I’m not a big fan of licensed games, since the majority of them are usually awful, and after seeing the new Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
movie my expectations for the tie-in game dropped even further. I’m sorry Mr. Bay, but no amount of explosions and robot-on-robot action is going to make up for the terrible dialogue, predictable story, and dreadful acting. Though when it comes to video games, these problems aren’t the most important factors when determining whether a game is good. In games, the most important element is the gameplay, because if the game isn’t fun or is too frustrating, then pretty visuals aren’t going to be able to carry the game past the intro cinematic. So is Transformers more successful as a game then it was as a film, or is it just another bad game in disguise?
One of the first things you’ll notice when you boot up the game are its substandard graphics. The textures are bland and look like they were taken from a PSOne title and the game as a whole looks like it’s from the PS2 era. The only objects that look good in the game are the Transformers themselves, and transforming between states is very easy to perform (just a simple button press) and the transformation looks almost as good as the films, while much shorter. Other then the robots, there usually isn’t much going on in the world, which is largely unpopulated other then the generic city/town/industrial complex layout. The menus aren’t bad though there are some minor clutter problems, and the globe that houses the mission selection menu is somewhat disorderly, but they look good and navigating through them is easy most of the time. One example of this is the lack of direction when trying to figure out which mission is next on your list to world domination (or protection, depending on the side you chose). A glowing icon, arrow, or something similar would've saved me some time when trying to find my next objective.
Unfortunately, the combat as dull as after school television, and controlling your Transformer when it’s in the vehicle mode is actually quite annoying (especially the flying ones). Having to hold down a button to stay in the vehicle mode is unintuitive and just doesn’t make sense. Granted, being able to change between states on the fly is great fun, but the controls could use some serious improvement, especially the combat. There’s a plethora of attacks you can use to vanquish your enemies, but most of them require several button presses to execute (for example, hold this button, then hold another, then release the first to perform basic pound attack). I’m not going to remember how to perform these moves, especially while I’m surrounded by several Autobots (I usually start off as the bad guys when given the choice) in the middle of a mission.
The visuals are dated and the combat is rough, so the missions have to be good right? Unfortunately, no. While you have the option of playing as the bad guys or the good guys, their missions are similar: hunt this object down, complete this goal in a given time, kill this guy, protect this other guy, etc. The objectives are nothing we haven’t seen before in at least a couple dozen other games. The missions may be boring, but the ability to go back to replay certain missions to improve my score, as well as start again as the other side greatly increases this game’s replayability, which is something I didn’t expect from this game. The leaderboards also provide good incentive to try and make it to the top, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Besides the aforementioned issues, two things really bothered me about this game. First, the Transformers float. I never felt like I was controlling a heavy chunk of badass metal, instead I felt like I was controlling Kirby. Why, when I jump, do the Transformers stay in the air before floating to the ground like a delicate feather? When I land on the ground I want the earth to shake, buildings to crumble, and chaos to ensue. My second issue with the game is its abundance of invisible walls. Look, I understand that you can’t create an entire city, so you have to box me in to make sure I don’t stray or actually explore the world, but why do they have to glow neon blue? The developer didn’t even try to hide them, instead they made them even more noticeable by giving it a hologram look that really makes it stand out. Movie tie-ins have stricter time constraints then most games since their release usually has to coincide with the film they're based on, so some invisible walls are understandable, but the developer could've at least tried to hide them.
One of the few well-designed features of this game would be its multiplayer, which is actually much more entertaining then the single-player campaign. The action is frenetic and much more intense when you're playing other human players, who can easily navigate the terrain and come up behind you if you're not careful; this is something that happened to me many times. If you strategize it's easy to make some seriously powerful teams, and it seemed the team that usually won was the team that had a strong offensive player and another that focused on close range combat. If you find yourself losing often, remember this: if all else fails, choose Optimus Prime.
As I said earlier, you can choose which side you want to fight on, and each side has their own campaign; even though the only real difference is the selection of Transformers you can control.
Once you choose the mission you wish to play, you are given the option of choosing which Transformer you want to control. This is nice, right? Well, it would be, if all but one of the Transformers weren’t locked almost every time. Why even give us the choice? To tease us?
There is another big problem with the game, mainly because it's such a strange omission. Once you complete a mission you are given points (Energon) that can be spent on upgrading your team’s abilities. There’s a myriad of things you can upgrade, like the weapon cooldown time, maximum health, and melee damage. However, you cannot improve your weapon damage. All of these upgradeable stats, and the most important one isn’t there. It’s baffling.
What I’m trying to say is this game is flawed. Heavily. But in the end, I had more fun playing this game then I did watching the movie. This is the type of game that's worth a playthrough if
you find it lying on the street and you have nothing else to do (but even then, it’s close). Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, or a true fan of the Transformers franchise I don’t recommend actually spending money on this game. Most of the time games like this are made to cash in on a sure bet, though rarely is it so obvious that no real love went into the game then Revenge of the Fallen.
Revenge of the Fallen has some serious flaws, but so did the film. It's hard to blame a licensed game for failing so badly when its creative source was so dreadful. So while this is one of the extremely rare times where the game is actually better than the film it’s based off of, in this case that's not saying much. If you’re looking for even slightly entertaining mech action you can do better.
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