Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen First Impressions

We check out Activision's upcoming game tie-in of the Transformers sequel.

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Generally speaking, movie games are always tricky things. For example, Activision's Transformers movie tie-in from 2007 was a good example of how a movie game can go. The action game featured detailed graphics that came close to matching the transformers in the movie but offered a flawed experience that didn't synch up with fan expectations. The publishing giant is hoping to avoid that pitfall with the upcoming Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the tie-in to the movie sequel of the same name. We had the chance to see how that's working out when we recently took a look at the console versions of the game.

Transformers beating the bolts out of each other never gets old.
Transformers beating the bolts out of each other never gets old.

Our demo of the game gave us a look at several levels of the Xbox 360 game and highlighted the improvements over the previous game. The most obvious difference are a new mix of developers: Luxoflux for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Beenox for the PC, Krome for the Wii, Vicarious for the Nintendo DS, and Savage for the PSP. Each game will have its own approach to translating the movie into a game experience. The console and PC games will come closest to the film and follow it pretty closely, offering a healthy amount of content that goes beyond what you'll see in the flick. Krome's approach on the Wii won't be a port of Luxoflux's game but will have movie ties that incorporate the major moments from the film, plus some dramatic license with events around them. The PSP game will be an old-school arcade-style shooter. Finally, Vicarious Visions will offer two perspectives on the movie action with Decepticon and Autobot versions of their story-based mission game for the DS.

Before our demo of five missions in the game got underway, we received a rundown of Luxoflux's guiding principles for development. Unsurprisingly, a big influence on development was fan feedback--probably better described as "suggestions with an implied promise of bodily harm"--on the first game. The other big factor for the game's development was the team's own attachment to the Transformers thanks to a childhood diet of cartoon-watching. All of the above factored into Luxoflux redesigning the transformation system to better line up with what was seen in the film, namely momentum, which will let you pull off some crazy moves, incorporating greater player choice and implementing an online multiplayer mode. Finally, we got a quick primer on the story, which we'll share in a moment. Please note: The next paragraph contains story spoilers.

So the sequel's story is set roughly two years after the last movie. The Decepticons who didn't get pounded in the last film are still around causing trouble, forcing humans and Autobots to team up to take them out. The partnership seems to be working well, with the Decepticon menace just about wiped out when, wait for it, more of them pop up and something weird and ominous happens in Shanghai.

Decepticons...always getting in the way.
Decepticons...always getting in the way.

The first mission that we saw was an Autobot mission featuring Ironhide, who shows up to check out things in Shanghai. The veteran weapon specialist proved to be a good showcase for the game's new weapon system, given that the bots will now have primary and secondary weapons. Ironhide was packing dual shotguns for his primary weapon and a grenade launcher for his secondary. Although it will possible to fire them in both robot and vehicle modes, you'll need to keep an eye on your rate of fire to ensure that your weapons don't overheat. In addition to standard weapons, the bots will have some sort of special weapon; in Ironhide's case, this was a turret that he can set on the ground to assist in taking out enemies. We got to see all of the weapons in action as Ironhide was swarmed by generic robot foes. One of the other new elements that we got to see was the use of momentum with transformations, which resulted in some insane locomotion and combo possibilities. Besides looking cool, these crazy, acrobatic melee kills earn you medals that will appear on the game's online leaderboards as well as skill points that you can use to improve your faction, Autobot or Decepticon, with enhancements such as faster weapon cooldown, increased melee damage, and so on. The final bit of the transformer arsenal is the overdrive meter, which you'll fill by taking out enemies using your suite of abilities and weapons. Once it's full, the meter will let you go into overdrive mode, which will make you invulnerable for a short period of time and prevent your weapons from overheating.

Once we had a feel for the game's first mission, we took a look at it from the Decepticon perspective, which introduced Sideways, a new character who'll transform into an Audi R8. The mission had the bot zipping through the streets of Shanghai, using landmines and a sniper scope to make trouble for the local Autobots. The mission proved to be a good showcase for the game's faction mechanic, which will have you choose to play each mission from the Autobot or Decepticon perspective. Each of the factions will have a unique hub area to explore and will let you play through missions as various characters from each side.

Bumblebee should probably ask for directions.
Bumblebee should probably ask for directions.

The next mission that we saw was the second in the game and followed Bumblebee during a timed run and escort mission with Sam. The big focus of the level is the use of momentum and transformation to speed through by jumping and racing to different rooftops. Bumblebee's arsenal includes a heat-seeking rocket launcher and an EMP for stunning enemies. The level also showed off improved details in animation, such as the way Sam is shown to ride with Bumblebee in robot and car form.

The fourth mission broke up all of the car-based action that we'd seen and followed Starscream, everyone's favorite robotic jerk, as he attacked a naval fleet at sea. The mission had a distinctly different feel thanks to the fact that the flight system has been overhauled and lets you hover, perform barrel rolls, and engage in dogfights. So we were able to see a much more precise shooting experience as Starscream methodically took out weapon emplacements on the ships and also tore through the sky, dogfighting with with various flying Autobots.

The last mission that we saw was the big finale of the demonstration, which was intended to tease the game's big boss fights. This level featured a short glimpse of Optimus Prime facing off against what appeared to be the 2009 model of Devastator. Fans of the cartoon series will know Devastator as the humongous robot that takes shape after the Constructicons all bend themselves into the shape of arms and legs and snap together into a single, gigantic form. We'll say that Devastator looked...interesting. We'll also say that the sense of scale for the big guy was impressive. For reference, Optimus Prime stands roughly 30 feet tall. That may sound pretty big, but he looked like a munchkin next to the massive robot. As for Devastator's updated look, we think different people may end up having different opinions here. If taken at face value as a giant, evil robot, he actually looks pretty cool. However, nostalgic, diehard fans who have fond memories of the bright-green-and-purple Devastator of the 1980s might be a bit thrown off by this new hulking mass of metal.

The graphics in the game are looking very sharp, and the assorted transformers are shiny and comparable to their movie counterparts. The improved animation also stands out during the action sequences. The environments seem expansive and varied, and appear able to give the game a bigger feel. There's also a good amount of destruction going on in the areas that we saw--a good showcase of the interactivity of the levels and the assorted special effects being tossed into the game.

It just wouldn't be the same without aerial combat.
It just wouldn't be the same without aerial combat.

The game's audio seems to be on par with what we heard in the original game. There's a satisfying array of sound effects that popped up during the various levels that we saw. The whole package works well and suits the action. The game's score is still being implemented, but what we heard was fine.

Based on what we saw, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen seems to be making some smart choices. There appears to be a good amount of variety and, most importantly, more player choice. Although Activision representatives remained vague about other game features, the new game does claim to have the most playable characters in any Transformers game so far, which has us intrigued and hopeful. Look for more on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in the coming months. The game is slated to hit the Nintendo DS, PC, PlayStation 3, PSP, Wii, and Xbox 360.

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