Reviews

Transformers: Dark of the Moon – Review

Release Date: Out Now!
Developer: High Moon Studios
Publisher: Activision
Singleplayer: Yes
Splitscreen: No
Multiplayer: Yes
PEGI: 12

(title provided free of charge by the titles publishers)

When Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the third film in Micheal Bay’s explosion fest, was announced it was fairly obvious that a game would be created to cash in on the films, and sure enough Transformers: Dark of the Moon The Game was announced. I don’t mind admitting that a shadow fell across my face at the thought of another movie tie-in title. But there was a silver lining to this black ( and possibly transforming) cloud; the game was being developed by High Moon Studios who lovingly crafted Transformers: War for Cybertron  which was the best Transformers title in…..well, forever.

A few minutes into Dark of the Moon and things begin to feel familiar. The two ability buttons, the gunplay, even the loading screens all feel familiar. And that’s because Dark of the Moon is essentially a reskinned version of War for Cybertron which means this is one of the best movie tie-ins we’ve had in a very long time. It also means that High Moon have opened up Dark of the Moon to direct comparison to War for Cybertron However, while Dark of the Moon may actually be War for Cybertron in disguise, it has lost a few things along the way.

The game itself is a prequel to the upcoming movie and tells the tale of the Autobots as they try to track down the remaining Decepticons who have now gone into hiding. However, those nasty ol’ Decepticons have been pretty busy and Megatron certainly hasn’t been twiddling his thumbs, instead he’s been enacting a plan to get himself powered back up as well as unleash a kick-ass new foe into the war. Even though the singleplayer campaign will last you a little less than five hours, the story still feels stretched. Until the final moments of the game, which tie in with the beginning of the film, events feel entirely like they were thrown in to try to keep you busy. In those five hours you do get to play as both sides of the war, but again this doesn’t help the story as you’ll be saving the world one minute and then trying to blow seven hells out of it in the next. It feels disjointed. It feels as though both sides needed more time to tell their respective stories. But for people really looking forward to the film it is worth experiencing the story for some of the smaller details, such as how Megatron got his new vehicle form, or why Ironhide’s weapons are different.

The story itself may be lacking, but the quality of voice acting certainly helps make up for it. Each character is complimented well by High Moons choice of actor to play them, with Optimus sounding suitably heroic and Megatron sounding like the gruff bastard that he is. In fact, it should be said that every aspect of the sound in Dark of Moon is fantastic, from brilliant explosions to great sounding transformations, it’s very well done.

Get into the gameplay itself and that familiar feeling returns as Dark of the Moon plays remarkably like War for Cybertron. And just like War for Cybertron, this is a third-person shooter that likes nothing more than to throw hordes of enemies at you, but this time around the constant barrage of enemies is simply too much. Move a few feet and you’ll have to face down and destroy another wave of enemies, and then another, and another. And some more. But the game does make amends by throwing in a few sections to break it up a little. Once such section is stealth based and see’s you sneaking around using your cloak and massive blades to dispatch enemies. Another sections see’s you taking to the skies as Starscream. Sadly there isn’t quite enough of these little detours to completely balance out the continuous blasting, but at under five hours of gameplay you’ll be finished it before you get too bored anyway. The actual shooting itself is largely the same as War for Cybertron with just a few tweaks. Hitting the trigger still feels and sounds satisfying, and while most Transformers feel pretty similar there are some exceptions like Megatron with his chunky cannon. Stomping around and wiping out the enemy is good fun, though controls do feel a tad unresponsive at times. Each Transformers also comes with nifty abilities mapped to the shoulder buttons, such as using a massive Gatling Gun or cloaking. Some things haven’t made the transition from War for Cybertron though, such as the ability to pick up weapons or picking which of three transformers to play as at the start of a level. Now, your character is set. Despite these problems, Dark of the Moon’s shooting still feels satisfying making for a fairly enjoyable singleplayer experience, though it lacked any real “wow” moments other than the last boss battle which proved to be challenging and fun.

