Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Sony PlayStation 3)
by Ashe Collins on June 30, 2011

Transformers Dark of the Moon
Developer: High Moon Studios
Publisher: Activision
Genre: 3rd Person Shooter
Release Date: 06/14/2011

High Moon managed to hit it out of the park with Transformers War For Cybertron. While not perfect, the game was solid, a lot of fun to play, and by my counts, the best Transformers game I’ve ever played. Those are some big expectations to fill, and at first glance, it looked like we’d be getting another stellar Transformers title in Dark of the Moon, which tells the story of our favorite transforming robots leading up into the film which releases this week. Unfortunately, this game feels phoned in a bit. Let’s take a look at why.

Story/Modes

The story here is pretty thin. It’s almost like the film company kept most of the details away from High Moon, forcing them to come up with some sort of generic story that would tie into the film. Bear in mind I haven’t seen the film itself yet, but this feels half finished. War For Cybertron left openings for the game storyline to continue, but this one just kind of stops. It picks up two years after the events in Revenge of the Fallen and while the “ËœCons have been quiet, Optimus can never truly believe they’re gone.

The first part of the game sends the player as Bumblebee looking for an installation in South America where the Autobots can upload a virus into the Decepticon network to track the “ËœCons movements. Once they have this info, they uncover lots of Decepticon activity that results in the “ËœCons attacking Detroit which Ironhide and Ratchet deal with. Mirage, Bumblebee, and Sideswipe end up investigating some ruins where Starscream is lurking about. From there we flip to the “ËœCons side of things as Soundwave comes down to Earth to take out a NEST installation, Starscream goes after some new weapons, and Megatron frees one of his more powerful allies from cryostasis, Shockwave. In the last chapter, you take on Shockwave and his drilling pets as Optimus.

It’s not a great story, and really can’t even remotely stand on its own like War For Cybertron did. Yes I’m aware it’s a film tie-in, but there have been other games that took place before films that could stand on their own. One thing I really liked with the story mode, was that while the plot was moving for moving sake, we actually got some very nice character interactions, not just in cutscenes, but while the action was going on the banter between the Autobots was great, and Mirage trying to deal with what you could tell was a frustrating NEST assistant over the coms was great fun.

The other option for this was to play on the PlayStation Network for multiplayer. After playing multiplayer I almost don’t know why they bothered for this game. There is multiplayer but it’s almost identical in the way it works from the last game, except gut all but three game type options from it. It’s the same flawed setup I wrote about for War For Cybertron where you can look forward to random disconnects and so on, which I’ll talk about later. I was hoping for at least the same options we had in WFC, but no. Also, for whatever reason, multiplayer seems to move at an even slower pace than the story mode. Story mode has that quick brisk Michael Bay Transformers pace to it, but multiplayer just feels like you’re playing in half speed all the time.

Story/Modes Rating: Below Average

Graphics

Visually the game looks great. The environments look awesome and the robots themselves look as close to the film versions that I think we’ll get on this generation of console. Remember that Optimus in the film has thousands of moving parts in his mesh, which you’re not going to get on a console game this go around. There are a variety of environments, so the complaints that everything looked the same from War For Cybertron are gone. But we’re still looking at the same graphics engine, and they didn’t do much to update this game from the other so the game still loads up textures and models just a bit slowly. This is really noticeable coming off a death in multiplayer when you first spawn in only about half the time will you be whole. It only takes a few seconds to clear up, but after a 20 minute game install and update I should have zero issues with loading graphics.

My other complaint deals with the rendered cut-scenes. While the game plays just fine without any jerks or dropped frames, for some reason while you’re playing I’d get pauses all over the place in the cut-scenes. When I wasn’t involved in a level or going between chapters and hit up the extras menu to play them, they were fine, but it was all over the place outside of it. At this point in the console generation we can’t have a level loading behind the scenes while a cutscene is playing and not have it interfere? Really? It’s a little thing, but when you’re just gearing up for the next round of Robot Mayhem you notice it.

