Tag Archives: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

VGA 2009 Winners: Who won? Uncharted 2 or Modern Warfare 2?

The Spike Video Game Awards televised, and in their own strange way legitimized, what most gamers already knew. With Saturday night’s awards, Spike TV’s 7th annual show delivered awards–game of the year went to Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 2–and a slew of new game reveals.

The winners were:

  • Game of the Year: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
  • Studio of the Year: Rocksteady Studios
  • Best Independent Game: Flower
  • Best Xbox 360 Game: Left 4 Dead 2
  • Best PS3 Game: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
  • Best Wii Game: New Super Mario Bros. Wii
  • Best PC Game: Dragon Age: Origins
  • Best Handheld Game: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
  • Best Shooter: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  • Best Fighting Game: Street Fighter IV
  • Best Action Adventure Game: Assassin’s Creed II
  • Best RPG: Dragon Age: Origins
  • Best Multiplayer Game: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  • Best Individual Sports Game: UFC 2009 Undisputed
  • Best Team Sports Game: NHL 10
  • Best Driving Game: Forza Motorsport 3
  • Best Music Game: The Beatles: Rock Band
  • Best Soundtrack: DJ Hero
  • Best Original Score: Halo 3: ODST
  • Best Graphics: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
  • Best Game Based On A Movie/TV Show: South Park Let’s Go Tower Defense Play!
  • Best Performance By A Human Female: Megan Fox as Mikaela Banes in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
  • Best Performance By A Human Male: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  • Best Cast: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
  • Best Voice: Jack Black for the voice of Eddie Riggs in Brütal Legend
  • Best Downloadable Game: Shadow Complex
  • Best DLC: Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony
  • Most Anticipated Game of 2010: God of War III

A big round of applause for the folks who made Shadow Complex, Flower, Uncharted II, Batman Arkham Asylum, and for “newcomers” Rocksteady Games.

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What’s wrong with the VGAs

When Zach Braff (Scrubs) stepped on stage at the VGAs Saturday night, his face said it all. Escorted on stage by a model dressed as valkyrie warrior (or something), Braff sized up the tall vixen at his side, feigned fright, then appeared on the verge of laughter. He looked embarrassed. To begin his speech, he yelled, “Hello, fellow nerds!”

Last night as I watched the VGAs, a landslide of feelings poured across me, and like Braff, one of those feelings was embarrassment. I felt pride, happiness, and angst, too. But it’s the former emotion that raised my hackles. I was embarrassed by the very tall model having to wear those stupid get-ups. (She never spoke, but she certainly gave Braff a look.) I was embarrassed by the mention of the phrase “balls” more than a half dozen times, courtesy of Jake Gyllenhaal’s game of the year monologue and Joel McHale’s catchy little mid-show appearance. And I was angered by Hollywood’s general sense of embarrassment at appearing on the VGAs, while talented and hardworking designers and producers got on stage, unfolded their acceptance speeches, and bravely flashed their souls in front of millions of people.

Naughty Dog's Amy Hennig receives the game of the year award at the VGAs (AP).

The Video Game Awards (VGAs), the closest thing the video game industry has to Hollywood’s Oscars, still has a long way to go before it really makes sense of the videogame industry–and before it’s taken seriously by the Hollywood stars that line its runways. What I saw last night was a flashier, better produced, and certainly more star-studded show than ever before (with fewer gaffes, to be fair), but I still got the sense that, from a show about video games, video games are still very much Hollywood’s nerdy little cousin–and they still haven’t found their place on TV.

I wonder, is it possible to air a video game show without the constant flash of violence, big tits, and an endless array of explosions? The collage of images I saw Saturday night showed little intrinsic value to video games. Perhaps that’s why Braff, along with Olivia Wilde (who was thrown off her short script by calls from the audience), didn’t take it seriously. If there is anything genuine, human, and real about the video game industry, is there is any art, innovation, or brilliance, it wasn’t shown at the VGAs.

