Movie-to-videogame adaptations have a long, storied, and generally terrible history, and 2007’s Transformers didn’t do much to improve their track record: the controls were clunky (at best), the plot was uninteresting, and the missions were repetitive. This year, for the film sequel, developer Luxoflux is back with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and after a couple hours of hands on with the game I can tell you that it’s completely transformed my perceptions of movie based games.
The single-player mode is conceptually similar to the original title: choose to play as either an Autobot or Decepticon, and carry out your assigned missions. In the original, this was conducted via an open-world mechanic, finding missions in either the California suburbs or the Hoover Dam. T:ROF has abandoned this idea in favor of a “war room,” wherein you select your individual missions in a more traditional manner. The mission I got to play was fairly simple (move to this point on a map, eliminate enemies, move to another point on the map), so it’s hard to give an accurate picture of how worth-while the single player campaign will be. I’ll put it to you this way: in the original game, I was bored and irritated immediately by the campaign, whereas with the sequel I was sincerely enjoying myself while performing largely the same actions. The credit for that goes to the developer’s complete re-working of the entire control scheme.
Luxoflux re-iterated time and again that they had listened to the complaints of players who were disappointed with the first game, and those lessons have no doubt been applied when it comes to the controls. Instead of a “press Y to convert” system (it really was called “convert,” in a game called “Transformers”…one cannot help but shake their head), the player is in robot mode as a default, holding down the left trigger to aim, and transitioning into vehicle mode when they hold down the right trigger. The transformation is fast and smooth, and the player can actually execute attacks or other moves using the transition (holding down X while releasing right trigger to transition into robot mode releases a flying melee attack, holding down A makes for a long jump), and I almost felt at times like I was playing more of a fighting game, running up on an enemy in vehicle mode, executing a flying kick or special move, and then following up with more melee attacks. Based on controls alone, T:ROF is a 100% improvement.
The other major improvement was in the visual department. T:ROF’s graphics were a little rough in the version I played, and I was told that they would have some more polish before the game went gold, but even so, the game looked much less like a PS2 title ported to the 360.
Where this game really shines, however is multiplayer. This is, hands down, one of the most fun multiplayer games I’ve ever played. The key word, according to Luxoflux, is speed, and the multiplayer is fast, but it’s also strategic; players will be assigned to either the Autobot or Decepticon team, and each individual Transformer has a skill set that is so specialized as to be almost referred to as a “class.” Optimus Prime is a big brawler, but can’t do so well without support from longer-distance-focused characters such as Breakaway, an Autobot/sniper/F-35 aircraft that can take a sniper shot, change into a plane, fly across the map and take another shot, or Bumblebee, the Autobot/scout/Camaro who can change into a sports car, charge an opponent and hit him with a flying kick, then use his special EMP-blast move that immobilizes his opponent, making them a sitting duck for an Autobot teammate while continuing to put on the melee-pressure. The Autobots don’t have all the fun, as two Decepticons get particularly rockin’ special weapons; Megatron has a one-hit-one-kill weapon that (in order to be balanced) needs to be charged to full effectiveness, and Seeker (an F-18) has the ability to short-range teleport, which plays really well in one-on-one combat. Each character fills a specific role (Ratchet/Long Haul are the healers, Breakaway/Sideways are the snipers, etc.) and players have to be cognizant of who they choose to play going into a match, because once a match has engaged, players can switch characters, but only to the characters the other players on their team have chosen. So if you have a team full of Optimus Primes, you’re not going to be balanced enough to take on a mixed Decepticon team. This attention to strategy, combined with the speed and fluidity of the characters movements, make for a wicked-fast, wicked-fun robot war that is one of the most addicting multiplayer games ever; I played for about two hours straight, and was legitimately disappointed when I had to hand the controller back.
The traditional Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch modes are there, as well as Control Points (somewhat self-explanatory), Battle for the Shards (imagine capture the flag, if there were five flags you needed to capture), and One Shall Stand (one player on each team is designated as Optimus or Megatron, and the teams can only respawn if their leader is alive).
Luxoflux has also committed to supporting the game on the long term, promising future DLC that will feature more characters from the classic toy line.
T:ROF’s multiplayer alone is poised to be the definitive giant-robot-fighting-game, and if Luxoflux can deliver even an above-average single-player campaign, I think they could have a hit on their hands. As a man who spent a good portion of his childhood futzing with these toys, it’s good to see them get the electronic treatment they deserve. Give T:ROF a try; I guarantee it’ll transform your expectations.
T:ROF will be available June 23rd.