the most out of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen requires a steady hand, a keen eye, and the ass muscles of an Olympic athlete.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is an action adventure game based on the movie of the same name, telling the story of the return of Megatron and the rise of an even more diabolical enemy from the dawn of time. After a sub-par product from Traveller's Tales for the first film, Activision handed over development duties for the sequel to California-based Luxoflux, the team behind the video game adaptation of Kung Fu Panda. While the new developer brings much to the table, including robust multiplayer on top of the required single player mode, certain aspects of the game are a real pain in the ass.
Let's tense up and roll out!
Big, Beautiful Bots: No matter what my opinion might be on the Michael Bay-bots versus the more traditional designs, I have to admit that Luxoflux has done an admirable job of recreating the movie machines for the video game adaptation. The developer knows this, kicking off every mission with a crane shot of your character so you can appreciate all the work that went into creating him before the firefight begins.
Heavy Metal Combat: Revenge of the Fallen does an admirable job of depicting giant-robot-on-giant-robot combat. Bullets, missiles, and fists all pack a seriously satisfying punch, and each robot has a different set of ranged weapons and special abilities than makes going back through missions with different characters to try and top your score a worthwhile endeavor. The combat may not be perfect, but it works for me.
Pimping Your Rides: An upgrade system allows you to convert Energon based on how well you complete your mission objectives into power enhancements for your entire team. The selection of upgrade choices is a bit strange – you can power up your melee damage but not your ranged, for instance – but the system does allow for the player to tweak their abilities based on how they prefer to play.
Massive and Multiplayer: Many licensed games are developed with single player in mind, tacking on a multiplayer component at the last minute to add to the feature listing on the back of the box. It feels as if Luxoflux reversed that trend, creating an enjoyable multiplayer experience and then adding the story mode as an afterthought. The multiplayer mode contains more characters (with more on the way in the form of DLC) and quite frankly more excitement than the single player experience. Sure, you'll have to deal with listening to a bunch of early teen boys cussing up a storm…I guess that really isn't that much different than any other online console game.
Unlockables: Despite the fact that I already own all of them on DVD, the unlockable episodes of the original television series may have contributed somewhat to the relative lateness of this review. Just saying.
Triggered Transformation: Luxoflux has managed to take the one aspect of the Transformers that every other Transformers game has gotten right, and do it wrong. Press a button, and you're a car. Easy, right? Instead, the developers map transforming to the right trigger. Squeeze the trigger and you are a vehicle, with the amount of pressure you apply affecting your speed. Release the trigger and you are a robot. It's the mechanical equivalent of clenching your ass cheeks, and while the special moves you can perform when popping out of vehicle mode can make the release somewhat enjoyable, all in all it's just embarrassing.
We'll Call Them Vehicle Physics: Revenge of the Fallen plays fast and loose with its vehicle physics. Ground-based vehicles aren't so bad, with physics akin to your more arcadey racing games. Flying vehicles, on the other hand, are simply sad. Planes bounce off buildings in comical fashion, and maneuverability is quite limited, with even the simplest of aerial maneuvers out of reach thanks to the simplistic controls. Perhaps it is a matter of game play balance, but car should never be able to keep pace with a jet. An airplane moving at 60 miles per hour is an airplane on the ground.
Welcome To Dullsville: I suppose if I our planet actually did have giant robots doing battle in the streets on a regular basis, we'd probably pack up all of our interesting scenery and leave town as well. While the robots in Revenge of the Fallen look spectacular, the environments simply feel like a collection of random structures with different skins on them, which I suppose is what they are. There's just no real character to the setting.
The Story Unfolding: I somehow managed to avoid seeing the film before playing the game, which might be why the story feels like a disjointed series of occurrences rather than a full, compelling narrative. Balancing telling the tale of the game while trying not to delve to deeply into the plot of a film is a tricky maneuver, and one Luxoflux didn't manage to pull off gracefully.
Required Missions: Sam has been whisked away to a far off land where he could be in great danger! We should rescue him, but first, we need to clear the Decepticons out of one particular area, because we haven't unlocked the rescuing Sam mission yet. Unlocking missions in Revenge of the Fallen requires that you complete a certain number of missions previously, which leads to telling your best human buddy to cool his jets while you rescue generic power plant A and B from the enemy.
Of all of the failings of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the transformation feature is the most damning. It's the main focus of the property, and it deserves to be done correctly. Perhaps my main issue is that you can't simply transform and then pan around the vehicle, admiring the details. Instead, triggering a transformation also triggers movement, so you never get the chance. Instead of alternate modes, they are simply travel forms that disappear when they come to a stop. Call me crazy, but I'd just prefer a Transformers game where I can press a button once and BAM - I'm a Camaro.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is an odd title that manages to succeed in categories that licensed games generally fail, while floundering in areas that should have been easy to get right. It's a movie tie-in that excels at multiplayer yet flails where the actual story is concerned. I'd use the term ass-backwards, but those muscles need a little rest.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was developed by Luxoflux and published by Activision for the PS3 and Xbox 360 on June 23rd. Different versions from different developers exist for the Nintendo DS, PSP, PS2, Wii, and PC. Retails for $59.99 USD. Reviewed the Xbox 360 version. Played through Autobot and Decepticon story modes to completion, and played multiple multiplayer matches across all game types.
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