With the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen video game, you have a game that is similar to the first movie game, but improved in all the right places. Like the first game, you can take control of the Autobots or Decepticons and play through missions that are somewhat loose interpretations of the movie scenes. At the start of the game, you are taken to your “War Room”, which acts as a base of operations. Fans of the Playstation 2 Transformers Armada game will notice more than a few similarities here. While in the War Room, you can select your next mission, upgrade your characters review game progress as well as check out any unlockable items. One thing I noticed right away was that the game presentation is improved over the original game in some areas, but scaled back in others. Between missions, the characters interact with each other, offering everything from praise, to minor story points to criticisms of your performance. It’s an interesting addition. The story itself follows a loose interpretation of the plotline from Revenge of the Fallen. Each level represents a key area or battle from the film. The bulk of your time will be spent running and gunning against your opponents, mainly drones. Some levels will end with a boss fight meant to help you live a part of the film. In the end you can really tell that large portions of the movie’s plot were left untouched. And it’s really a shame that the only real cut scene is at the beginning of the game. There are no mid-game cut scenes and no real end movie to tie this up nicely. All you have is the banter between characters as you complete each mission, and those are more about what you did as opposed to moving the story forward. At times, especially when playing as the Decepticons, you feel as if you missed a major battle as a character mentions a major game point in passing (SPOILER: like when Sam escapes captivity from the Decepticons :END SPOILER) as if it wasn’t too big a deal. Follies like that, can bring the experience down. As I mentioned above, there are unlockables in the game. The unlockables vary between Autobots and Decepticons. They range from full episodes of the G1 Cartoon, to recolors of your characters to play as, to concept art from the game. The addition of full episodes is a welcome plus; however, I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed by much of the other content. If there was one thing the first game got right, it was the sheer amount of content you could unlock. Also, you cannot access this content directly from the main menu. You have to load up the game, choose either Autobots or Decepticons and then go to the war room to view the content. It’s cool that you can access the unlocked content as you unlock it, but makes it a chore to go back and view it at other times. Graphics and Animation Revenge of the Fallen has received a definite bump in the visual department compared to the first game. The character models are more detailed with more intricate parts and pieces visible. Large characters like Rampage and Long Haul are especially impressive looking. The first time you see Devastator close up, you’ll want to stare at it for as long as possible. The sheer amount of detail in the character models is pretty impressive to look at. The character animations are smooth, with some nice variety between characters. However, the character transformation animations come off as a bit weak. Pieces seem to morph into larger blocks as opposed to actually shifting into place. It’s less noticeable on smaller characters like Bumblebee, but larger character like Ratchet, and especially Long Haul, tend to have the appearance of parts simply folding around them. It’s a bit jarring when you stare at it, but most of the time you’ll be moving too fast to notice. The environments are detailed, but lack life. There’s decent variation in the building designs, colors and textures. Environmental explosions seem to look pretty powerful. Since there’s a larger variation in the types of areas you’ll be fighting, the environments seem fairly refreshing at times. Going from Shanghai to California to the vast expanse of a blue ocean, then all the way to Cairo really helps to not feel like you’re playing the same areas again and again. On the downside, the game features fairly short draw distances and texture pop-in at times. These are especially noticeable on levels like Cairo, or whenever you play as a character like Grindor or Starscream. As you fly overhead, you get the feeling of a fairly small playing field, instead of expansive cities. Shanghai fairs a bit better than most, simply because there are more tall buildings to hide the draw distance. Also, like the first games, the environments can seem fairly lifeless. There are people that walk around, but they are barely noticeable most of the time, and traffic is very light, which all lends to a very baron feeling. And while the graphics as a whole are much improved over the first game, they really don’t compare favorably to more recent graphical powerhouses such as Gears of War 2, Killzone 2 or Fallout 3. The character models really save this one though, and it is the best a Transformers game has ever looked. If the environments matched this level of intricacy, it would have scored at least a 9. Overall: 7.5 out of 10 Sound and Music The audio performance of Revenge of the Fallen is a bit of a mixed bag. The big positive here is the dialogue and voice acting. The amount of dialogue in the game is a treat to hear. Characters interact between missions, bantering back and forth about your accomplishments and pointing out the next missions objectives. During the actual game play, your character will converse with your level guide (similarly to the first game) and will also smack talk to the drones and characters they are fighting. The drones will also bark out commands to other nearby drones. It gives more life to the characters as you play the game. I would like to make special mention that Charlie Adler’s performance as Starscream in the game is exceptional. He’s