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Jeremy Jastrzab
08 Jul, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review

360 Review | Failing to transform the movie tie-in paradigm.
As the Northern Hemisphere's summer comes rolling, so do the popcorn blockbuster releases and the tightening of the video game release valve. So aside from movie tie-ins, there really isn’t too much out there to play. Which is actually a good thing for some; there’d be no time to go through that unplayed pile otherwise… With the recent cinema release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the obligatory video game tie-in has followed hot on its heels. Despite a remarkably rich lore and history (for a brand of toys…), Transformers games have never really reached the same level of fan affinity as the cartoons. While Dark of the Moon isn’t likely to change this, it could have been far worse.

Unlike Transformers: The Movie and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon departs from the open-world formula, and adopts the third person shooter style used in Transformers: War for Cybertron. Which would make sense, since developer High Moon Studios was given the development reigns for Dark of the Moon, following some success and a good reception with War for Cybertron. In that regard, Dark of the Moon is best described as a point-to-point objective based third person shooter. It mightn’t reach the heights of the lore seen in War for Cybertron, but it does have some minor improvements.

Unfortunately, the story isn’t one of them. To be fair though, it’s still better than the movie itself. It helps that the game is actually a prequel to the movie, rather an attempt at adapting the story. Clearly, someone realised early on that you’d have to be a real monkey to try and monkey with that attempt of a story. Unfortunately, there are a lot of random elements bandied about (mechtech?) and it just gives the impression that you’re not quite finished by the end… because you’re not. All said and told though, it’s a solid romp that actually gives you some good insight and introductions into how the events of the movie started. And there is very little human interaction and no Laboof! Nothing great or outstanding by any means, especially since it completely pales in comparison to the events of War for Cybertron, but it’s better than your usual movie tie-in effort.

Why couldn't there be more of this in the movie?.

Why couldn't there be more of this in the movie?.
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As mentioned, both War for Cybertron and Dark of the Moon have the same developer, so the similarities between the two aren’t because the latter ripped off the former. Now, that would be like saying Call of Duty: Black Ops rips off Call of Duty: World at WarDark of the Moon is divided into seven chapters, and you’ll flip between the Autobots and the Decepticons, rather than play two separate campaigns. Each of the seven chapters has you playing as a different Transformer, from Bumblebee in the first chapter, to Optimus Prime in the last. There is an adequate amount of variety, particularly as you work through the different Transformers. For example, one level has you going all-out attack, another has some stealth involved, one has you playing as two Transformers and another has you taking the skies. You can take a guess at which is which…

There are a few aspects of Dark of the Moon that make it a better game than its spiritual predecessor. For one, the fully rechargeable health bar makes sense in this case, and allows the game to flow a bit better. The concession is that the ‘health drops’ are pretty redundant. That, and the aiming mechanics have been vastly improved. To the point where you can actually hit stuff now! To help with this, ammo is now unlimited, meaning the frantic searches and limited sources from the last game will no longer be an issue. Furthermore, the game continues to adopt the unique abilities for each transformer, triggered by the shoulder buttons. Yes, the ammo and health tweaks do make the game easier, but the improved aiming mechanics are definitely worth it. That being said, manoeuvring giant robots was never going to be a lithe and agile experience.

Cassettes have come a long way.

Cassettes have come a long way.
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Unforutnatley though, Dark of the Moon is plagued by the familiar issue of most movie tie-ins; it’s a rushed job. There is nowhere near the level of polish of last year’s game, and while everything works pretty much just as it should, there is very little of note that actually happens. The pace can be plodding at times, particularly while some of the vehicle transformation implementation has been improved, often it feels like the level design has these long travel periods slapped in to artificially increase play time. Again, the vehicle transformations seem a lot like a waste, as they’re hardly a necessity. Except getting through those corridors would take way longer otherwise. Oddly, the boss battles aren’t really that difficult and are quite predictable, with enemy skirmishes and set pieces being the bigger bugbear. The scoring system for each level is pretty weird too… the multiplier seems to only go up with melee attacks, but none of such finer intricacies are actually explained.

