- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Superhero and cartoon characters are integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and video game with a look at Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen, the Game (from Activision for Xbox 360, rated T for teen, $59.99).

Based on the latest film and Hasbro’s famed toy line, the battle between Autobot and Decepticon continues in this third-person shooter with more flash than depth. Players get the perspective from both sides of the conflict as they select from pop-culture legends with a simple mission, “One shall stand, one shall fall.”

What’s the story? From the manual: In the two years since the defeat of their leader, Megatron, the Decepticons quietly have gathered strength. Despite infighting, they’ve rallied behind the treacherous Starscream.

Meanwhile, the Autobots have formed a secret alliance with NEST - a covert human military faction - helping hold the Decepticons at bay and maintain peace.

They are deadlocked in an epic global war. The stalemate cannot last. The fate of humanity and planet Earth hang in the balance.

Play the role: In the solo story mode, a player controls either faction and splits nearly 50 missions. He uses one of five characters from the Autobots, including Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, or the Decepticons, such as Grindor or Megatron, providing escort, destroying, rescuing, interrogating, devastating and capturing for each side to uncover the mysteries of the Fallen.

Traveling from Burbank, Calif., to Shanghai to Egypt, the player selects location, assignments and a Transformer in the War Room, which acts as the game’s management hub.

Success on multiple levels at each timed mission leads to the awarding of a medal (platinum to bronze), unlocking bonus features and accumulating Energon to use in weapons upgrades.

Get to the action: Each character has a special power, primary and secondary weapons, and can convert from mechbot to a vehicle loaded with another weapon. Ratchet, for example, uses an energon gun and awesome sticky bombs and turns into a Rescue Hummer that wields combat repair power.

Fans will never get bored with triggering an on-the-fly transformation of their bots while gamers will curse a blue streak over its control. Holding the right trigger (normally reserved for firing a weapon) creates the magic and simultaneously acts as the accelerator. It gets cumbersome very quickly in the heat of battles.

Memorable moments: Take down a copter with surface-to-air missiles and use Sideways’ plasma sniper rifle to pick off Autobots or Long Haul’s handy flamethrower.

Violent encounters: Massive explosions, destruction with reckless abandon and rewards for head shots on mechanical opponents are pretty brutal. Also, the Decepticons have no problem torturing those pesky “biological memory units” - humans - and their screams of pain can be jolting.

Read all about it: Check out IDW Publishing’s four-issue, sequential art adaptation of the movie as well as two four-issue prequel miniseries devoted to the Autobots, titled Revenge of the Fallen: Alliance and Decepticons, and Revenge of the Fallen: Defiance. Issues are $3.99 each; the trade paperbacks sell for $17.99.

Pixel-popping scale: 7.0 out of 10. Once out of the dark environments of Shanghai, the bots really start to shine. Surprisingly, the cut scenes never really show off the bots’ fantastic designs, mostly offering what the high-tech military would use for well-rounded surveillance ops. That might be OK in a Splinter Cell game, but it’s pretty boring for the Transformers.

Extras and unlockables:Players get 50 treasures between the factions, opened by completing certain criteria and ranging from concept art to alternate bot skins. The highlight is six episodes from the original 1980s Transformers cartoon series. Despite the terrible quality, watching such classics as the three-part “Ultimate Doom” story is a fun nostalgia trip for the longtime fan. Unfortunately, teens unfamiliar with the show will unmercifully mock its simplicity.

Star power: Original voice actors from the classic Transformers cartoons, Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron), reprise their roles and offer serious and sincere vocalizations for the game. It’s a real treat.

Unfortunately, the stars of the current film also lend their voices and it’s pretty painful. Neither has a clue what to do. As a result, Shia LaBeouf’s warbling is obnoxious and Megan Fox sounds as if she phoned in her performance.

Multiplayer:Those who can find up to eight semi-intelligent gamers online will love the online action. A great selection of characters (more than a dozen) and nice variety of match modes such as One Shall Stand (protect the leader) make it a worthwhile experience.

What’s it worth? The latest Transformers interactive epic may only slightly progress above the mediocrity of licensed movie games, but it offers the perfect complement to Michael Bay’s noisy and confusing popcorn-munch of a blockbuster.

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