The current reinvention of Transformers is one of those things that make it hard to be a geek some days. The previous Transformers film took everything we loved about the original cartoon and toys and rendered it stupid – yet made something like 700 million dollars – and the game was just shy of an abomination. This time around, the movie is arguably even worse. Seriously, gold-toothed, urban transformers who can’t read? Robot testicles? Are you freaking kidding us? And the game is… well, actually the game isn’t half bad. The single player mode is pretty standard third-person blasting and destruction, but the multiplayer modes offer more than most gamers would expect (see what we didn’t do there?).
We’ve written about this before, but it’s worth repeating: the multiplayer action in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is totally unique. Because each robot has its own weapons, armor, speed, vehicle mode and special moves, this plays like Team Fortress 2, but with lumbering mechanized giants that can morph into jet fighters, hot rods, and the like on the fly. There’s also one particularly creative mode called One Shall Stand, in which the object is to kill the other team’s leader (Optimus Prime or Megatron) in addition to the usual deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag and control point contests.
In contrast, the single player mode is predictable - you represent the good side or the evil side, and each mission finds you choosing from 1-5 available characters and protecting/ destroying, defending/attacking, or escorting/assaulting various places, items, or other robots. It loosely follows the plot of the film – not really worth suffering through for the story’s sake then.
But the single-player mode is still worth playing so you can grow accustomed to the unusually laid-out controls. You’re constantly toggling between speedy vehicle form, the running, jumping humanoid form, and “weapon mode” - in which you pull out giant guns and gain the ability to strafe. Most games would just call this “aiming,” but whatever. Plus, most of your best attacks can only be done as part of your transformation from vehicle to robot form; for example, you can switch to vehicle mode to build up speed, then transform at the last minute to perform a shoulder charge or a super jump. To enable all this, the control scheme often has you holding two buttons and releasing them in a certain order to execute the desired move – not always an easy thing to do when you’re also jockeying both sticks. But it does feel empowering once you get it down.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen lacks the polished sheen and balance of some of its competitors – its looks are average, and the level design and mission parameters are painfully typical. But when the Transformers themselves are freed from silly plotlines and allowed to stand or fall on their own merits, as they are in the multiplayer modes, their distinct set of abilities make them truly engaging. That’s what we’ve always loved about Transformers, and no amount of Michael Bay and Shia LaBeouf’s interference can take that from us.
Jun 30, 2009