One can’t expect much from a game based on the Transformers license, especially with the involvement of Michael Bay. Explosions? Check. Giant robots? Check. Signature catch-phrases? Check. Even bigger explosions? Check. In that regard, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has it all. Unfortunately, the only thing that these robots are disguising is a mediocre game.
Revenge of the Fallen is focused at first. Players are thrown into the never-ending struggle between the noble Autobots and the sinister Decepticons, with the game allowing players to choose their side. Each campaign contains 23 missions set in major cities loosely following the film’s plot. Both sides offer a roster of the best and brightest ‘bots, from the eternally awesome Optimus Prime and Bumblebee to the devastatingly destructive Megatron and Starscream. The robots can switch between multiple attack modes on the fly, each offering hand-to-hand combat and an array of machine guns, rocket launchers, and sniper rifles to take down long-range targets. Additionally, each bot can transform into their vehicular form with the touch of a button, which opens up new attack possibilities and makes transportation easier as players mow down hundreds of enemy mechs.
Slaughtering bots is something that players will become intimately familiar with during Transformers: RotF, since nearly all of the game’s 46 missions feature this objective. While the occasional level involves base defense, injured robot escort, or in-flight combat, most play time time spent in the game’s vacant cities will involve smashing until there is nothing left to smash. This gets repetitive quickly, as the controllable Transformers all feel similar. Sure, some can drive faster than others or have more badass weaponry, but the game play doesn’t feel different with different bots. This is more apparent when playing the second campaign, as both the Autobot and Decepticon story modes are nearly identical in mission structure, robot handling, and lack of variety. Hell, even the last boss fights are exactly the same!
The dearth of creativity is disappointing since the game play of Transformers is damn fun. Weapons handle nicely, with a decent selection of explosive blasters and ‘fist to titanium face’ brawling mechanics. Transforming is especially well conceived, as players merely hold down a trigger to switch to the robots’ wheel or sky-based form. The developers at Luxoflux wisely implemented a few transformation-centric combo attacks to freshen the game play. For example, players can change into a vehicle as machine gun bullets pierce the air, get within arm’s length of the intended target, then release the transform button to execute a wicked sky leap, ground pound, or slicing attack. Since the entire game is built around driving and fighting, the combination of the two is awesome and adds strategy to otherwise mindless action. The developers also wove an upgrade and unlockable system into the game, with the latter opening different bot skins and full episodes of the cartoon for one’s viewing pleasure.
The lack of any environmental destruction is less welcome. While the bots rip countless enemy drones apart with ease, the buildings and structures surrounding the struggle never fall. This—to put it bluntly—sucks, as the movies revel in incidental demolition of popular landscapes. The cities are bereft of life, with a scant few cars and people representing the entire populations of China and California. The game attempts to link these areas with poorly designed story sequences. These either involve narration over a radar screen or a group of bots chatting about mission success while staring at a map. These are poorly produced, banal, and unskippable.
Revenge of the Fallen offers online multiplayer, though players shouldn’t bother. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Control Point modes are available, but poor character balance, uninspired maps, a lack of players, and a broken lobby system render them unplayable. The game’s visuals are equally ill-conceived, offsetting detailed bots with generic cityscapes, odd-looking humans, and uninteresting enemy drones. The sound fares better, with the legendary tones of Peter Cullen returning to voice Optimus Prime and the ‘splosionriffic sound effects relaying the chaos satisfactorily.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is shamefully brought down by an absence of variety, destructibility, and personality. While it lacks substance, the nonstop carnage, large cast of playable characters, and entertaining combat might make Transformers: RotF worth a rent for players still digging robots in disguise. Casual fans should pick up the original flick on Blu-Ray instead.