Transformers Dark of the Moon Game - Exclusive 1st Look at High Moon's Prologue

The team at High Moon Studios is comprised of really big Transformers fans who feel like it is a really exciting opportunity to bring this love to the Transformers Universe. Then match that up with the Michael Bay Universe. When Paramount and Hasbro came to the High Moon team, led by Sean Miller, with the job of developing the video game adaptation for Transformers Dark of the Moon.

One of the things they wanted to do was take a different approach from the previous movie games. With the trend of most video game adaptations of a major motion picture, the games followed this chain of events: see the movie, play the movie, feel underwhelmed.

So instead, they wanted to approach this with more of a prologue experience for the movie that will give them a chance to dig into the back story of the key events and characters that will be seen in the film. This opens the opportunity to bring in more of the Transformers lore and give players a way to explore the key elements of the film.

To do so, High Moon worked closely with Hasbro and Paramount to bring these elements in such a way that it resonates with the narrative being told in the film, something they are really excited about because they think the new film will "really blow people's doors off," as Game Director Sean Miller puts it.

So, the first thing that High Moon did was explore the Stealth Force feature and integrate that into the game. Yes, the same gimmick in the toy-line with cars that have an alternate mode with a lot of weapons hidden in all crevices of the vehicle, exposed with a trigger.

Surprise, surprise!

One of the ideas High Moon has added to this game is you are not just a robot OR a vehicle. Here, they want to give you the sense that Transformers are robots AND vehicles at the same time. They are both natural so you can move smoothly between these forms while still doing the things a Transformer does.

So remember in Transformers Revenge of the Fallen The Game you had to hold a button to stay in vehicle mode? Yeah, forget about that.

So they took what was seen in the Daytona 500 trailer with Bumblebee in vehicle mode exposing his weapons while driving and incorporated this hybrid form into the game. This essentially gives you access to weapons at any time. The Stealth Force form also means you are heavily armored in Cybertronian metal with internal parts hidden, so you can deflect more hits.

To assist with the seamless system, High Moon brings back the ability to strafe while in vehicle mode, which they first introduced to gamers in Transformers War for Cybertron game last year. This allows gamers to lock onto targets and strafe around them to really deal the damage.

During our time with High Moon Studios at the Game Developers Conference, we were shown five different characters: two Autobots and three Decepticons. During these demonstrations, we were given a first look at the gameplay mechanics and to experience firsthand the fluidity of it. High Moon also stressed each character’s abilities and how they used it to their full advantage in level design and to maximize gamers’ enjoyment.

Bumblebee Level; Agility Is a Welcome Addition

We were shown an early level in the game, which starts out with Bumblebee in his vehicle form. High Moon performed to us the fluid transforming back and forth between robot mode and straight into Stealth Force mode.

Of course, they are not doing away with the good old vehicle mode where you are faster and can cover large distances at insanely high speeds.

The Stealth Force controls have a couple of different options. By default is is R3 (clicking the R analog stick on Xbox 360), but players have the option to change it, another port from War for Cybertron. The goal is to offer a lot of control, but keep the button layout manageable.

So essentially it is a single button click to change forms from robot to Stealth Force mode. With a press of the accelerator button, the robot’s true alternate mode comes out. However, as soon as you hit the fire button, the robot immediately turns back to Stealth Force mode. Just like in War for Cybertron, the controls are unified, meaning that no matter which mode you are in, each button is mapped to the same function, so players don't need to memorize different buttons in each form.

In this game level featuring Bumblebee he plays the role of a scout warrior type. A communication from Optimus Prime tells Bumblebee where the armor and power-ups are located. As the player moves Bumblebee towards the objectives, the developer shows off the transformation process between robot mode, vehicle mode, and Stealth Force mode. Despite this, the character on-screen maintained agility and the player never lost control. You will be glad to know that driving in vehicle mode at lower speeds is actually existent.

Ironhide Level; Explosions Galore

One of the things High Moon has done as part of the Prologue to Dark of the Moon is create a single campaign that takes you through both sides of the conflict at different points on the same story line. This way they can tell a narrative that builds up to the film as they explore what is special about each of the Transformers. Each game level is created around a specific Transformer’s ability and personality.

“For example Ironhide is the weapons expert, so we give players access to more and heavier weapons than normal,” Sean Miller told us. “He's been given a special ability called ’heavy iron’ that includes things like a heavy machine gun, rocket launcher, and something called a ’grenade blossom’ that launches Energon-seeking grenades which lock-on to targets. This frees up Ironhide to keep fighting [against] many targets at a time.”

Ironhide’s Stealth Force vehicle form is a big truck that transforms into what looks like a sort of tank mode with a really wide track and low-clearance.

In a level featuring Ironhide, we are transported to a completely different place with different elements and environments. Just like War for Cybertron, High Moon wanted to stress the team-based story element and they wanted to make sure you are working on a team on different missions.

When we visit Detroit, the city is burned and broken and under siege by the Decepticons. Ironhide is working with Ratchet to get the humans evacuated and after that, they need to neutralize the threat. "Heavy Iron is an old classic" says Ironhide as he mows down some drones.

Unfortunately, after this wave, Ratchet radios in that there are even more drones. Ironhide cleans up with his Grenade Blossoms attack and says "that never gets old," signaling our achievement in wiping them out. Ratchet radios back that he's held up in a factory and that "Mixmaster" is there.

Uh oh.

Soundwave Level; The Good Ole’ Wave is Back

In the Transformers Revenge of the Fallen, Soundwave took the form of a satellite in outerspace and never had the chance to show his face to the Autobots, subsequently, leaving gamers missing the classic character in the video game as well. In Dark of the Moon, we're going to get to see Soundwave in his robot form.

