June 27, 2011 by Paul Curtin
With only a year since the release of the last Transformers game, War for Cybertron, it seemed a little too soon for High Moon Studios to already be releasing a sequel… but with the next Transformers movie about to hit theaters, it’s no surprise that we have another game already on the market and this time tied in to the movie. I praised High Moon’s War for Cybertron for being a Transformers game that wasn’t half-assed and rushed through the production cycle in order to meet a movie’s deadline (review here).
So is Dark of the Moon another attempt by studios to cash in with the release of a summer blockbuster film, or another smash hit from High Moon and the first good game to break the curse of bad games that are tied in to movie releases?
Right away when playing Dark of the Moon‘s single-player you’ll feel like you’re playing another low quality movie tie-in game. The level design and pacing feels very similar to the first two terrible Transformers games based off Michael Bay’s movies before High Moon Studios’ War for Cybertron, which had nothing to do with the movies. It’s nice that the story is supposed to bridge the gap between the second and third movie, but both the gameplay and story are so generic and dull that you won’t even care about what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. The overall gameplay is still somewhat enjoyable and the original voice actors are back, but it doesn’t help that characters will constantly repeat the same one-liners during fights, sometimes not even a minute after they’ve just said the exact same thing.
War for Cybertron‘s pacing was done very well with the game being split into two campaigns, one where you played as the Decepticons and another as the Autobots, with both stories being related and conflicting throughout the game and being summed up at the end. Dark of the Moon‘s campaign is a lot shorter and you’ll randomly jump back and forth between playing as Autobots and Deceptions too quickly, which kills any sort of character development. There are a couple impressive moments like one boss fight that takes place in the air and allows you to freely transform from jet form to robot and land on the plane boss in real time; however, the poor controls and aiming will make the level more frustrating than enjoyable. A quick side note: I played the game on PlayStation 3 and the aim/shoot buttons have been switched from the previous game’s L1 and R1 bumper buttons to the L2 and R2 triggers. The L2 and R2 triggers on the PS3 are terrible for shooters and switching from the previous control scheme was a bad decision by High Moon. Although most of the campaign is boring, the final chapter concludes with a great boss fight that almost makes up for the 6 hours you’ve previously wasted, but it’s still nowhere near as epic as the boss fights in WFC.
Multiplayer functions like a dumbed-down version of War for Cybertron‘s with a tweaked health and ammo system, new poorly made maps, less game modes, and new characters with far less in terms of customization. With multiplayer being the highlight of WFC, new maps and characters sounded fine for a new Transformers game, but neither are done well. WFC received criticism for so many levels looking similar due to the game being on the Transformers’ home world of Cybertron, so this was High Moon’s chance to diversify map designs, yet the maps aren’t designed nearly as functional as WFC‘s and the game’s visuals look nowhere near as impressive. WFC‘s maps might have looked similar to one another, but after playing for a couple hours it was easy to tell them apart and the visuals were beautiful. Maps in DotM no longer feature health cubes and ammo scattered throughout them because the health and ammo system has been tweaked so that players have unlimited ammo and health recharges on its own, which make games far less tactical and intense.
There’s also been minor changes to how you customize characters, which is yet another terrible decision by High Moon and forces you to use certain guns and abilities that you won’t want to use. The previous game allowed for greater customization with mixing and matching weapons and skills when building a character to fit your playstyle, but now you can only select your secondary weapon and ability with primary weapons being locked and based on the character you pick. The mix of weapons, skills, and classes worked perfectly last time and encouraged better teamwork; I’m not sure why High Moon decided there was need for change here.
One of the only new features in Dark of the Moon is “Stealth Force”, which lets players transform into a hybrid robot vehicle with more powerful mounted weapons still available to use while driving, which makes gameplay kind of like Twisted Metal. The whole idea is pure gimmick since vehicles already had the ability to fire weapons in WFC; now the weapons are just slightly more powerful. Before there were just two modes to easily transform back and forth between, which worked perfect, now it’s a hassle during fights because there’s three different modes and the vehicle mode when not in Stealth Force is a lot harder to control.
By far the worst thing about Dark of the Moon is how there are even fewer multiplayer modes than in the previous game. DotM only features three multiplayer modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and a capture-and-hold style game called Conquest. War for Cybertron included all three of those modes plus even more exciting modes like Power Struggle (King of the Hill), Countdown to Extinction (Bomb Planting Assault) and Code of Power (Capture the Flag). There was even a co-op mode called “Escalation” that played like Gears of War‘s Horde Mode. To make multiplayer even worse, the lag issues that plagued WFC and were its biggest flaw are still present in Dark of the Moon. Basically, all the unique modes that made WFC‘s multiplayer so amazing have been removed, customization has been reduced, lag is worse than ever, and the game looks nowhere near as good as the last — Why did they even waste their time making a new multiplayer to go with this game? Oh right, the monies…
Dark of the Moon is by no means a terrible game, which I guess is somewhat of an accomplishment considering how poorly made video games with movie release tie-ins usually are, however, it’s a huge disappointment with how well made War for Cybertron was. Ironically, just like the Transformers‘ movie series which started off strong with the first film and then turned into a disaster of a movie in the sequel, High Moon’s second Transformers game follows suit. Like the second movie, Dark of the Moon is nothing but a rehashed and watered down version of the original with no improvements and far less features that will leave you asking yourself: Why am I not just playing War for Cybertron right now? Hopefully, after this, High Moon will have plenty of time to make a proper sequel to War for Cybetron that isn’t just a cheap game simultaneously released with a film in theaters. Transformers: Dark of the Moon gets 2 out of 5 stars (Not Good).
- Uses most of the gameplay mechanics from War for Cybertron
- Multiplayer gives the game a little bit of extended play
- Voice acting is spot on with the original Transformers cast back
- Final mission and boss are enjoyable
- Generic single-player that feels like any other bad movie tie-in game
- Graphics look average and nowhere near as polished as the last game
- Tons of features and modes that made WFC‘s multiplayer amazing have been removed
- Lag issues that plagued WFC are still present and worse than ever