If like me, two years later, you’re still washing the bad taste out of your mouth from 2007 Primus forsaken Transformers: The Game you’re probably viewing this movie tie in with a fair amount of skepticism and with good reason. I, myself, only got about three “missions” into that clunker before I suddenly realized I had something better to do for the rest of my life.
Thankfully Revenge of the Fallen is head and shoulders above it’s poor cousin. Developer, Luxoflux threw that baby out with the bath water, then sold the tub for scrap. This is a totally new game. Thank the Matrix…
In fact this is the best Transformers video game ever.*
Not that was a high bar to jump, most Transformers video games stand as a testament to the worthlessness of licensed games.
Revenge of the Fallen, seems to be part of a surprising trend of good, not great, licensed games in the last year or so. Fans of the new films, as well as gamer fans of the larger Transformer universe who pick this game up are in for a pleasant surprise… mostly.
The cast is largely characters from the last film. Playable Autobots include Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ironhide, and Blackout. Blackout does not (to my knowledge appear in the film, he is here to serve the Autobots need for a flier). On the Decepticon front we Start with Starscream, Grindor (Blackout with a new paintjob), Long Haul, and later, Megatron. Both Prime and Megatron have a second powerful super mode.v
Frank Welker’s Megatron voice kept making me think that Movie Megs had somehow been “possessed” by G1 Megs.
The triumph of Revenge of the Fallen is that “Transform” is more than the root of the name on the box, or what an obscure button does for no reason. Transforming is a fluid and functional part of play.
Pulling the right trigger will transform your character into their respective alternate mode, and send you barreling off in the direction the camera is facing. When you are finished being in alt mode release the trigger and you will flip back into robot mode. The game really hinges on this simple mechanic.
Not only can you fire in your alternate mode, but holding down certain buttons as you transform back into robot mode will launch you either into a special potentially powerful attack that will boost your “overdrive” (we’ll get to overdrive), or an amazing leap capitalizing on your alternate modes inertia . To quote my preview of the game, “There’s nothing quite like driving a dump truck off a twelve story building, transforming mid-air and punching a helicopter.”
The look and feel of every maneuver evokes the visuals of the movie.
Transformers spend a lot of time scaling tall buildings in this game. The climb mechanism is easy to use and works well even for mid air grabs (loads of fun). Some times however it will get confused at the top when multiple surfaces are present and leave your ‘bot hovering there until you can guide him to solid purchase.
Over all the fluid, intuitive and innovative control of the Transformers is the highlight of the game. A big part of gaming’s fun is about artificial experience, and this is by far the best way to experience being a transformer to date. Wheather your running, jumping, strafing, driving, flying or hovering, Revenge’s controls won’t let you down.
For the first time in a game, you’ll feel like a Transformer.
Combat in Revenge of the Fallen is a fluid mix of inertia and resource allocation. You can lay on the breaks, transform and spin firing at your pursuers, but don’t do it for to long, your ammo is infinite, but your weapons over heat… a lot.
Far from being annoying I found the overheat system forced me to vary my play. Learning to soften enemies up on approach with a barrage of fire and then sweep in with a melee attack, often rewarded with watching my foe’s limbs fly in separate directions in slow motion.
Each characters robot mode offers a primary and secondary ranged weapon, a melee attack and a special move. Special moves are upgradeable, and include healing, stunning, shields, deployable turrets and more.
Melee attacks and some weapons can “charge up” for extra damage.
”Get off my lawn!”
With a little practice I found switching weapons and tactics very natural. One of many benefits of RotF’s excellent button mapping.
Special types of kills, head shots, mid-transformation attacks, vehicle mode kills, ect. fill your “Overdrive meter”. Once full you can enter Overdrive, a state of invulnerability combined with heat free fire and expanded damage capability. One developer referred to this as “Michael Bay” mode. Probably a reference to the large amount of explosions that tend to be on screen during it’s use.
You’re health is measured by a simple bar, when it is depleted, you die. However it regenerates, pretty quickly, any time you are not in battle. So while some characters do have healing abilities, usually a quick regroup behind a building will suffice. When your health gets to low, the screen turns red as a warning of your eminent demise. This is kind of the “Yer’ Slagged” cam, because now you’re severely damaged and your vision is impaired.
Eleven aspects of you characters are upgradeable, such as, melee and special attack and weapon over heat and cool down rates. These upgrades are fueled by “Energon Points” gained via game performance, and a achievement of secondary goals. Consider these carefully, they make a tangible difference in play. Level ups apply to your whole team, you won’t be struggling to help up left behind characters.
