Less Than Meets The Eye
Normally, video game tie-ins to blockbuster movies suffer rush-to-release, loosely-based-on, terribly-voiced products. In all of these categories, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen excels. Once the disc starts spinning up, you get the standard “voice-over to bring you up to speed” cinematics. Which would be tolerable, except Peter Cullen sounds completely bored out of his mind, and is just waiting to see the recording light in the studio shut off so he can go home. Not the best way to get the player into the mood for what follows. Although, it is an honest measure of things to come.
From a technical standpoint, Revenge builds on the original Transformers game, itself a tie-in to the 2007 film. There were numerous issues with the original, from poor environment detailing, shoddy controls, boring missions and a general lack of feeling like you are controlling a 30 foot mechanical behemoth. In Revenge, you have much better looking character models, almost identical in scale and detail as their movie counterparts, and you have decent enough environments to play around in. The most inconvenient thing is that you are always forced to remain within the confines of a pre-determined “action zone”, and there is simply no way to escape it. See a neat skyline in the background of Shanghai? Forget it – you’re stuck in the same quarter-mile block of identical buildings, fighting identical looking robot drones.
Controls haven’t improved much either. In fact, they’ve taken a few evolutionary steps backwards from the original. You are now forced to use the right trigger to transform – and hold it down to remain transformed. This wouldn’t be such a big issue, except that this is also your acceleration function. So once you transform, you’re always moving. And if you want to brake? Well, don’t take your finger off the trigger, or else you change back to your robot form. Sure, you’re saying, that’s not so bad. Okay – but the same button also controls you’re primary weapon in robot mode. I lost track of the number of times I would fight to target an enemy, lock on, and then ….. change into a truck and drive straight into a wall. All the while taking potshots from enemies the camera refused to allow me to focus on.
Now, I’m all for head-scratching controls. But combined with boring, tedious, and worst of all, repetitive missions, it feels like the game was specifically designed so you would scream at the top of your lungs “Yes, I actually like the movie better!”. Escort missions where characters fail to appear where you need them, or appear and disappear once you arrive at their destination; Protection missions where your allies are completely useless and will head straight for new enemy fire while you are still attempting to recover from the last blitz of generated enemies; pointless race missions where you never feel like you can control your vehicle, mostly because when you need to take a quick turn, you’ll inadvertently transform into your robot mode.
To add even more salt to this wound is the atrocious voice acting. Megatron and Optimus Prime are voiced fairly well, although both Peter Cullen and Frank Welker seem to have had a lot less fun with this round of studio time than the last outing. The rest of the Autobots and Decepticons however, leave a lot to be desired. For the most part it seems as if their volume controls were somehow lost during post-production, or their robotic sound effects modules are cranked past eleven. The human voice-overs are even less tolerable, which is good because they only show up every now and then.
Something very odd, and very off-putting, I found during the cutscenes between missions where your current leader will tally up your bonuses and mission objectives, was that Optimus Prime seemed to be a lot harder on his troops than Megatron ever was. I’m not afraid to say that I actually felt put down when I was told I needed to start finishing more secondary objectives or we would lose the war. And then I felt mad for the designers thinking that they could ever force people to keep playing this disaster of a game.
The only time this game has a chance to actually shine is in the multiplayer component. This is quite simply, the games most redeeming quality. It’s not amazing, but it’s much more fun to fight against actual people than the shoddy A.I., and the modes are all generally fun. There’s classic Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, along with a Transformers version of Capture the Flag, where you need to capture five pieces of the All-Spark. There’s also One Shall Stand mode, where the goal is to take out the other team’s leader; and Control Points, which is something very similar to what you find in Unreal Tournament III. Working together with other people to take down the enemy leader is actually quite a rewarding experience – as long as the game doesn’t freeze mid-session.
Overall, I have to say that this is a game only the most die-hard of die-hard fans can enjoy. There are a number of unlockables, such as classic Generation 1 television episodes (S.O.S. Dinobots, Fire on the Mountain), as well as G1 single- and multi-player skins for some of the robots, and you can start accumulating enough points to unlock things within the first few missions. However, the presentation, controls, repetitiveness and general lack of polish simply make this another quick-release money-printing vehicle – wait until this one ends up in the bargain bin.