sinister, scary and downright fearsome in his take on the character. It’s really a joy to listen to anytime Starscream is on screen. The other voice actors do a good to adequate job. A large portion of the film cast reprises their roles here, but any fill-ins do a pretty decent job. It’s always nice to hear Cullen as Optimus. However, Frank Welker’s Megatron can come off as a bit weak voiced at times. The music is where the audio performance suffers. Not using the Steve Jablonsky score was a real mistake in my opinion. The music is low volume and unobtrusive but wholly unremarkable. What’s really surprising about this is that Jablonsky is known mainly for his work in the video game field. The rest of the audio is decent. Explosions have decent pop, your missiles offer a nice hiss as they speed away to their targets and your engines offer varying hums and growls. The lack of the old school transformation sound is missed here, and would have added a nice bit of nostalgia to the experience. Overall: 7 out of 10 Gameplay Instead of breaking down all the controls of the game, see the above button layout. As you can see, there are quite a few changes in the way the game is played. The biggest change is how transforming affects gameplay. Unlike the last game, transforming actually plays a role in how you do battle. You also have greater control of how it works. By forcing you to hold down the button to stay in vehicle mode, you now have an expanded set of moves at your disposal. While in vehicle mode, you can quickly transform and slam into an opponent then transform again and drive away or setup for a different attack. And you can now transform while jumping, which was a huge complaint with the last game. This also lends itself to huge gameplay twists, as you can now use your vehicle mode to give you an “advanced jump”, which sends you higher and further. So you can hit top speed in vehicle mode, do an advanced jump, shoot a few enemies, and then transform back into vehicle mode all in mid-air. And speaking of shooting, your weapons now actually pack some punch. You have two weapons at your disposal. Each character is different. But mainly one is a long range and one is a shorter range. There are exceptions, like Sideways (who packs a surprisingly powerful sniper rifle and a machine gun). There are two other new additions; Overdrive and special abilities. Special abilities give your character a tactical advantage for a short burst of time. Some characters can heal themselves and others (like Ratchet), while others get invincibility, strength, etc. Again, each character’s ability is unique to them. As you get hit, hurt and beat up, your overdrive meter gets filled in. Once filled you can activate it to give your weapons a boost in strength, and keeps them cool so they don’t overheat. It’s perfect when your surround by groups of larger foes. As you play the game, you earn Energon. Energon allows you to purchase upgrades for your characters. You can purchase things like extra health, longer boost, stronger attacks and shorter cool down periods for your weapons. It adds a nice, but very easy to use, element of strategy after each mission. Overall, your characters control great. The new gameplay additions are welcome and fun. However, the problem creeps up when you realize that there’s just not that much to do in the game itself. The environments are fairly flat with little to no strategy needed to win your missions. There are no ramps to jump off of, no environmental based attacks, and very little to actually destroy. Levels are timed, so you don’t have time to just movie around and explore. There is a free roam mode, but it’s pointless as there are no enemies or objectives. But every mission boils down to going from point A to point B, do your task and then move onto the next marker. You can get pretty bored after your 10th mission of fixing the satellites or of taking humans from spot to spot. However, there are a few really impressive boss fights. The fight against Devastator is very impressive to watch and play through the first couple of times. And fights between top characters such as the fight with Rampage, or when Optimus and Megatron finally face off can be exciting. The battle over the ocean (known as Deep Six) is the best set piece of the game. The structure is mostly different than the rest of the game, and it makes great use of your aerial based characters. This is a section I’ve played through at least three times on each side. And that’s the real shame of Revenge of the Fallen. There is so much the Transformers can do now, and so few ways to fully utilize it. Overall: 7 out of 10 Bottom Line Transformers fans will want to know if this game is better than the first one, and that’s an emphatic YES! However, as a standalone game, it’s a mixed bag. The new elements can be really fun when they come together, but there is so much monotony at times that the experience can become boring. But I do recommend that every fan at least play the game. The areas and scenarios that work, work extremely well. I really think Revenge of the fallen is a stepping stone game for Activision. There is a solid foundation here, and with some tweaks to level design and mission structure, this could have been an A List game. As it stands now, it is a decent romp through the Transformers universe that can provide fun in small bursts. Overall: 7 out of 10 The Good: Great character models, fun new gameplay mechanics, fantastic voice acting, Deep Six level The Bad: Bland environments, lack of destructive buildings, texture pop-in, timed levels, no cohesive storytelling, lack of CGI ending, repetitive missions Please Note: I was unable to test out the multiplayer aspect of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Once I am able to thoroughly play through the multiplayer experience, an addition will be made to this review. Make sure to stop in and meet up with other TFW2005 members for Multiplayer here: XBox 360 Revenge of the Fallen Multiplayer Thread and here: PS3 Revenge of the Fallen Multiplayer Thread.