There were sparks of human emotion, and these were the few moments where I felt the show succeeded. It’s great, truly great, that Flower won the Best Independent Videogame Award and that Chair Studio won Best Downloadable Game. These weren’t even categories a few years ago. One of the most genuine acceptance speeches I saw all night was from the Flower team, where they briefly explained the absurdity of pitching a game about emotions and blossoming to Sony, and ended by asking all of the millions of laid off game makers to join them in indie development.

Naughty Dog creative director Amy Hennig gave a heartfelt acceptance speech, and because I have spent many hours talking with Amy about games, I could tell she delivered a genuine heartfelt speech that didn’t fit any mold or formula. I am so happy for her and her team. They fully deserve all the recognition they get.

It was great to see the Assassin’s Creed II team receive their award for best action-adventure game. The Ubisoft Montreal team spoke in both English and in French on stage, didn’t ham it up and, for anyone paying attention to the shift in talent traveling to Canada, represent some of our Northern neighbor’s growing top talent.

Perhaps the biggest win of the night was the best studio award. The guys from Rocksteady, basically an unknown English studio whose claim to fame was the totally ignored Urban Chaos: Riot Response, were grateful, excited, and earnest. Their success story is just fantastic, and their game, Batman: Arkham Asylum, is equally fantastic. It perfectly balances high production values and smart writing that shows the writers really get the Batman character and the universe, and an excellent balance of stealth, action, and adventure. Every comic book videogame from now on will have to reach as high as Batman Arkham Asylum from here on out.

When I think of the Oscars, I often remember the collages of movies and actors who have been a part of the industry’s success; the retrospectives about people who made a difference. When the great directors, actors, writers, and special effects technicians who excel at their craft are recognized and rewarded for their achievements, it puts in perspective what the industry has achieved in the past in comparison to the achievements its awarding today. When I saw the VGAs Saturday night, I saw a show that gave no recognition to its past, that gave no award to its founders, that didn’t seem to have a past or a future, just a right-here, right-now orgasm of action, flashing lights and…the Bravery. Yes, I too like action, flashing lights, and a little Snoop Dog in my cultural diet, but when I eat a meal, I don’t just eat steak by itself.

What’s perhaps equally disturbing is that all night I listened to invisible “professional announcers” guide me through the show. There was no guide, no host, no person, who represented the world of videogames to hold my hand, make me laugh, show me the history of the industry, and again, put the awards, and the industry, in perspective. What does it mean to win best shooter of the year? Who won last year? Are their any journalists out there who could be interviewed to put the games in perspective? One easy solution is to have the previous year’s winner present the current year’s award, informing the audience and passing the torch in a way that means something.

There is a reason no real host was called upon last night. That person doesn’t exist. For starters, actors regularly fail at representing the industry because it’s clear they get paid lots of money to act in films, and that they appear on videogame shows for charity or because of a contract agreement (with notable exceptions like Vin Diesel). Second, there is no charming gamer nerd with the savvy to get up on stage and ride the fence between games and film/TV with moxie, perspective, and charm. From the game industry, the closest anyone has come to nailing that perfect blend are Tim Schafer, Will Wright, Cliff “CliffyB” Bleszinski, and Ken Levine. I am sure there are other talented game creators and personalities around who could pull it off.

Perhaps the show could hire better, funnier writers, too. The joke Tony Hawk told about action adventure games created a dreaded void of discomfort afterward. Almost every actor who took the stage was given sub-par lines, and the Tiger Woods jokes were just plain terrible. Stevie Wonder’s appearance was smart and his challenge to developers to create games for the blind and handicapped will be remembered as a highlight of the show. Jack Black’s entertaining skit for mistaking his best game of the year acceptance speech was pure Jack Black–silly, ballsy, and fun. But in all, instead of being helmed by a person, the host-less VGAs were peppered with Hollywood actors who looked out of place, embarrassed, and itching to get off that stage.

