Now here's a game based on a Michael Bay film if ever there was one. However, while Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen stunk up multiplexes earlier this summer with its idiotic storyline, terrible acting; overblown special effects, and an interminable runtime, the video game adaptation is a surprisingly fun romp. Despite some inherent flaws and some shallow gameplay, any fan of the license or even the first film (which blows the awful sequel out of the water) will do well to give this title a spin in their Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.
Here's the part in the review where I sum up the story, but I was hard pressed to find any here. Considering that this is an adaptation of a movie that was two and a half hours of sound and fury signifying nothing, this doesn't come to much of a surprise. The game loosely follows the "plot" of the film, but the missions have little continuity from one to the next. Surprisingly, despite the dearth of story; all the cutscenes are entirely unskippable, which made me want to smash my own face into my LCD TV. Yes, after every mission, you're forced to watch the Transformers of your choice (you can play as the Decipticons and Autobots in separate campaigns) stand around a glowing globe discussing their plans using hackneyed dialogue and truly awful writing. Thankfully, these scenes are usually pretty short.
The main gameplay has you traversing the globe in a variety of different missions that always involve blowing up other robots. It doesn't matter if you have to race through different checkpoints, search and destroy, or simply take on a rival Transformer, the missions remain fun throughout the game's run time. Fighting other Transformers feel smooth, natural, and satisfying. I would expect nothing less from Luxoflux, the developers of the PlayStation one classic, Vigilante 8.
To get to that satisfying gunplay and hand to hand combat, you'll have to get the hang of admittedly bizarre controls. The entire scheme is based on a variety of modifiers. Hold the left trigger and you'll entre weapon mode. Hold down the right trigger and you'll transform into your vehicle form. It's confounding at first when in weapon mode you'll fire one of your two weapons, but when not holding it down, you turn into a vehicle. If that paragraph sounded confusing, it's because it is. The more advanced moves have you holding down one button, holding down another, and then letting go of the original button. For example, if you're transformed into a vehicle, and then you hold down the jump button, and then let go of the right trigger, your Transformer will make a mighty leap that can clear several city blocks. As confusing as it all sounds, you will be used to the controls by about a third of the way through the game, and the scheme allows you to rip one Transformer limb from limb, transform into a car, drive up to your next opponent, dive into him and blow him up with a plasma cannon. The controls allow for a smoothness that is rare in most games.
When in vehicle mode, you'll always be in constant motion, unless you're playing as a helicopter Transformer. This is definitely an adjustment for people expecting to press a button, be a car, and then press a button again to be a robot. The further you press the right trigger down, the faster your vehicle will go, just like every driving game on the market. Depending on the Transformer you pick (or are forced to pick for a certain mission), you can be a sports car, dump truck, helicopter, fighter jet, and several others. Given the different weapon load outs and vehicle options, you're sure to find a Transformer that suits your taste and play style.
All of the missions you'll play are timed, and you'll get rewarded with unlockables for doing things in quicker time. There are four different levels of success, platinum, gold, silver, and bronze. Any slower than the bronze time, and the game won't unlock anything for you and won't even bother uploading your time to the leaderboards. This reviewer wasn't able to beat any levels with a platinum rating, which is nearly impossible, but with a little practice, gold and silver were almost always attainable. The timed aspect, as well as unlocking new Transformers and the ability to play other Transformers in earlier missions certainly contribute nicely to the overall replay value of the game, one that is already good with dual eight hour campaigns.
Further enhancing the value is a fully stocked multiplayer mode that is way more fun that you'd ever expect out of a movie game. The game supports up to eight players in deathmatch, team deathmatch, and several other team based modes including One Shall Fall (kill the leader of the other team), Control Points, and Battle for the Shards (capture the flag). The matches I played were all entirely lag free and there's something strangely satisfying about Transformers deathmatch. Servers were fairly populated at the time of this writing, but occasionally it took a few tries to find a populated game. Knowing the fickle PSN and Xbox Live gamers, I can't imagine the community will last too long, so don't let this gem of a mode pass you by.
Transformers: ROTF certainly looks the part. The animations of the Transformers are simply glorious, and transforming back and forth is a smooth feast for the eyes. Battles are big and expansive, and the explosions look outstanding. The human characters are definitely a weak link however, but since they resemble ants to your lumbering giants, it's not blatantly noticeable. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the graphical presentation is the environments. They are rather limited in size and scope, and invisible walls keep you in the play area, destroying the illusion of a destructive sandbox to play in. Furthermore, unless destroying a building is part of a mission objective, the buildings are completely invincible. You can toss aside and destroy things like power lines, cars, people, and fences with ease, but not being able to completely level the landscape is very disappointing. At least you can climb buildings like Spider-man and leave neat little patches of rubble where your claws entered the bricks.
Unfortunately, the acoustics in the game are lacking. Gunfire and explosions certainly sound decent enough, but the game is anchored with awful voice acting, disposable music, awful voice acting, long stretches of silence, oh, and awful voice acting. Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox reprise their roles from the film, and bring the same passion and dedication to their roles that they brought to the screen that guarantees them Oscar nods this year. In all truthfulness, the only decent voice acting comes from Peter Cullen, who has voiced Optimus Prime for as long as there's been an Optimus Prime.
Transformers: ROTF is one of those rare movie licensed games that actually manages to surpass its original source material and stand on its own as a fun experience. It may not revolutionize video games in any way, and will come and go with little fuss, but that doesn't mean that you should let this little gem pass you by.