Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the perfect example of a summer movie blockbuster. The sequel to 2007’s Transformers, which was based on a long-running franchise of toys and cartoons, the movie has already made obscene amounts of money and is on course to have a record-setting theater run, despite terrible reviews. Though it may be light on character development, meaningful themes, good acting, and a coherent plot, Revenge of the Fallen does have some key ingredients for a great popcorn movie: robots, explosions, robots, Megan Fox, and robots fighting other robots. The video game tie-in, which also goes by the name Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, is the gaming equivalent of the summer popcorn flick: lots of action, shooting, and beating up other robots, and not a whole lot else. Unfortunately, video games require more substance to be worthy of the heftier price tag. The flick might get by with nothing more than robots and explosions, but the video game adaptation quickly gets tiresome.
Like some other summer movie tie-in games, Revenge of the Fallen attempts to convey the movie’s plot by bullet-pointing some major story points. Of course, I couldn’t tell what was going on a lot of the time because the game had no subtitles. I know that this won’t be a problem for most gamers, but as someone who only has about 60% of her hearing, I was completely lost on the narrative much of the time, and turning it up to an audible volume for me would have annoyed my downstairs neighbors and cat at home, and co-workers at the office. To be completely honest, though, I didn’t care all that much about what was going on, nor was it necessary to comprehend the story, since every mission was essentially the same.
Revenge of the Fallen offers two campaigns, allowing you to take the role of either the Autobots or Decepticons. While this may seem like a lot of content, each campaign is only a few hours long, and the two are essentially clones of each other. As an Autobot, no matter what your mission objective is, you’re just killing Decepticons over and over again; if you choose to represent the Decepticons, prepare to wipe out the Autobots. Occasionally, the Autobots will have to protect or repair a structure, while the corresponding Decepticon mission assigns you the task of destroying it, but don’t be fooled by the promise of a two-sided story; they are basically the same thing.
The similarities of the two campaigns would not be such a big deal if the missions within each crusade weren’t so repetitive. As I stated before, each individual assignment allows you to take the role of a Transformer on your side (sometimes you have a choice, other times you do not) and completing certain objectives, which mostly includes destroying opposing Transformers. Each Transformer has main and secondary weapons, and can also transform into a vehicle by holding down the right trigger; you can also use a weapon while in vehicle form, though aiming leaves a lot to be desired. Melee attacks and combinations can also be used, but are usually not ideal, since enemies will turn into vehicles and flee as soon as you get a few hits in.
While it can be pretty cool to change into a car or plane at the touch of a button, many of the controls used in vehicle mode are counterintuitive, and as a result, I ignored most of them entirely. Special melee attacks can be used, but only if you change into a car, hold down a button, and then let go of the right trigger; it makes it difficult to actually place and time the move, defeating the entire purpose. Since enemy A.I. is pretty dumb when being shot at, I usually climbed up the side of the nearest building and fired away at anyone who came close to me. Often, foes would stand on nearby structures and do the same, and we would engage in a shoot-out (or as I called it, “Let’s see who will die first”). I encountered many opposing Transformers who simply stood in place while being shot at, making my victories seem cheap and meaningless.
It seems like one of the key aspects of a Transformers game should be moving around freely, tearing things up as you please. Unfortunately, the timer in each level prevents you from doing so. The ticking clock determines your performance in each mission, giving you the opportunity to earn platinum, gold, silver, or bronze medals (if you miss out on a medal completely, your score won’t be added to your online leaderboard). The medal you get also determines how much Energon you collect for that level, which allows you to upgrade your team. I’m not really sure why it was necessary to time each mission, when performance could have just as easily been based on a combination of weapon accuracy, number of enemies destroyed, and special moves used. After medaling on each level within a zone, a “free roam” mode is unlocked, but there really isn’t much point to going back after the initial missions are complete.
As if the lackluster and repetitive gameplay wasn’t bad enough, I encountered a few pretty frustrating glitches during my time with Revenge of the Fallen. There were multiple times when I could not complete a mission because certain objectives failed to spawn, making me move around aimlessly and waste time while I wondered what I was doing wrong. I am usually pretty forgiving about glitches so long as they don’t break a game, but when it means I end up wasting time and can’t actually complete a mission without starting it over, that’s when it becomes aggravating.
Visually, Revenge of the Fallen leaves a lot to be desired. I won’t go so far as to say it looks like a last-gen game, but it’s certainly not showing off the 360’s full graphical capabilities, either. The Transformers themselves actually look pretty decent, but the same can’t be said for the environments they inhabit. Everything looks bland and generic, including the damage that you do. There are also no cut scenes in the game, further driving home the point that the plot simply isn’t important. At least the developers make the Transformers look nice and shiny, because there isn’t much else going for the presentation of this game.
Despite all of the problems and monotony with the single-player gameplay, Revenge of the Fallen’s online multiplayer is kind of interesting. In addition to the standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, there’s One Shall Stand, in which you need to take out the opposing team’s leader; Battle for the Shards, a capture-the-flag type game (except you’re capturing the five pieces of the Allspark); and Control Points (similar to Domination). No, it’s nothing innovative, but the multiplayer does bring a new twist to some classic gameplay modes. The main problem I had is that the environments are so large that with only up to eight people playing, you’re going to spend a lot of time driving or flying around aimlessly, trying to find your foes. Also, even though online play can be fun, the appeal is limited, and it probably won’t be long before you are back to nightly sessions of Left 4 Dead or whatever your online game of choice might be.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen did one thing right: it improved on the previous game in the blockbuster tie-in series. Unfortunately, the last game was a glitchy, broken mess, so that’s really not saying too much. In small doses, Revenge can be somewhat entertaining, but after spending more than half an hour with this game, I was ready for a break. Instead of making you want to keep coming back for more, the experience is redundant and tiresome. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen fails to do anything truly revolutionary, and merely falls into the familiar clichés of the summer movie game; it will likely be forgotten by the time autumn rolls around.