Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the latest video game in the profitable franchise to be released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The game is dynamic in its approach to gameplay and is fairly entertaining. Yet as an add-on game to the film of the same name, did the rapid production compromise the quality of the game?
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a prequel to the series and partially a promotional package for the film, also known as Transformers 3. For those who are familiar with the franchise, ranging from the original animation (sometimes referred to as G1) to the newer Michael Bay film trilogy, I would say that it is acceptable to realise that the story in the game is fairly basic. In fact it is probably just a rouse to make yet another encounter between the Autobots and their age-old nemeses the Decepticons.
The game occurs sometime before the events in the film. The leader of the evil Decepticons, Megatron is still at large and is in the process of unleashing his minions on the human race, who never had a say in any of these robotic politics to begin with. Optimus Prime and the Autobots seek to right the wrongs and decide to take on the Decepticons once more. To be honest I find the entire story a bit tiresome and I wonder if there is really such a big difference between the two competing sects anyway.
It is great to see the storyline, or the lack thereof, take a bit of a backseat in the game as it instead focuses on the exciting action elements of Transformers and does not bore us with the romantic tales or escapades of the somewhat irrelevant human characters that are seen in the films. It seems to me that the robots in the series were always somewhat unable to escape their very basic level of programming – to destroy Autobots or Decepticons respectively.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is certainly an enjoyable third-person shooter, although it fails to live up to the standards of its predecessor, Transformers: War for Cybertron. The latter featured a massive game environment and an approach to the franchise that could in many respects be called a reboot of the saga, while the former unfortunately falls into the trap of having too small a game-world. It features narrow, sometimes irritating roads, tunnels and paths that you often bash into if you are not exceedingly cautious. This makes the fact that you can turn into a really fast, nitrous fuelled car often irrelevant.
In the game a robot can take on one of three forms – Robot Mode, Vehicle mode and a mode that sits somewhere in-between called Stealth Mode. A frustrating aspect of this otherwise glorious idea is that you quickly realise that Stealth Mode is often the most efficient form as you do not have to reload and you are a lot quicker than in robot form. This makes the presence of the other two modes a bit irrelevant, although I did enjoy how it allows for playing the game in different ways and for blasting enemies with a variety of weapons, rather than relying solely on the cannons in Stealth Mode.
A refreshing aspect of the single-player Campaign Mode is that you play as different characters. Among the characters that you can play as are Autobots Bumblebee, Ironhide, Mirage and Optimus Prime and Decepticons Soundwave, Starscream and Megatron. This makes for good fun as the player has the chance to play as a variety of different types of transforming robots. This allows not only for diversity in gameplay, but also for a chance to play as both the good and the bad guys.
I found minor irritations during the course of the game, most of which could probably be countered through practice. Firstly I had a problem with how the game saved. It saves checkpoints in a linear fashion and if you are not careful you can reset the chapter, and thus your most recent save gets terminated.
Some characters have problems, for instance Starscream seems a bit incompetent at locking his missiles onto targets and Megatron is a bit sluggish, which makes him a lumbering target. Of course as I mentioned above these things could probably be countered by paying more attention to the overall game dynamics.
One problem that does persist, however, is the fact that part of the strategy in the game relies on you taking cover, which there is despairingly little of and often results in the death of your game character.
The game is construed in the manner of an old-school arcade title. You mass a score, unlock some achievements but mainly will focus on blasting your way through the 7 chapters of the game. You cannot skip cutscenes, but they are reasonably short as the game lacks an in-depth storyline. Loading times are not the worst, but sometimes the game loads as you are battling an enemy which can become irritating.
For the most part the game’s graphics are captivating. There is a particularly good use of lighting that adds emotion to the robot characters. There is a stark difference between the smooth appearance of Mirage in his racing car form and the human vehicles that are seen when you play as Ironhide, that come off as badly textured blocks of polygons. There are some parts where enemies go through you, weird camera angles and grass tends to penetrate the robot’s head. This is evidence that the game was rushed in order to act as a promo for the accompanying film.
The sound effects themselves are effective, especially when coupled with the rate that your dual shock vibrates at with the big explosions. My distaste for the sound really stems from my intolerance for the Autobot’s posh voices and cringe worthy wholesomeness. The Decepticons come off as being cooler, but Soundwave’s voice in particular sounds very forced. The use of very repetitive one-liners in the game also becomes tedious.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon brings back the unique strategic options that were available to players in War for Cybertron. The ability to transform is not something that a lot of other shooters can plausibly replicate and this allows for quite a lot of fun through versatility. The three player co-op mode found in War for Cybertron no longer exists unfortunately and problems found in the campaign mode, such as low durability persist which undermines an otherwise exciting online brawl.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a fun action title that deserved more attention than perhaps the developers had enough time to give it. High Moon Studios has proved previously that they are capable of revamping the franchise with Tranformers: War for Cybertron. Unfortunately Dark of the Moon becomes more of a promo for the film than a game of its own. It is, however, proof for me that Transformers works infinitely better as a video game than as a film franchise.
The films tend to bore me with their redundant explosions and lack of character development. The human characters in them don’t interest me and I struggled to get through the second film. The game excludes humans for the most part, though they appear on screen or radio from time to time as they are not a big part of the game.
The game does not make any real attempt to blow up an artificial plot which I have always found is not more complicated than Autobots hate Decepticons and vice versa. This however, works well in the game context. It allows the player to take control of the awesome transforming robots with their barrage of weapons. It promotes action over story which in the case of Transformers works. It also means that we don’t have to force ourselves to feel emotion for robotic characters on the cinema screen. In taking control of the characters we automatically feel for their cause and it is really fun to become these transforming machines, rather than try to be compassionate about them in the films.
Predominantly reviewed on Xbox 360.