Graphics Rating: Great

Sound

Musically, this game doesn’t hold up very well. There are all these great musical cues out there from the films that Steve Jablonsky had come up with and I didn’t recognize any bit of music while I was playing. The menu screen doesn’t even have anything interesting going on and I had to listen to that while it was installing on my PS3. It’s very generic, which I guess is the very disappointing part after we got a pretty good score in the last game and the films themselves have had some pretty decent tracks as well. Game sounds are what you’ve come to expect. Lots of big explosions, some great vehicle noises, and the sounds that they actually make in the films when they fire their weapons.

Steve Blum returns to this game voicing Starscream this time, Peter Cullen is back as Prime (hear my inner fanboy squee in delight), Fred Tatasciore returns from War For Cybertron to voice Megatron, and we got the actual voice actor for the film version of Ironhide to voice him in game. There’s some nice talent in game, and while I’d still really like to hear Welker doing his version of Megatron from Transformers: Prime, Fred does a decent enough job this go around. The cast does a great job bringing these characters to life and that’s one of the few reasons I think I enjoyed playing this game as much as I did.

Sound Rating: Good

Control and Gameplay

The basic controls in this are very similar to what we got from WFC. You have a one button transformation into vehicle mode which has its own weapons just like in WFC but now they’re toting this around as “ËœStealth Force’ like it’s a new thing. Blame Hasbro. This time around your vehicle mode is actually a bit tougher than your robot mode, which I thought was a neat twist. You also can pull your weapons in to move faster and there is a boost while in pure vehicle form. In pure vehicle form you move much faster than you can in weapons hot mode. You can still lock onto targets as kind of an easy button, but if you walk behind cover or they do you’re not hitting them. One neat thing when you’re racing around in vehicle mode – and yes, there are a few timed areas where speed is key – is that you can “Ëœdrift’ using your brakes. I actually recommend doing this instead of steering as you can choose which way you’re drifting and have a lot more control when in pure vehicle mode than if you try to do both.

Your abilities and weapons vary from character to character, but the basic idea for most of the game is to wipe out the enemy while not getting hit. Instead of having to collect energy to stay alive, your health bar recharges when you’re not getting pummelled. You also aren’t as high in your vehicle mode, so if you’re trying not to get hit but half your torso is sticking up over that debris you’re behind you can transform and heal up a bit faster. You have two abilities and two weapons to choose from as well as grenades you can pick up. The first ability recharges after each use, the other one only recharges as you kill enemies. Mirage’s stealth field has the standard recharge, for example, while he has to kill enemies to charge up his double damage special ability. Ironhide’s “ËœLittle Iron’ mini-gun is rechargeable while his launch enemy seeking grenades ability requires Decepticon corpses to fuel it. You get the idea.

The action is pretty frantic in story mode with most enemies attacking you in groups or waves. There are larger enemies that take more work to take down than most, just like in War For Cybertron, but with the movie aesthetics. While I question why they got rid of so many modes in multiplayer, I question even more why when you play multiplayer after the action packed story mode, that it feels like the game slows to a crawl. It’s like playing the game on half speed. You last a bit longer in the matches because it takes longer to take someone down, but you just lack the speed and intensity that multiplayer had in WFC or even from the story mode. It’s a big let down in that department and had me wanting to put WFC back in just so I could remember what good Transformers multiplayer felt like.

Then there’s the customization options. The previous game had a bigger roster to choose from in both story mode and multiplayer. You can actually play in multiplayer as the characters themselves (expect to see many copies of Megatron and Prime running around) but you can customize as well, to a point. You can’t just swap out all the weapons like you could in War for Cybertron. You’re stuck with a primary weapon you can’t change out and a secondary one you can. So already you’re hampered by that. The whole multiplayer experience really feels tacked on this time around, which is a shame because even with the disconnect problems I had previously, I really got into the multiplayer of WFC.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Above Average

Replayability

The game itself is pretty short, you’re looking at five to eight hours before you beat the main story mode and are looking at jumping in multiplayer. And then not only do you have the connection issues, but a lack of modes to play in. There’s only so many Conquest, Deathmatch, or Team Deathmatch games you can play before you want to try something else. Escalation would have been perfect here but it was one of the many other modes not included with this game that High Moon had included before. There are other difficulty levels to play the main story on and a number of trophies, but overall the replayability of the game is really limited by the content here. If the story mode was a bit longer, the roster deeper, and there were more modes for someone to cut loose in multiplayer with, it’d be much easier to recommend as something you could play over and over again until War for Cybertron’s sequel comes out.