In the end, the VGAs represent the video game industry’s struggle for acceptance in the mainstream world in just the same way movies and TV are accepted. The truth is, the video game industry isn’t the same as the movie industry–though with shows like the VGAs, it’s clear the desire to be like Hollywood still burns brightly. And while I understand last night’s show was fully sponsored by Mountain Dew (the night’s biggest message), and it has to make money and attract an audience, the game industry needs better representation than last night’s show. It needs smarter, funnier video game people and less Mike Tyson. It needs fewer embarrassed actors and more genuine ones. It needs better writing that doesn’t rely on mentioning testicles over and over again to show that the industry actually has balls, and it needs to show its rich heritage, interesting origins, and the stories and characters that made it what it is today. And I don’t mean just trotting out Nolan Bushnell again and again (although he is great in his own way), but getting Shigeru Miyamoto out there to give us a sense of where we started and have come. Putting Will Wright out there to share with us his rocket scientist vision of the future of games. Hauling out Jordan Mechner to put the upcoming Prince of Persia movie in perspective–and not just his happiness at its acknowledgement. What about getting Ken Levine on stage to show us his quirky brilliance? Or having David Jaffe up there? That man’s blog is a world of entertainment.

With a better mixture of video game talent, more relevant Hollywood talent (Jake Gyllenhaal, Jack Black = good; Tyson, Jersey Shore = bad), a perspective, and a smart host, the VGAs could really be something worthy of the industry it represents. As it is, the VGAs are just a sideshow in Hollywood’s ongoing carnival.

Check this story for the show’s full list of winners (a lot of news stories out there show incomplete lists).

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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Review

I’m reminded of the stunningly poor execution of Activision’s Spider-Man 3 after playing the movie and game sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Given the numerous complaints the first Transformers game received, one would think Luxoflux would not only put those problems to bed, but create a dynamic, fun, and interesting game this time around. While Spider-Man 3’s terribly executed Quick-Time Events and bosses that mysteriously seep through ceilings don’t cause the annoyances, the coarse, control-unfriendly sequel provides Transformer kiddies with a slew of new issues that drag the fun out of it.

Starscream gives Decepticon fans a small dose of fun.

Starscream gives Decepticon fans a small dose of fun.

Based on the second Transformers movie directed by action-blowhard Michael Bay, Revenge of the Fallen, the game, guts the admittedly slim movie narrative and gives you a robot puppet show instead. If you dig idle robots standing around gesticulating in their headquarters (like robots!), you’re in like sin. But for those of you who like, at the very least, a thin veneer of story to tickle our brains, you’re shit out of luck.

All of this isn’t a surprise, as movie-based games are notoriously crappy. But one always has hope, as The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and GoldenEye 007 have shown us IT CAN BE DONE. And in my preview, I thought I witnessed snazzy, unique game mechanics and character variety. But alas, I might have been caught up in the optimistic current of hope that movies games can be good.

Revenge of the Fallen isn’t a terrible game, but it fails to deliver the mechanical power and atypical strengths of the Hasbro-based line of toys turned Saturday morning cartoon phenom 20-plus years ago. As they continue their ongoing battle on Earth for the remaining Allspark chip, the game smartly offers you to the chance to play as Autobots or Decepticons in entirely different campaign paths. On the Autobot side, you can play as Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Breakaway, Bumblebee, Ratchet, and two multiplayer exclusive Transformers, Aerialbot and Protectobot. The playable Decepticons are Starscream, Sideways, Grindor, Long Haul, Megatron, and the multiplayer exclusive character, Seeker. But you rarely get the chance to select robot you want; more often than not you’re restrained to one or two picks, even though you can cycle through the entire list at the menu screen. The missions lack variety and ultimately slow your brain down to a numbingly low sputter as they become repetitive. But they’re not lacking In punch, as you can essentially blow up everything on screen.