While it all works fine, it reeks of rush and really doesn’t do enough to elevate it beyond the run-of-the-mill third person shooter. Another slight downer with the campaign (for some) will be the lack of co-op play. Given how the game has been designed though, it was obviously designed without co-op in mind. Overall, the campaign won’t take anyone more than five to six hours (including all the artificial tack-ons) on normal. The competitive multiplayer is essentially the same as War for Cybertron as well, with the same classes and potential for levelling up, but with nowhere near the amount of content or customisation. The maps, the weapons and the Transformers are all based off the game itself. There really wasn’t that much in the overall package and there don’t seem to be too many ‘special’ extras to keep the attention of fans. Sure, while it works well and plays cleanly, this isn’t going to be the next multiplayer craze.

You're in for a shock! OK no, not really.

You're in for a shock! OK no, not really.
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Just like the gameplay and design, the graphics are clean and functional but clearly rushed. There is nothing particularly distinctive or supremely detailed in the environments, meaning that if the game wasn’t such a point-to-point affair, it would have been stupidly easy to get lost. The style of the individual and distinctive Transformers is quite well realised, so if you liked the movie Transformers you’ll be pleased with what you see here, but the cronies are all clones of one of the main Transformers, which look quite dull and uninspired. Incidentally, the voicing is probably one of the stronger aspects, with most at least getting close to how they sound in the movie, even if they aren’t the real actors. That, and the characters are at least well conveyed. All the other sound effects aren’t anything special or noteworthy, while the sound track is completely forgettable.

Despite some minor improvements over its spiritual predecessor, Transformers: Dark of the Moon fails to avoid the movie tie-in trap. Without the brilliant use of the Transformers lore from the last game to fall back on, a lot the shortcomings in design and development time are clearly exposed. That, and the game is pretty short, doesn’t do anything exceedingly well and the multiplayer is functional but a tack-on. To be fair though, if you are curious about how the events of the third movie were set into motion, Dark of the Moon mightn’t be a great game on its own, but it does what needs to be done. Everything works as it should but it shows that with some more development time, it could have been something worthwhile.
The Score
Transformers: Dark of the Moon fails to avoid the movie tie-in trap, but it's functional gameplay will satisfy anyone who wants to know more about the titular movie and has low expectations.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Content

Transformers: Dark of the Moon launch trailer
15 Jun, 2011 Lots of metal, even more explosions.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon trailer
10 Mar, 2011 Robot hooouuuse!
Transformers: Dark of the Moon details
14 Feb, 2011 UPDATE: War for Cybertron 2 is still alive, hopefully.
6 Comments
2 years ago
Nice review Jeremy, and sadly not an unexpected result. FYI the 'Mechtech' stuff appears to be a tie-in to the current range of toys.
2 years ago
Ah, that makes sense now... Thanks icon_y1.gif Still, it's quite a random addition if you're not into the toys icon_confused.gif
2 years ago
Jeremy wrote
Ah, that makes sense now... Thanks icon_y1.gif Still, it's quite a random addition if you're not into the toys icon_confused.gif
It was also in the movie (Though not refered to by name). Not sure what the mech tech consists of in the game but the big flying jetpack thing Optimu's trailer transforms into his his mech tech addition.
2 years ago
^Yes, those exploding sticks from the movie are in the game too - though as you mention, it's not referred to by name, so it can be confusing...
2 years ago
Hi my kids returned the game, they got through the levels quickly and said it was not "really" worth the 60.00 we paid for it. I called the gaming place we bought it from and they said they had a lot of complaints as well. It only had 7 levels, and they got right through them. But (remember I don't know much about games) but aren't there other available levels online? The kids say those are levels (duh mom??) but I am not sure. They enjoyed the graphics and love the autobots but were disappointed in the game. I would appreciate your thoughts.
2 years ago
My nephew (Stefan) got this bad boy last week (excited by the movie) and is up to the 4th level (2 hours or so?? not sure). If there's 7 total then yes it is does seem a very rushed and incomplete game (not just in gaming time, but also with respect to the final cut of the graphics and gameplay).
I haven't had a good look but 5.5 seems a fair score, not sure if they intend on returning it or not..
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  30/06/2011 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Activision
Year Made:
  2011
Players:
  10

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