After Activision Publishing’s last two outings with games based on the Transformers
live-action movie franchise, the third time is the charm.
While Transformers Dark of the Moon
Game for Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3 is not perfect, it is helluva lot better than the now-defunct developer Luxoflux’s previous two attempts at the the film video game adaptation, but falls short of the euphoria that High Moon Studios’ Transformers War for Cybertron
Gamers play as both Autobots and Decepticons, but instead the campaign as one faction and then switching, like in War for Cybertron
, the player jumps back-and-forth.
High Moon Studios had the great idea to free themselves – at least a little bit – from the strict storyline of the film’s events and turn the game into a prequel, with the game taking place three years after the events of Transformers Revenge of the Fallen
and filling in the gaps up to Transformers Dark of the Moon
. While the idea is great, it limits the writers in telling a compelling story that does not counter the events of the film.
And it shows with a campaign that is less than ten hours long the story is mixed with fillers and rather unmemorable moments.
In fact, after meddling around in the first three levels featuring the Autobots like Mirage (he is supposed to be the Ferrari 458 Italia, but looks like an old-school generic Ferrari with a bizarre accent), we finally get to play as Soundwave (a cross between a Mercedes-Benz R-Class from the rear and a GMC Terrain from all other sides) and finally learn of Megatron’s motives: releasing Shockwave, known as NEB2, from the frozen state that bedeviled Megatron in Transformers
It is after this that the story gets going, pitting us against Stratosphere as Starscream, Megatron’s infiltration to release Shockwave, and Optimus Prime’s battle to stop his release.
Do not take the rather lackluster storyline meaning that the gameplay is awful by any means.
The action is epic and Game Director Sean Miller does not mess with what made War for Cybertron
a success: putting you in the mechanical boots of Transformers. High Moon does such a great that a player may charge into every battle head-on with the feeling of invisibility and be rewarded by getting scrapped.
From Ironhide’s powerful Heavy Iron weaponry, Soundwave and Megatron’s total dominance, and Starscream’s dogfighting prowess in the sky, gamers are rewarded with great action against red-shirted Decepticons or Autobots, and epic larger-than-life boss battles. These are simplistic at first, but get more intense as time goes on, leading up the climactic battle.
However, the boss battles are cheaply lengthened, forcing the gamer to use the special abilities, wait for them to recharge, and repeat. This strategy is repeated throughout the game.
The game is also plagued by long load times between boards and from the last checkpoint. Various boards have interspersed loading and rather than load points in low-peak times, it is sometimes prior to a big fight with multiple enemies, taking the gamer out of the environment.
One of the things that the Transformers Dark of the Moon
Game outdoes War for Cybertron
is removing the need to hunt for ammunition, an inexplicable and a main gripe of the latter game. This time around ammunition is unlimited and although reloading is still required, it is forgivable by forcing gamers to think in battle rather than head-strong their way through (which, as already mentioned before, simply does not work).
Transformers Dark of the Moon
Game also handles the invisible barrier encountered during flight levels in War for Cybertron
. Instead of simply stopping the gamer from going any further, the single flight level featuring Starscream uses the clouds to create a mind-trick, giving players the feeling that they’re actually going further.
The controller layout is mostly logical. Transformation is easy and fluid with the click of the left analog stick and the right taking care of the melee in robot mode.
Each character’s abilities are mapped to either shoulder button and are contextual based on the mode. Thankfully they are well-labeled on the heads-up display, which is both sparse and well-thought out.
The Stealth Force vehicle mode is similar in controls as in War for Cybertron
. Target Lock mode is available in Stealth Force Mode, giving gamers the ability to strafe while staying locked onto the desired target.
However, it is here when the “mostly logical” part of the controller layout begins to earn the “mostly” rating where the addition of the third normal vehicle mode gets in the way of logic at times.
The Target Lock in Stealth Mode is an ability rather than the left-trigger, which instead is for the transformation from Stealth Mode to vehicle mode with the speed controlled with the pressure-sensitive trigger.
But that is not where the issue lies.
Steering is done using the right analog stick versus the left analog stick, which is both confusing and unnecessary. The left-analog stick is useless until the player releases the left trigger to revert back to Stealth Mode. This is further compounded when the gamer uses boost or emergency brake to drift through corners, mapped to the right shoulder button and right trigger, respectively.
But even after getting used to the controller layout for steering the vehicle mode, driving is lackluster and plagued by poor vehicle collision, sometimes being stuck on an invisible barrier, or not being able to go up a simple hill.
The multiplayer mode is, thankfully, exactly the same as War for Cybertron
, but only features three modes across five maps: Deathmatch (free-for-all), Team Deathmatch (team-based), and Conquest (capture-and-hold).
There are four classes to choose from and chasses from each faction: Scout, featuring small vehicles (Bumblebee and Enforcer [looks like a Dread]); Hunter, flyers (Breakaway and Starscream); Commander, powerful, vehicle-based characters (Optimus Prime and Megatron Mack Truck Mode); and Warrior, slow vehicles with heavy weaponry (Warpath and Megatron Tank Mode).
As gamers advance further through the game, through completion of the campaign and hitting a certain level in a class, they will be rewarded with new playable characters and their chasses. A snippet of unlockables are Ratchet, Ironhide, Soundwave, and Shockwave.
Customization also returns with each chassis being customizable with a primary color and a secondary color.
Visuals and Sound
Just like War for Cybertron
, this game is beautifully designed. Sometimes a gamer may have to pause just to look around and see how much detail High Moon Studios but into the game, including the random NEST vehicles littered throughout the game.
The transformations for each character are intricate and greatly designed. No piece from the robot or vehicle magically disappears (at least any noticeable ones) during transformation.
A great example is the cockpit of Starscream’s Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. When transforming from robot to airplane mode, the last thing to close is the cockpit.
The sound is equally great. To get the best out of this game, put the game on stereo surround or a pair of stereo headphones and hear the great sound design of the robot movements, transformations, and gunplay.
While Transformers Dark of the Moon
Game is not as memorable in both story and gameplay wise as High Moon Studios’ all-original War for Cybertron
, it is still a great game, when considered across all Transformers games and video games based off of films, which are known to be extremely lackluster.
Fans will be happy to see classic characters, like Warpath (although he is not playable in the campaign, sadly) and the utilization of minor toy and movie characters (Stratosphere and Mixmaster) and giving them a voice and personality.
If you are looking for a new Transformers game to supplant your cravings between now and War for Cybertron 2
, this is the game for you.
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