The game’s most pressing quandary is its controls; they get in the way. Driving an Autobot is stiff and awkward at best and transforming is an invitation to repetitive strain injury. It is possible to get over these issues if you’re just dying to play a Transformers game at whatever cost. You can adjust and deal with them. But nobody can rightly admit they’re smooth, intuitive, or smart. So, if you’re on the borderline, or only partially interested, you’ll be trading this in quickly. Coupled with Twinkies cream filling for missions, and a false sense of choice in picking your robots, Revenge of the Fallen earns a new sense of irony about it.

Ironhide delivers power and guns, lots of guns.

Ironhide delivers power and guns, lots of guns.

The multiplayer mode is the game’s strange surprise. The first game lacked a multiplayer mode, do Luxoflux attacked that issue by offering five modes of play and somehow, I’m really not sure how exactly, making the game more fun. Playing against other humans gives this a needed shot of fun and diversity, and adds a little to what could be a quick trade-in.

For what it’s worth, I also played the PS2 version. Because the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions superficially appear superior with their millions of dials, moving parts, and radar load screens, and their beautiful re-creations of the movie robots, the stripped down, base-level PS2 version, with its budget graphics and narrow, linear levels, is actually a more honest–and ultimately more fun–game.

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Transformers: Revenge of Linkin Park

TransformersROTF_Longhaul

Mike Shinoda, Linkin Park front man, hopes his game-playing skills are as good as his musicianship, as he gears up to play Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, this Friday, June 26. Now is your chance to tell him how you felt about his last album (“You Suck Mike!), or fawn over him like a nerd supreme (“I love you, man!”).

Activision announced Shinoda’s celebrity appearance today in part to promote its Transformers game for Nintendo DS, PSP, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, which ships today.

To participate, send a friend request to the gamertag, “Mike LinkinPark,” and be online by 3:30 pm Eastern time. The Game with Fame session starts at 4 PM eastern time. More Game with Fame info can be found at Linkin Park.

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Transformer Spotting

TransformersROTF_SidewaysvsProtectobot

Sideways fights Protectobot.

Activision today revealed 13 new playable characters for its upcoming multiplatform game, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, including seven Autobots and six Decepticons.

The playable Autobots include:

Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Breakaway, Bumblebee, Ratchet, and two multiplayer exclusive Transformers, Aerialbot and Protectobot.

On the Decepticons side, you’ll be able to play as:

Starscream, Sideways, Grindor, Long Haul, Megatron, and the multiplayer exclusive character, Seeker.

Check out the gallery for four new pictures and then in the upcoming weeks look for more news on Transformers characters and gameplay details.

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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Preview

transformers_bb_city_041509

Following the G.I. Joe TV series of the early 1980s, which shrewdly and successfully paired a cheaply animated series with a new line of G.I. Joe action figures, the Transformers animated TV series (1984) built upon the same idea with equal success. The TV shows wowed little kids and served as animated advertisements for the figures. It was simultaneously sick and beautiful.

Fast-forward to 2009. The two biggest independent videogame publishers in the world, Activision and Electronic Arts, are working on Transformers and G.I. Joe games, respectively, each of which tie into summer movies and soon to be released action figures. Can we lay blame (or inversely thank) the birth of the all-encompassing franchise concept on G.I. Joe and the Transformers? (Uh, yes.)

During a session at the W Hotel in San Francisco, Ca., in which journalists played deeply into the upcoming Wolverine game, Activision offered an eyes-on demo of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, based on the eponymous Michael Bay movie (which is due to hit theaters June 24, 2009). The game is due this “summer,” according to Activision.

transformers_bumblebee_1Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen builds huge set pieces around the non-stop action movie that seems, at least from the previews, like one non-stop series of angry robots bashing each other’s pistons in and destroying, far worse than any Godzilla film, the world around them with techno aplomb. Just like the movie preview, you’ll see massive robot battles in Cairo, Egypt, Shanghai, China, and in various other locations, including full-fledged action sequences in mid-sea on a fleet of air craft carriers. Oh, and the storyline? “The war is not over.” Need we really say more?

