Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a tough game to review. Not because it’s incredibly bad, and certainly not because it’s the game of year. The only way I can truly describe it is it’s like going out to dinner at an ok restaurant for the first time. The food wasn’t bad enough that you wanted your money back, but it wasn’t enough that you would recommend it to anyone. Even if you’re the most hardcore of Transformers fans and sit around talking about Primacron and Computron I would have to say pass on this one.
Full disclosure in a review, I think, is always a good thing. I’ve been a Transformers fan for as long as I can remember. I can’t say that I have completely embraced the current Transformers films—although getting the voice of Peter Cullen to reprise his role was a brilliant move—I prefer the originals: Generation 1. Having said that, I’m 100% for Transformers awareness, and after High Moon Studios excellent Transformers: War for Cybertron I really wanted to like this game, but that wasn’t easy.
The good is that, right away, you get the feeling your back in the War for Cybertron. The mechanics of transforming at will between forms, and movement in a third-person shooter environment had a welcome familiarity. But the similarities fade rather quickly. War for Cybertron is filled with these epic, expansive structures. The environment was alive, and intriguing all at the same time. Dark of the Moon has lifeless, boring landscapes that have no personality. Even when your penned inside a room, there is little to no detail at all in the background and everything looks bland. To its credit, there are times where things look like they could have been good if the team had more time—such as few daylight moments where you want to actually stop and look around or an amazing cityscape–but it’s over as quickly as it started. The overall design of each Transformer is actually very well-animated for the main characters. From Bumblee to Prime, it’s clear who you’re playing, and each character has a few subtle touches that remind you of that bots personality. The Transformers are very detailed but not as much as their War for Cybertron counterparts. The design of the Transformers while detailed, just felt off to me. This could just be a personal preference for me, and fans of the Michael Bay Transformers-verse look may disagree and rightly so.
The control in Dark of the Moon leaves a lot to be desired. The driving mechanic just doesn’t work; not because it’s different, but because you’re in environments where it’s wholly impractical at times to move. This becomes an issue because of the way the weapons you have function in each mode. For example, when you’re in vehicle mode, by default it selects Stealth mode. In Stealth mode, the core weaponry you have doesn’t require a reload, so you spend most of your time in that mode—frustrating when you can’t drive reliably. The robot mode put me at a stark disadvantage. For nearly every weapon I had, I was reloading constantly. and then suddenly a garrison of enemies arrives and I’m dead. I could literally take out the Decepticon trash all day in Stealth mode and that was unbalanced. Not near as fun as being in Robot mode. On the character side, they didn’t seem true to their on-screen counterparts. Bumblebee felt too fast, Iron Hide too slow, and Prime was good at everything but not great—and he should have been. With about 3-5 hours of gameplay that gets repetitive after about 40 minutes, there isn’t much replay value here, I’m afraid.
The online component was one of the more enjoyable things about the game. The game felt faster, and a bit tighter in the control department for the Team Deathmatch, Domination and Deathmatch modes. The balance issue of Stealth mode in vehicle form vs. robot form still reared its head here, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It’s still unbalanced, but including more players, more action, and the ability tag team someone in Stealth mode and destroy them more than made up for it. It would have been nice to see some of the previous modes like three-player cooperative or Escalation return but at least what is there is solid. It’s always possible that DLC could open the door on this one, but it’s hard to imagine the profit margin on the game will be high enough to permit additional support.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon has a lot wrong with it. It’s hard to get in to, and a lot of what I loved in War For Cybertron just isn’t there. It does have a bright moment here and there, but they are few and far between. Nearly everything felt unfinished and it’s clear to me that High Moon Studios just ran out of time. At that right price-point it might be a buy but not right now. Movie tie-in games are difficult. Studios are expected to perform the impossible in a short amount of time and present a finished product–which is the only reason I believe High Moon Studios didn’t reach the heights of their previous outing with War for Cybertron. Hopefully this isn’t the last time they make a Transformers game, because they still have a bright future.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
– Lifeless environments
– Feels incomplete