Transformers: Dark of the Moon (PS3)

The last Transformers movie tie in was terrible, as was the movie. But the last Transformers game that was made by High Moon Studios was a really well made game – the first good Transformers game in years. So now we have a new Transformers movie tie in game – this time for Dark of the Moon – but made by High Moon studios. Needless to say, going in to this I had high hopes… and even greater fears. Which were justified?

Transformers, Roll Out!

Naturally, with a transformers game you hope for thrilling vehicle combat and cool robot mode combat. Neither the vehicle nor the robot form feels quite as responsive as I would’ve liked – nor even as responsive as it felt in War for Cybertron, which baffled me since the controls are largely identical. Yes, that’s right, this game uses virtually the same control scheme as Transformers: War for Cybertron, yet manages to screw it up. In fact, while I was playing this game, it almost felt a lot like a beta version of War for Cybertron – you know, before the last polishing passes, and balance changes, and quality of life improvements.

So let’s get onto specifics. The robot mode feels a lot like a traditional third person shooter, except that the characters are a little clunkier than is reasonable. I’d expect a little bit of clunkiness, since we’re playing essentially giant robots, but there’s a point at which it becomes unreasonable and I think this passes that point slightly. Your weapons in both forms have infinite ammo, which feels a little awkward and really makes the game almost too easy. Aiming is a bit awkward with regular weapons, and felt a little slow with sniper rifles. Your characters in the single player are ridiculously squishy, except Megatron and Optimus, and even they felt a bit on the soft side.

Now onto the vehicle modes. I say modes because there’s your vehicle combat form called ‘stealth force’ and a driving mode where you move faster and have no weapons but can, if you’re a larger vehicle, run stuff over. Stealth force is actually more responsive in combat than your robot form – with smooth strafing and a working lock mechanic. I spent probably over 2/3 of the single player in ‘stealth force’. When you push one of the shoulder keys(l1 on the ps3 version if my memory serves), you switch to ‘driving mode’. In driving mode the controls are unresponsive, drifting is a bit sticky, but unfortunately completely mandatory; and the game is overall a lot like a really really bad racing game.

Now, you’d say ‘just ignore it then’ wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, the game takes that option away from you with 3 segments where you’re on such a strict timer that ‘ignoring it’ just plain isn’t an option available to you. Don’t expect to get past the volcano if you’re not really good at racing games. It took me like a dozen tries before I succeeded in passing that part, and every time was due to awkward turning mechanics and terrain issues.

While flying, however, the vehicle controls are fairly well done, and the flying segments – with one small exception – are an absolute joy. I think the single most fun segment of the game was during one of the flying parts where you had a massive gunship firing hundreds of missiles everywhere and you were dodging them and shooting down other small planes. Just an absolute joy. Too bad there’s only that one spot like that. One oddity is that if you get too close to the gunship you automatically shift out of ‘stealth force’ – even if you’re below it and there’s nothing beneath you but air.

When you’re put in a spot of just pure combat, with ideal circumstances such as a room with a fair bit of cover and a lot of enemies to fight, the combat can be fun. The controls bog that down a bit, but it is still fun.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is not a bad looking game. In some ways, it looks better than War for Cybertron. The environments are, for the most part, detailed and well-designed. The robots, for the most part, look cool. The vehicle forms, for the most part, look very well-animated.

For the most part. The rest of it, unfortunately, looks terrible. I let out an audible gasp of horror when I saw Optimus’ face on the communicator during the briefing, for example. And there’s one indoor level that just looks bland and terrible. I don’t really understand why the terrible dichotomy, I’d much rather have everything look average personally; but that’s how it is. A lot of it looks really good, and other parts just look atrocious.

As to sound, the game’s sound effects are mostly pretty good. No real complaints there. Not exceptional, but not bad. The music is much the same. Not bad, but completely unmemorable. The most memorable track is one from one of the menus. None of the other audio tracks really stuck out in my mind at all. They did get a very strong cast for the voice acting, including Peter Cullen, who has been Optimus for decades since the original series(and in many peoples’ opinions is the only Optimus), Nolan North, Fred Tatasciore, and others.

Transforming with your friends!

So, the theme here again is: Decent, but a step backwards. With lowered customizability, less balance, odd unlockables, and less interesting maps everything about the multiplayer in Dark of the Moon feels like an early version of War for Cybertron.

Let’s go over the basics of the multiplayer. It’s a basic shooter multiplayer, except with transformers. You have 3 different game modes: Deathmatch(kill 20 enemies), Team Death Match(kill 30 enemies as a team), Conquest(control different nodes to get points). You have 4 different classes, each class has several templates which have one default ability and one default weapon; and then you have 1 customizable ability and weapon, based off of your class. Like in the single player, your health regenerates to full over time if you don’t take damage; and you have infinite ammo.

The multiplayer is fun. But it just feels so limited. The inability to customize all aspects of your class, combined with the inability to run out of ammo or gradually weaken players using higher health classes just adds up to a rather lacking and minimalistic multiplayer.

There is also no purely cooperative multiplayer – no horde mode style multiplayer game.

Final Thoughts

There isn’t enough of a story for it to get it’s own section, so I’ll touch on it here. What story there is isn’t terrible, but it isn’t strong. And it’s very sparse. Obviously part of that is due to it being a movie tie in game, but both the Thor and Wolverine tie-in games were stronger in story than this.

There were a few minor terrain issues, objects that seemed like they shouldn’t be interfering with movement that did, or objects that looked like they’d provide cover that didn’t(or the opposite). I also had a few cases where my weapon seemed to be firing from the wrong arm and getting caught on objects that weren’t actually in the way of the arm that should have been shooting.

And one last little pet peeve. If you’re going to use invisible walls to keep people from going off cliffs, use them everywhere. Don’t have 90% of the cliffs be ‘blocked for your safety’ but one or two completely random cliffs open to falls that lead nowhere.

Overall

The game had some good mechanics. The problem is those ‘good mechanics’ were all done previously, and much better, by an earlier game. An earlier game by the same studio. I really did feel like this was an alpha or beta version of War for Cybertron, and not a new game. If you’re looking for a game like this to play, my strong recommendation is to go get War for Cybertron. It is, in nearly every way imaginable, a better game. A much better game.

Pros:

  1. Voice cast is very good.
  2. Vehicle combat is decent.
  3. Aerial combat is very well done.
  4. Story isn’t too bad.
  5. Most of the graphics and animations are decent.
  6. Most of the sound effects are pretty good.
  7. Soundtrack isn’t bad.
  8. Multiplayer is functional and has some short term fun to offer.

Cons:

  1. Story is sparse
  2. Some graphics, animations, and environments look terrible
  3. Inconsistent invisible walls.
  4. Some pathing and cover inconsistency issues.
  5. Unresponsive controls, especially in robot form.
  6. Characters feel too squishy.
  7. Certain aspects of the game are too difficult.
  8. Vehicle controls on the ground are quite bad, and unavoidable due to forced ‘race’ segments.
  9. Limited competitive multiplayer modes.
  10. No purely cooperative multiplayer mode.
  11. Relatively poor customization options in multiplayer.
  12. Feels like a beta test of ‘War for Cybertron’, not a new game.

 

Review written by: Sean

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