Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review
Little more than meets the eye.
Movie tie-ins have long since become a running joke in the gaming world. Marketing gimmicks hashed out in uninspiring conditions to meet a brutal deadline. More often than not, the best such games can hope for is to be as mildly entertaining as their respective brainless blockbusters. And while this review is admittedly late, I very much doubt that anyone was waiting for someone to tell them that Dark of the Moon is a mediocre game at best – but prior to the game’s release date, there was cause for optimism. A little over a year ago War for Cybertron pulled off an amazing feat – it was actually quite decent. Now let’s not get carried away, it wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination but it certainly exceeded most expectations. High Moon studios were lauded by some and when Dark of the Moon was announced, there was reason to believe the game would be more than mere shovelware.
The events of the game take place sometime before the movie, so if you still plan to watch the film despite all sound judgement and reason, Dark of the Moon won’t be packed with ‘spoilers’. While the story won’t turn you off Transformers forever, it won’t be memorable either, so don’t expect to feel any connection with the ensemble cast of Autobots and Decepticons at your disposal.
Dark of the Moon’s single-player campaign has seven chapters, the majority involving a specific Transformer each. And while the campaign is short, clocking in at around 6 hours, it’s long enough to expose all the cracks and deficiencies. For anyone new to the series, Dark of the Moon is a third-person action shooter where your characters, as one would expect, can transform between robot and vehicle forms. While vehicle form is useful for quickly traversing stretches in the levels, its utility in combat is limited, albeit fun to smack into enemies. In robot form, you’ll have both destructive and strategic weapons and abilities, depending on the Transformer you’re in control of. Robot form is the one you’ll be using most often even though the controls are quite clunky. New to the series is the ‘Stealth Force’ mode, which is basically an aggressive vehicle form on steroids. Stealth Force basically transforms you into a mobile uncanny doomsday machine capable of unleashing tremendous firepower but quite susceptible defensively. The problem with Stealth Force is that it actually looks funner than it is and you’ll more often than not feel overwhelmed as oppose to overwhelming. Nevertheless, it’s good to have variety in the way you dispose of endless waves of foes.
Graphically, the game is sloppy despite some well made animations. The visuals feel rushed, as is the case with virtually every other aspect of the game, and have not really evolved since the last Transformers outing. The environments look stale and the levels, uninspired. While I am not a big fan of the films, they do give the impact of scale – massive robots, engaged in combat with a plethora of collateral damage. This does not really come across in Dark of the Moon which is a shame given that the world is in grave peril and visual reinforcement would have been more than welcome. The sound on the other hand does a much better job of communicating turmoil and fierce combat, especially the in-game sound effects.
It’s safe to assume that what fans really enjoyed about War for Cybertron was online play, and while more volatile and not quite as sharp, it remains the best part of Dark of the Moon as well. What strikes me as the main problem with all the game’s mutliplayer modes is that they often highlight core gameplay problems. The adverse effects of bad controls are magnified, couple that with lag (which may or may not be an issue for you depending on your connection) and we’re talking about frustration of epic proportions. Still if you have a good connection and would like an online experience that’s different than most shooters on the market today, you might find Dark of the Moon entertaining…temporarily. Just to be clear, online multiplayer is by no means a saving grace but some of the best moments the game has to offer.
It’s hard to think of Dark of the Moon as anything but crass movie advertising of the interactive variety and so it’s hard to take it seriously as a game in its own right. Given their efforts with War for Cybertron, we can assume that High Moon Studios know that movie tie-ins can be…should be better games. It’s a shame the opportunity was wasted especially considering that, on paper, the Transformers license should translate into a thoroughly kick-ass game.