On Earth.

And we got a little peek!

“Because this is the prologue story, we get to show how he gets called down to Earth and a little bit of what his role is in Megatron's army,” Sean says.

High Moon focused on some the classic aspects of Soundwave's character, such as using sound as a weapon with a special ability to fire off sonic blasts. His primary weapon is a focused stream of audio like a laser that can kill anything in its path. He also has an EMP blast and other skills. Thos of you familiar with the War for Cybertron game will recognize his SUV vehicle mode.

In the level featuring Soundwave, we are put into a jungle-like environment. If you played War for Cybertron, the animated, detailed backgrounds will make you feel right at home. This is an odd juxtaposition and makes the giant robot seem really out of place, showing the improvement of visuals from the previous video game adaptations of the movie franchise.

Soundwave gets his commands over his communications link from his leader, Megatron. Soundwave is shown in an underground base, here it is revealed that MechTech weapons have been designed specifically to battle the Autobots. It appears there are certain things in the environment that only Soundwave can destroy with his unique abilities. When he uses his EMP blast to take the generators off line in the underground base.

Starscream Level; Battle In the Skies

Just like the War for Cybertron ground forces are stressed in ground-based environments and characters blessed with flight capabilities will get levels that stress these capabilities, but you can also play in robot mode is necessary.

We got a look at the jet level where Starscream is dog fighting with Army planes and has fun destroying them. As he flies around shooting down planes, he encounters one a very large transport cargo plane that turns out to be the boss battle of the level, Transformer Stratosphere!

High Moon is bringing back the big boss battles that we encountered in War for Cybertron, and Stratosphere is definitely one of them. To give you an idea of how big Stratosphere is, at one point, Starscream has to land on the back of the big Autobot to take him down. Integrating the new Stealth Force technology into the game play, it is truly an epic 700 mph battle in the air. Very cool stuff.

Megatron Level; Helping Rebuild

There have been some conspiracy theories in the last movie over what happened to Megatron at the end of Revenge of the Fallen. After taking a beating, his face is smashed in and his arm was blown off. Dark of the Moon The Game picks up from there and it covers his transition from his tank mode thing that we saw him last, to the new form of the truck in the new movie. High Moon designed his abilities around his dire situation of needed to rebuild. This adds another element of the game play where you need to help him kit-bash a new arm for himself, build his power up again until he is back to his top form that we will see in the movie.

His special abilities include something called "Drain Ability." Fitted on him by Starscream, it allows him to drain the Energon from another enemy robot to recharge his health.

Megatron can also control the hatch-lings. Yes god help us. Those strange little eggs Starscream was incubating in the Revenge of the Fallen are back. It seems as a sort of zombie robot army based on what we are told. Utilizing a form of supercharged Energon, Megs can send the hatch-lings into a rabid fury attacking anything marked with his super Energon disbursal.

Oh, and his classic fusion cannon makes a glorious return.

Megatron's voice is kind of lower and more horse sounding than normal. To me, he sounds like the George Steinbrenner character from Seinfeld tuned down an octave or two.

Laserbeak Level; Go Vulture!

When High Moon found out Laserbeak was in Transformers Dark of the Moon, they wanted to make sure we would be able to play as him too. The character has a really neat role in the new film and they wanted to exploit that to the fullest extent.

Taking the controls of Laserbeak, we return to the same Soundwave level that we saw earlier, and playing in a tag-team mode, you are able to play some parts of the level as Soundwave and others as Laserbeak. Each character’s abilities will be used to their full advantage, with Laserbeak accessing areas where Soundwave cannot. They two bots do things to complement each other and in certain levels, there are things the player has to do as Laserbeak so Soundwave can continue through his level. The flying experience with Laserbeak is different than what we experienced with the Starscream, since the flight mode is in the form of a Vulture rather than a jet.

High Moon says they wanted to make it so players can experience the same game environments from different perspectives and play styles -- a giant Transformer and this smaller entity -- within the single player game.

High Moon Coy on Multiplayer

Unfortunately, there is no official news on the multiplayer aspects of the game just yet. What High Moon could say was that the focus of the game is on the personalities they have within the Transformers Universe. They want us to be able to play as an iconic Transformer such as Optimus Prime or Soundwave to experience the combat as if you were the robot. That's going to be a big focus for the multiplayer experience, Sean tells us.

One of the things they are also working on is the Robots in Disguise element of the property. For example, when you are in the city, there are lots of vehicles around you that could be anything. Sometimes human, sometimes a Transformer. This in itself adds a new element to the game play that we will see in the videogame.

Wrap-Up

Based on what we saw of the Transformers Dark of the Moon The Game when we visited High Moon Studios at the Game Developers Conference, we are quite optimistic. The previous two videogame adaptations of Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen were plagued by two common pitfalls: development timelines and the constriction of the script. Most of these adaptations are given very little time to develop the game and must strictly adhere to the events of the film, straining creativity and imagination.

For Transformers Dark of the Moon The Game, High Moon Studios assures us they had a large lead-in time, and the story being a prologue has freed the developers of this second pitfall. With those two pitfalls averted, and what we have seen so far, we have hope. Not to mention that High Moon was responsible for giving us Transformers War for Cybertron last year, which is, in our opinion, one of the most aesthetically accurate Transformers video games that put us right in the robot’s shoes.

Transformers Dark of the Moon Game hits video game stores on June 14th for Sony Playstation3 and Microsoft XBox 360.
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