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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Luxoflux
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
In the gaming world, it goes without saying that most titles based on a licensed property or film usually don't turn out so great. Some of them feel sloppy and rushed, while others are terrible in every aspect of their execution. It takes a while for a good one to come along, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the most recent of them. It's a good action movie tie-in that is easy to enjoy once you look past its horrible first impression. Revenge of the Fallen is a far cry from perfection, but it's certainly much better than most licensed games.

Graphically, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has several pros and cons. The Autobots and Decepticons are well-animated; watching them transform from their vehicle form to their humanoid form is always fun to watch, especially when it is followed by an advanced action (more on that later). The explosions are great as well, but you shouldn't go in expecting anything like what you see in Red Faction: Guerrilla.

Where the character models and animation succeed, the environments fail. The areas you'll be fighting in are bland and noticeably unpopulated. I know that the "T" rating might have been compromised had there been more potential collateral damage walking around the cities, but still -- I seriously doubt that the streets of Shanghai are ever as vacant as they are in Revenge of the Fallen.

The sound design follows the same standard the visuals meet. It's solid, but flawed. The more notable actors from the films reprise their roles for the game, but due to either technical quirks or poor sound mixing, it is often difficult to figure out what the bots are saying to each other. It's often difficult, but occasionally impossible, due to the complete lack of subtitles. However, Peter Cullen (voice of Optimus Prime) does scream, "Headshot!". I'm pretty sure that makes up for some of the audio's inadequacies. The music is nothing to write home about, but it doesn't feel out of place.


Gameplay:
I've been told that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has a story, but it's kind of difficult to tell, based on the game. Most of what I was able to get was that the recently-leaderless Decepticons are plenty mad at their mortal enemies (the Autobots and Sam Witwicky, aka LadiesMan217) after the events of the first film. They want revenge, and they'll get their revenge by doing what they do best -- blowing the hell out of civilized society. There's some stuff in here about a shard of the now-defunct AllSpark and, as the title implies, Megatron's boss, the Fallen. Still, it all boils down to three words: save or destroy. You'll either take control of the Autobots (the duly-designated protectors of the human race) or the Decepticons (the aforementioned pissed-off robots) in one of two parallel campaigns.

Revenge of the Fallen's Campaign missions drop your selected Autobot or Decepticon into a pseudo-sandbox environment much like in Zone of the Enders. Regardless of which campaign you choose to complete, you'll find yourself repeating several of the same tasks. These can range from escorting a damaged ally to disrupting communications arrays to the old standby (shoot anything that moves). Both campaigns start off with a grinding screech; you are subjected to a good number of seemingly-pointless missions before the campaigns finally pick up some steam. Overall, though, the single-player stuff gets stale pretty quickly, and it's easily the weakest part of the package.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has a multiplayer component, and it's much better than both single-player campaigns. Even though most of the multiplayer modes are common to online gaming, the action is fast, fun, and often deep. It's always thrilling when your health plunges into the red and you make your escape by transforming into a tightly-controlled vehicle. The characters are also very well-balanced, so whenever your opponent chooses to play as Sideways and complains that Bumblebee's homing rockets are overpowered, you can always dispute that by pointing out the ridiculous power of the Decepticon's sniper rifle.

All but one of the multiplayer modes in Revenge of the Fallen are common to any action game with an online component, but it's always nice to experience your garden-variety DeathMatch or Capture the Flag as characters such as Ironhide and Starscream.

Out of all the multiplayer modes, I found One Shall Stand to be the most interesting. A game of One Shall Stand pits the two factions against each other, and each has an active leader. One player assumes the role of Optimus Prime and the other Megatron. The job of each team is to take down the leader of the other team, because he is the key to each team's ability to respawn. The twist is: only the leader can track the other team's leader by radar. Winning a game of One Shall Stand requires a whole lot of cooperation and communication, which makes winning very satisfying.


Difficulty:
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has a steep learning curve, due to its often conflicted control scheme. After you sink a couple of hours into the game, something will click, and many of these annoyances will give way to the thrill of controlling a killer transforming robot.

My biggest issue with Revenge of the Fallen's difficulty level has to do with the single-player campaigns. If you want to earn a medal in any single-player mission, you have to beat the clock. You'll probably have to play through the mission a number of times, because more often than not, you'll have to memorize the locations and order of all the waypoints and objectives. The reason for this is really quite poor. Finishing a single objective usually triggers several seconds of dialogue. Your next objective is never displayed on the mini-map until everyone's finished talking. Did I mention that the clock continues to tick away during these little interludes? This is an unfortunate and frustrating oversight, especially for people who like to unlock Trophies.

This game's replay value is mainly in its multiplayer component, but there are several unlockables -- including episodes of the G1 (Generation One) animated series. There is also a ton of Leaderboard support for both single and multiplayer. The cherry on top is a Grand Theft Auto-like statistic-tracking system that is always fun to revisit after a couple weeks of progress.


Game Mechanics:
As I mentioned in the last section, learning how to play Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is kind of tough, due to some control decisions that sometimes don't make a whole lot of sense. Running around and climbing buildings are respectively mapped to the Left Analog Stick and (O) button -- nothing out of the ordinary. Oddly enough, the one decision that makes the least amount of sense is in transformation controls. You must hold down the (R2) button to transform and remain in your vehicle form. The problem is, both the accelerator and your humanoid form's gun controls are also mapped to the (R2) button. Your speed depends on how much pressure you're applying to the button, and you can't stop without letting go of it -- which transforms you back into humanoid form. Like just about everything else in the game, you'll get used to it, even though it's a strange and potentially inconvenient quirk. However, there are some stylish (and often destructive) ways to transform back into humanoid form, and those are courtesy of the Advanced moves. By holding down a face button as you let go of the (R2) button, your vehicle will transform, making a smooth transition to an elegant leap, a destructive ground pound, or a special attack. Destroying an opponent with one of these moves will elicit laughs and trash-talk alike, especially when you're online.

The specifics of Cybertronian combat are a bit easier to digest than those of mobility. Each Transformer has a primary and secondary firing mode, and you must toggle between the two with the (R1) button. Holding down the (L2) button will ready your guns, and as I mentioned earlier, (R2) fires them. Each firing mode has a weapon heat indicator you must keep an eye on while you're under pressure. However, the game's not all about the big guns. You can participate in some good old robotic fisticuffs with presses of the (Square) button. Holding the button will charge your attack; this gives the melee combat a bit of variety. Each Transformer also has a special ability, which is mapped to the (Triangle) button. These special abilities reflect each Transformer's style appropriately; Ratchet emits a healing aura, while Grindor deploys a turret. Every kill you earn gets you closer to filling your Overdrive meter. When the Overdrive meter is full, a press of the (L1) button sends your Transformer into a super-powered frenzy.

Earning kills, scoring bonuses, and completing objectives will earn you Energon, the currency that allows you to upgrade your team's abilities. Since there are too many characters to upgrade individually, the developers have made the upgrade system all-encompassing (team upgrades). This system works very well and is a breeze to use.

At times, Revenge of the Fallen doesn't really feel like a whole package; the quality of the single-player campaign simply doesn't measure up to that of the online experience. If you buy games solely for their single-player modes, I can't recommend this one to you. However, if you're looking for a multiplayer package that is simultaneously familiar and fresh, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will fit the bill.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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