IGN Review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - Decepticon
I've been a fan of Vicarious Visions' handheld work for several years now, but I just couldn't turn a blind eye to the shoddy work it did on the original Transformers game for the Nintendo DS. It may have sold extremely well, but it definitely had its gameplay issues and obvious glitches, and it was clear that the game was far more ambitious than the system (and development time/budget) would allow. For the sequel, Activision may have handed over the development duties of the console versions to completely different teams, but the publisher let Vicarious Visions give it another shot. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on the Nintendo handheld still isn't quite as high quality a DS product as I'd expect out of the studio, but it's vast improvement over the original.
Just like the first Transformers game, the DS sequel is available in two flavors: Autobots and Decepticons. It might feel a page out of the Pokemon book: create one game but release it in two versions. But in this case,a lot more work went into producing independent "good guy" and "bad guy" editions: while the mission structure remains identical across both versions, the entire storyline's told from the perspective of the chosen side, complete with original voice work and separate full-motion video for its cutscenes. Your choice of version depends on just where you enjoy sitting on the "good vs. evil" scale, and it will come into play in the game's online function just as it did in the previous version.
Where the designers tried to give gamers the "open world" style of gameplay on the Nintendo DS with the first Transformers, the system's hardware restrictions got in the way of the developers' intentions. It appears that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen uses the same tech that Vicarious Visions built for the first title, but the team definitely wrangled back the production a bit. That's a good thing. Though you can't go anywhere and do anything like you could in VV's first Transformers game, the enforced restrictions actually make the experience better. The game's far from perfect, but there are far fewer exploits and glitches to get in the way of the action.
You can still explore the given area as freely as your robot's capable: if the rooftops are low enough you can still get up on top of buildings and hop across the skyline. But with a few exceptions all the missions are ground-based. You won't be playing as any flying Transformers unless the mission calls for it, and even then these occasional flying missions are specific to the airborne robot. The missions keep things a bit more confined but the areas can still be quite massive. Energy walls corral the action to specific places, and when a set quota is met the walls will drop to give players access to the next portion of the leve. While "open world" sounds like a better option, the Nintendo DS just doesn't have it in it to give that style of gameplay in an over-the-shoulder perspective without the inherent problems like object pop-in and drop-out.
Also worth mentioning: you'll be playing as different Transformers in Revenge of the Fallen. The game still follows the story of a new "protoform" recruited to the side of your choosing (the choice being the version you purchased), but each mission has a secondary Challenge mode that puts you in control of other, more familiar characters. It feels a little silly to be in the middle of a war, but yet Optimus Prime thinks it's a good idea to have a little race to see who's faster, but whatever...
The action in this sequel is comparable to the first Transformers game, but things just feel a little tighter this time around. The developers try to put a little more balance between robot form and vehicle form to really push the idea of what makes the Transformers "cool," but for the most part you'll be doing far less driving and far more shooting in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. With each enemy you destroy you'll collect Energon, which can (and should) be used to upgrade your character's attributes. There are also hidden objects to scan, which will unlock higher power weapons and enhancements that will build up your core character's abilities.
But even with the tighter action, the sequel's mechanics are still a little wishy-washy. Gunfire you swear blew past you at a safe distance will still damage you unfairly. Boss battles are entirely predictable and exploitable with basic "circle strafing" techniques. And the game has an artificially inflated gameplay time thanks to a few extended multitier missions that have no checkpoints: die and you have to do the gruntwork all over again.
Just like the 2007 release, Revenge of the Fallen also features a four player deathmatch mode over local wireless that's surprisingly fun – and it works between the two versions. It looks like it takes your character straight from the story mode, so if you'll definitely want to find all the hidden weapons and enhancements before challenging anyone to the combat: if you jump in the arena with the stock weapons and no Energon enhancements you're absolutely screwed. This mode is not playable over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, sadly…but in its place is the Battle for Earth mode where you'll download mission challenges and upload your score in an "Autobots vs. Decepticons" rankings battle, with the servers keeping tally of the winning side. It's at least a mode that encourages daily play since the game promises a new mission each day. Keep in mind that the downloaded missions will use levels and assets already in the cartridge, so don't expect any new locations or robots when you link online.
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