Now comes the trouble in paradise, the level design, and mission structure. There is nothing wrong with the maps in and of themselves. They are impressively like real locals and have an excellent amount of destroyable scenery. (I’d have liked to see more building destruction for my giant robot dollar, but we cant have everything)
Despite being pretty sizeable, there is no escaping the fact that each level is a box, with four translucent walls and an invisible ceiling. I mean walls to, drive of fly into one of these and you will hit it as if you hit a building. The level edge does have a visible element but that does not materialize until you are fairly close to the edge. Several times I turned a corner or attempted to leap onto a building only to discover too late that my objective was behind the veil. In such an otherwise fluid game this method of level containment really takes you out of the game.
Then there is the repetition… repetition… repetition…
There an echo in this review?
Missions in both Autobot and Decepticon campaigns are launched from a screen featuring the playable cast standing around a globe shooting the breeze. Starting with the tutorial, the completion of each level coupled with the acquisition of “campaign points”, awarded in increasing amounts depending on the medal you earn for each level. Medals are awarded for speed of level completion.
Once you have accomplished the mission an area first comes with you can expect another to pop up in the same locale, and maybe another, and there will be several there in the other factions campaign too. That’s not even such a big deal, except when the nature of the missions has you running back and forth across the map 5 times. I came to dread the little icon with a radar dish on it that would inform me that another, repair/demolish the communication arrays mission was up.
Enemy AI is surprisingly good. I’m more sympathetic now to Luxoflux’s reluctance to call the games grunts “drones”. Not only are the Aerialbots, Protectobots, Seekers, and other baddies beautifully designed, (Hasbro if you’re listening, we need toys of these,) but they are the true threats of the game. They fallback, seek higher ground, gang up.
Seemingly lumbering enemies would flank me as I tried to accomplish tasks, and all the sudden I’d be getting hosed by three sets of flame throwers.
Even the big boss battles are dependant on these smaller foes to add difficulty.
Devastator, though impressively large, is entirely oblivious to you apart from the occasional timed missile barrage. He mostly does laps around a small block of Cairo while you shoot him. It’s the never ending flow of Constructicons coming after you that you have to worry about.
The story is mostly told in the map rooms of the respective factions (apparently the “water cooler” of Cybertron. Between mission dialog actually reflects your performance in the previous level. So Megatron will yell at you for being slow if you only get a bronze medal, or Ratchet will lament the amount of damage the Autobots have just done if you caused a lot of havoc.
Destruction does not seem to affect score, but I found it aggravating to be chastised about it as an Autobot. Even on my fairly large TV the first time I even noticed there were humans in the game was when they were bouncing off of Primes grill. One unlockable refers to Megatron “scaring” humans. Yeah, I suppose people who get run over by tanks are scared.
“Prime, we’ve lost 3 bus loads of Nuns. Have you seen them?” Uh oh.
Those undaunted by the repetition will find a bevy of unlockable content to be gained at higher medal levels or completed bonus objectives. In addition to the standard pile of production materials for the game, extras include G1 skins for several characters and episodes of the original G1 Cartoon.
You can see Ironhide’s G1 skin here.
Another Transformers gaming first is online multiplayer. Multiplayer is a big part of the appeal of this game, and Revenge of the Fallen does shine here. It’s not going to set online multiplayer on fire or anything, but fans of the transformers are in for a treat, and even more objective gamers may be pleasantly surprised.
The death match modes are the least note worthy. They’re as fun as any death match, nothing wrong with them. They’re just not special. Where Transformers multiplayer has something to offer is in the more strategic game types.
“Control Points” is Transformers: Battlefront. Occupy zones in sequence to win. The Transformers dynamic in this setting is a blast. The varied forms and abilities led to some amazing and dynamic combat. Free character switching at one point led to a battle fought almost exclusively by groups of Primes and Megatrons. Which was really something to see.
“Battle for the Shards” (capture the flags) also really capitalizes on the character set. Racing after stolen pieces, bombing the enemy base to make room for an incursion, ramming into the enemies perusing your shard carrying allies. The Transformers aspect really makes these games distinct.
The one new Multiplayer component I was not wowed by was “One Shall Stand”. In One Shall Stand you must protect your leader, Megatron or Prime. If they are taken out, the rest of the team will no longer re-spawn, and the other team need only finish off the stragglers to achieve victory. It could be fun with some serious coordination, but in a casual game, or a game with strangers, it almost seems to come down to luck.
Another perk of the multiplayer rounds is the ability to play as and Aerialbot, Protectobot and Seeker. All of whom have their own skill set an special moves. Did I mention we need some toys of these?
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen escapes most of the foibles of licenced games. The play is great, the graphics are terrific and the multiplayer has something to offer.
The big detractors are the repetitive campaign missions that make you feel like your alt mode should have been a Yo-Yo, the impressively large, but depressingly dumb, Devastator, and under presentation of the story.vLike the movie? Wanna play a game of it? Buy this, you won’t be disappointed. It’s fun.
Gamer Transformer Fan? Buy this, it’s the best we’ve ever gotten.
*(I have not played Transformers: Tatakai. A Japan only PS2 game.)
|Date||June 23rd 2009|
|Score||(8 out of 10)|
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