Less than meets the eye.
I saw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on opening weekend and came away kind of disappointed, so I was actually terrified to re-live the movie through the tie-in video game. Turns out I had nothing to fear—the plot of the Wii game is only minimally tied to the film, and in general differs radically. This doesn’t mean the game is good, though. Aside from some interesting concepts and cool unlockables, Revenge of the Fallen disappoints too often to be worth your time.
At its heart, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a beat‘em up: you take control of an Autobot or Decepticon (depending on the mission) and traverse a large, linear level while fighting other giant robots. Attacks are done (primarily) via horizontal or vertical movements of the Wii remote. If you press the C button while doing a motion, you can do more powerful attacks. The D-pad has special functions that all drain your Energon meter: temporary stat increase, super-attack, and self-repair. Your robotic avatar can also shoot by aiming with the pointer and pressing B. There’s a secondary projectile (charged with Z) that drains your Energon, but unleashes a powerful attack. Luckily, killing other robots produces Energon cubes, and Energon canisters are scattered around each level.
While Energon might be plentiful, health is not. Your only method of health recovery is the self-repair option which doesn’t repair much, and in turn drains Energon. In fact, it uses more Energon than it gives you health. Your health actually recovers by itself over time if you don’t take any damage, but there’s usually a constant barrage of enemy fire so recovery time is a precious commodity. As it stands, you will find yourself perpetually on the brink of death during almost every mission. Far too often enemies simply block your attacks, and since there is no lock-on button you will flail at empty air. What’s worse is that the enemies tend to gang up on you. While you’re trying to break through one enemy’s constant blocking, two other robots start shooting you in the back. At a certain point, you just start relying entirely on special attacks to get the job done and avoid dying.
Another knock against these levels are the “hacking” minigames, which involve lasers and mirrors. You move the mirrors to guide the laser from a red target to a green one What’s unfortunate is that you don’t have the freedom to just set up a new laser pathway: anytime you mess with the established path, you instantly fail. You are forced to get the new pathway right on the first try., Strangely, you can simply press the Minus button and “bypass” the minigames entirely, making one wonder what their point is in the first place.
Vehicular missions are more interesting. The best example is the first mission that has you playing as Sideways trying to outmaneuver Bumblebee on a crowded highway (there are also similar sequences using the fighter jet Starscream). The controls are instantly intuitive: press B to accelerate and Z to brake, and try not to hit oncoming cars. The most enjoyable aspect is your ability to press A to briefly transform into your robot form. Time slows down, and you can use the B and Z buttons to attack opponents until they are either destroyed or forced behind you. Pressing A again changes you back to vehicle form so that you can burn rubber. Because they involve transforming, the vehicular sequences manage to capture the spirit of the films in a way that the generic beat ‘em up levels do not. Unfortunately, these vehicular sequences are are few and far between.
The plot is actually more interesting than that of the film, and not as confusing because the humans are essentially out of the picture. Events happen in completely different ways, and there are a lot of nods to the old animated show (including Optimus Prime’s old catchphrase, “Transform and roll out!”). Some of the voicework is different as well, for example, Megatron is voiced by Frank Welker instead of Hugo Weaving, and Soundwave has the robotic voice of his animated series counterpart. In fact, three episodes of the old animated show are unlockable, as is concept art and character models.
The game’s multiplayer mode allows a second player to drop in and out of the main campaign, taking on the role of a drone that shoots enemies and restores the main player’s health. It’s pretty much Super Mario Galaxy’s buddy mode with robots. This actually makes battles a bit easier, but the trade-off is that the drone’s energy is sapped every time it unleashes its own special attack or gives health to Player One. There’s also an arena mode for two players, both controlling robots, as they fight off wave after wave of enemies to see how far they can get. You can unlock different multiplayer areas as you progress through the campaign mode. True co-op in the main campaign would’ve been nicer, as the prospect of endless brawling isn’t as appealing.
Revenge of the Fallen’s production values are fairly high. The player’s haracter models are full of detail and life, but but unfortunately enemy units are very generic. Environments bleed together, although there are some interesting locations (the simple geometry but overarching complexity of the NEST marine base being one example). The gamenever chugs or suffers framerate drops, and its sound effects are suitably bombastic and true to the films. Oddly enough, the cutscenes don’t look nearly as nice as the game itself, even though they use the in-game engine. Part of the problem is that close-ups of the characters reveals muddy textures that you don’t otherwise notice during gameplay.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen would have been better if there was more focus on its vehicular sequences. As it stands, it is a mediocre beat‘em-up that you can safely pass by.