By Stewart Sutherland
True for many movies, the last two live action Transformers films have not had the best video game tie-ins. Following the success of their original Transformers game War For Cybertron, many fans breathed easy knowing that High Moon Studios were taking that game’s layout and returning with new title Dark of the Moon. So why is it such a disappointment?
Acting as a prequel to the recently released movie (the game was available a while before the new flick in some regions), Dark of the Moon plays almost exactly the same as the previous G1 inspired War For Cybertron. With identical controls, the game can feel like it’s simply had a swap of characters and locations, but in truth it has been toned down a lot. The game is short and linear – the ability to choose characters and factions has been removed from the story campaign (as well as the drop in, drop out co-op feature). At seven chapters in length, players will be given a robot and an assignment, before being pushed along a narrow path.
The story is very basic – almost cruelly so. The first three missions give you control of the Autobots, as they go about tracking and destroying rogue Decepticons. From chapter four onwards however, the game becomes a little more interesting as players take control of Soundwave and start to put big bad Megatron’s latest plan into action – recovering a lost assassin on Earth.
The game does have some kick-ass voice acting – Peter Cullen returns once more as iconic Optimus Prime, and does a good job at it too. Whereas sometimes the Autobot leader may come across as quite violent in the most recent films, he feels more like his noble self from the ’80’s cartoon here. And, after doing such an excellent job of voicing Starscream on the new show Transformers Prime, Steve Blum has stepped up to voice the treacherous Decepticon. Fans of Uncharted can also spot Nolan North in live action cutscenes as a NEST officer in communication with Optimus and the other Autobots.
Graphics-wise, the game truly does deliver. The backgrounds are rich and dotted with a various details to break up the monotony, and the lighting effects look beautiful as they bounce off of the metal bodies of the robots. Driving along a dirt road as Bumblebee or newcomer Mirage (a red Ferrari 458 Italia) looks like a segment taken from a James Bond game, especially when a character converts to ‘stealth force’ mode – where a vehicle becomes armed to the teeth with weaponry.
Sadly, the gameplay has been altered too far from the previous game. While Bumblebee may be fleet-footed and nimble on screen, he and the rest of the cast are slow and bulky to play. The ability to pick up dropped weapons and ammo has also been removed and health regenerates quickly if you’re behind cover. Overall, the drama has just been sucked out of it – the basic prequel plot and insults between sides is toned down a lot.
The game comes bundled with a multiplayer mode and like the last game you’re able to customise your characters with unlockable powers and forms. Unlike the last game however, experience comes quickly and you’ll be able to fully level a class with just a handful of matches. Matchmaking has been diluted to simple Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Conquest. The four player vs. the AI mode, Escalation, has also landed on the cutting room floor.
All of these changes make Dark of the Moon feel very much like a children’s game. I found myself finishing the campaign in a night – I had gotten all achievements for it in two. It’s fun and pretty, but there’s just not enough to keep players interested. With War For Cybertron 2 arriving next year, I can only hope that High Moon Studios will take a look back at what made the first game so much better than this follow-up. In the meantime, it will take a lot of cheap DLC (and NOT just map and character packs) to save this title from being buried on the moon itself, to be quickly forgotten.
5 OUT OF 10