I was actually really excited for this latest entry in the movie series of games. Mainly because Activision kept High Moon Studios on to develop this tie-in after delivering the rather awesome Transformers: War For Cybertron that I thought was the best Transformers game I’ve ever played. While I’ve only bitten into what’s in the game a bit and isn’t quite enough to review, I figured I’d share a few things on my mind as I’ve started into it before I get my review in.
1. Transformers: Dark of the Moon is most definitely built on the same engine that War For Cybertron was built on, which you can really see in multiplayer and some of the interiors I’ve walked or driven into, but the detailing in the environments really show what it can do and it is amazing to look at. The models are a bit stream-lined from their film counterparts, but you can’t tell as much in this version of the game as you could in the past two film tie-in entries, which is good.
2. Because we’re on the same game engine as last time, the same hang-ups in multiplayer are back. While I hadn’t had too many problems when I was reviewing War For Cybertron, I did get them a few weeks later and ever since. There isn’t really a dedicated server to play on. You’re using someone else’s internet and PS3 to host your games, so if they have a somewhat crappy connection, you’re going to see it in your online play, and what’s worse you’ll get kicked a number of times from the same guy before you find another game with a better connection. If your host turns off the game you’re also kicked out and have to find a new game as hosting duties don’t transfer mid-match. I have noticed that level ups tend to happen more in matches than in War For Cybertron so you don’t lose all the work you’ve put into multiplayer when someone rage quits or has to leave to eat dinner. Bear in mind this is on the PS3 version. I have no idea how this was handled on the Xbox 360 for either game.
3. Harping on multiplayer a bit more, you can actually play as the big names this time in multiplayer, like Optimus and Megatron as they appear in the films, in both Megatron’s new truck as well as his old tank mode. The customization options are still pretty lackluster as far as looks go. Abilities and weapons changing are roughly the same as WFC, which is good because I didn’t have issues with that, but the color palettes, or lack thereof for character customization leave a bit to be desired. I was able to turn Bumblebee into Cliffjumper, but good luck making a black version of Optimus, best you can manage is a really dark blue. Honestly if they just let both Autobots and Decepticons have access to both palettes available, we’d be happy.
4. I like that instead of basing the storyline off the film, we get something new that leads into the film itself. I also like that it’s a whole story told by playing through as different characters on both sides as you play each chapter. While the option to play a full Decepticon campaign and full Autobot campaign was a plus in Transformers Revenge of the Fallen, revisiting the levels int he second game over again to play a variation of a mission you’d played in the other side’s campaign was a bit repetitive and boring. The maps are much larger this time around in campaign mode and the chapters are a bit longer, but there’s only 7 of them. Depending on the latter chapter length this might actually be shorter than War For Cybertron.
5. Boss Fights. Each one has been unique so far. Different tactics needed to take each one down and they have all had different abilities and methods. The Ironhide fight against Mixmaster has to be one of my favorites though. You end up having to take him down not once, but twice and each time you use a totally different tactic. This is something they had going for them in War For Cybertron and I was very glad to see it carried over into this game.
6. Bayhem or Bayos, whichever you prefer. This is something they coined during the filming of the first Transformers movie, and while the first two film tie-in games had a bit of this going on, this one captures it a bit more I think. Enemies come in hordes and actually seem to have some kind of idea what they’re doing and because of this you can’t hide forever and you want to stay moving. It adds to the intensity of battles not being able to hide behind cover because the AI won’t be content to sit on the other side and fire at you while you’re all safe, they will come around to wipe you out.
7. Where’d Escalation go? This was one of my favorite game modes and a few other Transformer geeks would get together weekly in War For Cybertron to tackle ever increasing waves of enemy hordes to try and get up to a certain level for a trophy at first and then just to see if we could beat some other players we knew. That mode is gone. While Conquest, the capture and hold various points on the map, made it over as well as the standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. Come to think of it, there are a few other multiplayer modes besides Escalation that are missing which is pretty disappointing as the variety was nice.
8. The Multiplayer map variety is pretty good. In War for Cybertron many of the complaints were that the maps were too similar in looks, but they definitely had very different layouts. Well, in Dark of the Moon we not only get very different layouts but a variety of playing environments, from a lush jungle with a busted up road to a huge Drydock for submarines. Each one requires some very different tactics to get around in and it satisfies those people who were looking for more.
9. While the plot seems a bit thin in this game compared to the one from War For Cybertron which wasn’t Shakespeare either but was better than the one in previous movie game tie-ins. And I’m not talking about over-arcing plot which is basically Autobots hunting the Decepticons and trying to figure out what they’re up to, I’m talking character development. You get a bit more here than we have in past movie games where Mikaela and Sam had more real dialogue than the Transformers themselves. Ironhide and Ratchet carry on several fun conversations during Ironhide’s mission, and Mirage’s running commentary on Starscream and the NEST guy assigned to work with him is pretty amusing.
10. Revenge of the Fallen had some nice detailed maps for both multiplayer and the regular campaign, but they were small and cramped and the giant glowing walls letting you know you were at the edge of the map were completely distracting and annoying. The maps here feel huge and open, and for the most part they are, just like in War For Cybertron. I have a few issues with a couple spots in the maps, like not being able to trample through a small grove of trees or jump up where one of your allies JUST jumped up to, but those are all in the campaign. Multiplayer is a different animal when it comes to the maps, but I could see some of the design elements from War For Cybertron transfer over. I’m not talking looks, because the maps look like Earth, not Cybertron, but I am talking some of the layout in the way tunnels turn and ramp positioning, and so on. If you’ve played War For Cybertron, the MP maps are going to feel familiar but still be something completely different than we’d seen before.