Replayability Rating: Poor

Balance

I didn’t feel like I was getting ripped off buying War for Cybertron on day one. I wish I’d waited a bit with Revenge of the Fallen for that first price drop looking back on it. Honestly, this one feels like half a game for the price. The story mode is far too brief. There were ten chapters in the last game, but only seven here, and each one is definitely shorter than the ones we had previously. The roster is extremely limited in both single play and multiplayer, as well as a complete lack of modes and absolutely no way to play co-op. Not helping matters is the level system that grants you access to more multiplayer custom options seems to be stripped down as well. I’m flying through gaining in levels this time around when it took quite a bit of online play before to get to level 20 and max out a class.

While gameplay wise there is a nice balance in single player as far as difficulty and scaling, the multiplayer feels watered down and very simple compared to the last outing. What it really boils down to is that the game ultimately feels rushed, and while better than some media tie-in games, it is far from a great showing. Unless you really, really like the films, I would pass this one by and find a good copy of War for Cybertron instead.

Balance Rating: Bad

Originality

So not only is the game based on a franchise that was conceived of in the 80′s, but it’s a tie-in to a film series that’s just become a trilogy. Then it uses the same mechanics, gameplay, and multiplayer from a previous title only with the movie aesthetics while stripping out over half the options we had before. Can you see where I’m coming from here? The only saving grace to this is that it’s an original story that leads into the third film, only it’s not very good and can’t stand on its own. Nothing really all that original to see here folks, move along.

Originality Rating: Dreadful

Addictiveness

While I enjoyed the game, the story line was quick to blow through, so then I was left with multiplayer which still has the issue of losing connection as it has no main game host and no way to transfer a game to someone else. Not only is that frustrating it really makes you want to turn off the game. Seriously. Two matches in and I’d turned it off to go read a book. That’s not a joke. So while the story mode has this great frantic pace, it is over way too quickly and the multiplayer will make you want to do something else for awhile. Not a shining endorsement.

Addictiveness Rating: Poor

Appeal Factor

The shininess of War For Cybertron has worn off, Dark of the Moon looks great, so why not drop $60 on that tie-in? It’s made by the same guys who did WFC, it can’t be that bad. Yeah, yeah it can. While I think this one will get a lot of bites, and it’s better than most film tie-ins, I got spoiled with a great title, and then got fed this as a follow up when it barely qualifies as an appetizer let alone a desert or meal. I’m guessing there wasn’t much time to develop the game and so what we got, while functional, is not polished nor is it very satisfying.

Appeal Factor Rating: Bad

Miscellaneous

I wanted to really like this one. High Moon has a grasp on the characters, and the overall story could have been fleshed out. Most of my problems come with it being far too short and the somewhat tacked on multiplayer. It would not have killed them to include the other play options. It would have opened things up a bit. I also would love a way to not get dropped every time someone gets pissed off that they’re losing and quits the game when it’s hosted on their PS3. Nothing wrong with the previous game has been fixed here. The original game was stripped for parts, repainted, then put out as a new product with a different VIN. Better check those Transformers FAX.

Miscellaneous Rating: Dreadful

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Below Average
Graphics Rating: Great
Sound Rating: Good
Control and Gameplay Rating: Above Average
Replayability Rating: Poor
Balance Rating: Bad
Originality Rating: Dredful
Addictiveness Rating: Poor
Appeal Factor Rating: Bad
Miscellaneous Rating: Dreadful
FINAL SCORE: POOR GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
asheresizeTransformers: Dark of the Moon gives fans a chance to play a lead in game to the film. Basically a stripped and repainted version of War For Cybertron, this game offers a less compelling and shorter story mode, a completely gutted multiplayer selection and nothing really all that new to compel someone to pick this up. I actually have a hard time even recommending this one to Transformer fans if not for the great voice actors and dialogue which is over too quickly anyway. This is a rental at best or wait until it hits the bargain bins, kids. If you want a great Transformers title, look to High Moon’s other venture in the franchise. This is not a terrible game by any means, but it feels rushed and isn’t very satisfying for the price tag.




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