The eyes-on demo showed a marked improvement–visually and mechanically–over the first game. The top-level features focus on the ability to play as either the Decepticons or Autobots in any level, the use of a non-linear progression system and hub world, upgradeable factions, instant transformations (mid-stride or mid-air), and interestingly, arcade-style timed missions. Activision also made it clear the biggest addition to this year’s model, unlike the first game, is its multiplayer mode, which features deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and other soon-to-be-released multiplayer modes.

transformers_ironhide_11Similar to Sega’s Iron Man game with its many versions and developers, Activision’s approach to development is also multi-fold. Luxoflux (Kung Fu Panda, Shrek, True Crime) is developing the PS3 and Xbox version, while Beenox will port that version to the PC. Krome Studios is creating a different game (still based on the movie, however) for the Wii and PS2, while Vicarious Visions and Savage Entertainment are each creating distinct versions for the DS and PSP, respectively. This means, theoretically, you could buy the Xbox 360, Wii, DS, and PSP versions, and they would all be different. That’s what you call maximizing profits.

Starring what Activision Producer Jason Ades calls, “the biggest cast of Transformers ever to appear in a game,” Revenge of the Fallen showcases Optimus Prime, Starscream, Bumblebee and Ironhide, plus several newly created characters. Each character is built with primary and secondary weapons and can transform at any time from robot to vehicle form and back in a split second. Just as the Transformer cast is diverse, so is the game cast. Some characters drive, while others fly. Several can climb buildings, too, adding in a layer of platforming. Weapons range from the ability to drop landmines, or like Ironhide, deploy turrets. Some casts can snipe, or, since Starscream is a flying Transformer, fly and hover in mid-air.

As mentioned above, Revenge of the Fallen consists of timed-based missions. The faster you beat a level, the more points you earn. The more points you earn the more upgrades you can add to your Transformer. And each time you build up your own Transformer, your team/faction is automatically upgraded, too, so that you can switch to any other Transformer throughout the game without losing military power.

transformers_starscream_11

Also, expect tons of unlockables: unlockable comic book covers, concept art, player skins, and Hasbro-specific “stuff.” Ades said “stuff,” but surely he meant action figures, which apparently he was unable to officially say.

What struck me most about Revenge of the Fallen is that like any good Michael Bay film (an oxymoron, perhaps?), the game feels like one long action sequence, interrupted only by angry robots swearing revenge on one another. I don’t mean to say that I am surprised by this. We are talking about Michael Bay and the Transformers. But the action sequences were big, burly, destructive, and very, very fast moving. The game isn’t in the least bit plodding, which is perhaps the publisher’s (and fans’) reaction to the first game’s slower nature. Characters drive, fly, or run across the screen, smashing cars, buildings, and freeways as they go–and all very quickly.

The game’s new mechanics and animations are impressive. In one sequence a driving Transformer sped across town, then instantly transformed into robot form–all in one fluid, non-stop motion–jumping onto a freeway ramp. He then systematically transformed from robot to car and back again, using the transformation as a jumping mechanic to reach higher freeway ramp stages. In another, I watched a robot snipe enemies from rooftops. In yet another, I watched a massive four-legged Decepticon boss–constructed of visible tractors, dump trucks, cranes, and bulldozers– stomp across the city, wiping enemies up like a massive elephant crushing mice. This boss was 10 to 20 times bigger than Starscream, a 30-foot Transformer.

Another impressive set piece from the movie took place at sea. I watched Starscream transform from a jetfighter to hover mode to Transformer mode and battle off a squadron of Decepticons attacking on a flotilla of sea craft. The transformation animations were seamless and instant. And Starscream’s jet mode, shown in third-person mode, felt like a scene out of an early Air Combat game.transformers_starscream_5

For what it’s worth, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen should be the best Transformers game yet. The visuals are hitting on all gears, the Transformers are well articulated, fleshed out (in a manner of speaking), and superbly animated. And, pound-for-pound, Revenge of the Fallen is a rock-solid action game that promises intense, compressed missions filled with unending destruction and combat. And for non-Transformer gamers who like a good action game, Revenge of the Fallen could very well be the game that gets you off that fence.

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