Transformers wouldn’t be Transformers without the ability to Transform, and in Dark of the Moon you can do so at will, but now each Transformer actually has three modes to choose from. Stomping around as a robot is the obvious one, and changing into a car/tank/truck is the other, but now there’s also Stealth Force which sits in-between robot form and vehicle form. Stealth Force is a slightly deceptive name (there’s nothing stealthy about it) and is used by clicking down the left stick. It’s essentially a hover-mode which looks mostly like your vehicle form except for the vast amounts of weapons poking out of it. Stealth Force mode features some heft firepower and gives you an armor boost, as well as the being able to strafe around targets and a better movement speed. In theory it’s a fantastic new addition, but does prove to have two flaws and one balancing issue. The flaw is that it proves to be a little clunky to control and that environments are usually fairly tight.The other flaw is that it directly harms vehicle mode thanks to some fiddly controls. To access your full vehicle mode you must hold down the left trigger which also acts as an accelerator. The RT then controls your handbrake, RB controls boost and the right stick is used to steer. This fiddly control system combines with some floaty vehicle physics and some very tight level designs to create a driving system that feels more like playing pinball with a car. The balancing issue is that Stealth Force renders your robot form next to useless. In robot form you can take a surprisingly small amount of punishment compared to Stealth Force, and while in robot form your weapons need to be reloaded continuously, but Stealth Force’s weapons don’t. As if never reloading was enough, Stealth Force also offers much more firepower. Still, transforming into a robot in mid-air before smashing into the enemy brings a smile to the face, and the ability to transform at will does allow for some variations in your playstyle.

The multiplayer elements of Dark of the Moon definitely sit as the star of the package. Again, it’s ripped almost straight from War for Cybertron’s still beating body, but again it has also lost a few things along the way. Class customisation is still here and present with four different styles to choose from such as Commanders and Scouts. You can change around their weapons, abilities and upgrades you get them closer to your style of play, and more upgrades and gear becomes available as you gain XP and level up from play, though there is less than presented in War for Cybertron. Strangely the ability to change your primary weapon has also been removed. After you’ve played around with your character ( not in that way you sick, sick person) it’s time to venture online, but sadly there’s just three modes and five maps to get to grips with. Still, the addictive qualities that made War for Cybertron’s multiplayer so fun are definitely here; players streak across the sky as jets laying down fire on the enemy while hulking bots stomp across the ground and fight it out with tanks. A few problems do occur online such as grenades simple teleporting when throw instead of arcing as they should, and it is possible to get stuck on bits of terrain. Melee attacks also become a bit unreliable. I should also mention that if you’re the type of person that plays until max rank you won’t be playing for long as it is possible to hit the limit in just a few hours of play. Overall the multiplayer is definitely fun, but just lacks content with just three modes and five maps, and doesn’t quite have the polish or balancing that War for Cybertron does.

Strangely, the two big multiplayer modes that fans loved from War for Cybertron haven’t been added in here either which is disappointing. Gone is the three-player co-op story mode, which would have helped Dark of the Moons decent campaign tremendously. But the biggest loss is the Escalation mode which let you team up with friends and randoms alike to fight waves of enemies while earning points to spend on unlocking new areas of the map and weapons. Again, this is a disappointing loss.

In the end, High Moon put them into a position for Dark of the Moon to be compared to War for Cybertron. And when viewed in that context, Dark of the Moon is a pale imitation that simply feels rushed to meet the films deadline resulting in a lack of polish. However, Dark of the Moon is still a fun Transformers game and, even more surprisingly, is a very good movie tie-in.  If you’re looking for the ultimate Transformers experience, then buy War for Cybertron, but if you’re getting desperate for another fix or just love the films then you’ll have some good, solid fun with Dark of the Moon.

The Good:
+ It’s Transformers!
+ Transforming in mid-air is just plain cool.
+  The shooting is chunky and satisfying.

The Bad:
– Singleplayer is short.
– Mutliplayer isn’t quite balanced.
– Micheal Bay’s Transformer designs.

Graphics: 7
The characters themselves look detailed enough, but the environments are pretty dull.

Sound: 8.5
While the music is forgettable, the voice acting is very good and the guns, explosions and other sound effects are all great as well.

Story: 5
Only the last half hour of the game really get interesting. The rest simply feels a pointless.

Gameplay: 7.5
The shooting is chunky and satisfying. The singleplayer is fairly repetitive, but enjoyable and the multiplayer is also a solid offering.

Lifespan: 6
The singleplayer can be beating in four to five hours while maxing out rank in multiplayer will take just a few hours as well, but offers enough fun to keep you playing for longer.

Overall: 7
Summary: As a game, Dark of the Moon is solid and enjoyable. As a Transformers title it ranks below War for Cybertron. But as a movie tie-in game, it’s surprisingly good.

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