Hands-on: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (PS3/360)
Remember the last Transformers game? The one that was so painfully bad it made you want to smash your controllers to bits and turn to a life of reading books? Developer Luxoflux sure remembers, and that's why it set out to make the game based on the upcoming movie, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, a lot better. Thankfully, it had a clearly outlined example of what not to do courtesy of Traveller's Tales.
When you get dropped into the single-player mode, you'll get taken through a brief tutorial in order to "check your systems out." On the Decepticon side, you'll get Starscream as your trainer, and the Autobots have Ironhide taking you through the paces. All the basic controls like movement, jump, targeting and so on are covered, after which you'll move on to transforming. To transform from robot to vehicle mode, you'll hold down the right trigger and ... keep it held down. That was our main gripe with this game, actually. It was too easy to have your finger pop off that trigger and whoops, you're a robot again. It's particularly aggravating when you're a flying 'former, revert back to aerial mode and have to get your bearings again.
Every character in the game has a primary weapon, a secondary weapon and a special ability. You can toggle your weapon mode on and off by squeezing the left trigger, which will bring up your aiming reticule, and the right trigger fires. For instance, Ratchet has an Energon Multi-Beam as his main weapon, and by hitting the right bumper or R1 you can switch to Sticky Grenades, his secondary offense. His special ability is Combat Repair, which heals nearby friendlies. They've made the special abilities emulate the characters somewhat: Optimus has "Valiant Leader" (he takes damage for you), Megatron has an instant-kill Fusion Arm Cannon and Ironhide can drop an Automated Rocket Turret.
In the single-player level we played, we had to kidnap several scientists and take them to holding areas. You'd do this by scaring them out of buildings -- pound a structure or shoot it enough to demolish it, and the terrified scientist comes running out. Scoop 'em up, and then take them to the beacon on the map. Rinse and repeat. It got fairly repetitive ... but that's where the other game mode leaps in to save the day.
Luxoflux has done a great job with the mutliplayer 4 x 4 battles, which run rings around the single-player campaign. The developers have nailed the scale -- when you have Grindor up in the sky trying to chase you down, you'll be grateful for that ability to turn into a speedy little car and zip away (thanks, Bumblebee!). You won't mind being a small guy vs. a big dude, because you'll have increased speed on your side. Just be sure to stay out of the reach of their weapons.
Ironically, the most improved part of the game are the transformations, which look terrific. If you jump off a building and transform into an auto or a jet on the way down, you'll either hit the ground with wheels screeching, or rocket off into the sky -- pretty thrilling stuff. A couple of the characters, like Sideways, are armed with sniper rifles, allowing you to grab a good vantage point and take a few shots before zooming off to a new spot. Translation: kablam, transform, roll out, transform, shoot again.
We played deathmatch in our sessions (Autobots vs. Decepticons, of course), and Luxoflux promises several other types of multiplayer will be available, including Control Points and some sort of Capture the Flag mode.
One blemish on the multiplayer goodness: when you die, you'll respawn after a countdown ... and then you plummet to the ground in a meteor before you can get back in the game. It's a tedious process that gets old after the first time you see it. Given that we're so close to the release of the game, we doubt this will change, so it might be something we'll just have to learn to love or just not loathe.
Activision and Luxoflux will be out at BotCon this weekend with a playable build of the game available to attendees, so if you're in the SoCal area, transform and roll out.