Transformers Dark of the Moon Review (XBOX 360)
Last year one of the most surprising game releases in terms of quality was Transformers: War for Cybertron. Rarely do games based on movie or TV tie-ins work but High Noon Studios had developed a game which brought the world of Autobots and Decepticons to life, packing it with action and delivering it with some good visuals and decent audio. We had a lot of fun playing through the game and recommend any Transformers fan pick it up, especially now it is likely to be a low price game.
So following the success of War For Cybertron High Noon were awarded the contract to develop a tie-in for the latest big screen outing from Michael Bay; Dark of The Moon. Today we find out if the game builds on the good foundations of the last title or if it has suffered the same fate that so many movie related games do... extreme mediocrity, at best.
Dark of the Moon begins by giving us a short backstory in which we find that events are taking place around 3-years after the second movie. The Decepticons are nowhere to be seen and while the leaders of the world are sure they have gone forever, Optimus Prime and his Autobots feel that they are merely in hiding, waiting for a chance to strike. And so we are launched into a mission (called chapters in DotM) where we are to investigate strange goings on in South America.
In this first chapter we play as Bumblebee and essentially the game is taking us through an extended tutorial which fills us in on the main mechanic. In many ways the gameplay style is similar to the last Transformers game where we play parts in robot form (with standard-ish 3rd person controls) and parts in vehicle (again with standard driving style controls). There is one significant difference though, this time round we have Stealth mode. Essentially this is a form between the robot and vehicle stages where we have the weapons from the former mixed with the shape and protection of the latter.
This therefore creates several styles of gameplay within each level as the various forms play completely differently. Our robot form is very weapon and interaction orientated so can fire off shots from the two main guns as well as perform special moves, for example a spin attack. Using the first chapter as an example, we also plant virus files in systems and disable equipment in robot form. When things get tough we move to Stealth mode where our ammo is unlimited and the vehicle form factor is more resilient to damage, this mode also feels different as rather than be a clunky/heavy bot we are, for example, a mix of car and hover ship. Then in full vehicle mode we are unable to fly but can travel from location to location much faster than in the other forms.
Guiding us along through most of the game is Optimus Prime through an authentic voiceover and he, as well as other bots, drop into the gameplay at various times to advance the story or assist in some of the larger set pieces. This team battle mode of course serves to vary the gameplay style a little more.
That's it though in terms of the single player campaign... play through a number of chapters as various bot's who all have different abilities and a few weapons each in an attempt to save Earth. Nice and simple... as we would expect from an action movie tie-in.
In addition to the single player campaign DotM also offers online multiplayer modes, three in fact. We get deathmatch, team deathmatch and a capture the flag/king of the hill style hybrid. In each we get to play as Transformers and of course can still transform between forms as we wish which really sets this games multiplayer apart from the average shooter.
Adding further value to the game are a selection of unlockables which range from video segments to extra characters for use in multiplayer. Then we have the standard achievements which add points to our Xbox profile as we progress.
Graphics and Sound
Dark of the Moon is based on Epic's Unreal Engine (with PhysX plugin) and like many of the other games based around this tech it looks good. That said the opening Chapter is a little bland in terms of palette but after that the environments are impressive. There are also some nice touches in terms of the interaction with these settings, the end of chapter 2 as an example see's us in a scrap yard which has destructible sections which explode when we fire our newly upgraded Heavy Iron 2.0 weapon at them.
The characters are also well realised and immediately recognisable as the characters from the Transformers universe.
There is however one significant issue, at least on the 360 version of the game, and that is slowdown. When we get a lot of enemies on screen, or some larger explosions the framerate does suffer and that can be distracting.
Audio wise the score is reasonable but it is the voice acting which really adds to the game, not because the script is particularly great but because having Optimus Prime voiceover any title is going to enhance it.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon offers around 5-6 hours of single player campaign which has a lot I common with the movie franchise... essentially it is a long succession of various different explosions held together by a reasonably basic plot. For the most part that is fine because sometimes it's just nice to sit down and take on hordes of enemy robots of various sizes.
There are a few issues, for example the framerate drops during demanding sections and the fact that on occasion the levels launch with the gun set to auto fire (until paused/unpaused) however the overall control mechanic is good and the variation in styles appreciated as we move from chapter to chapter changing location, character and weapons.
A unique multiplayer experience adds longer term value to the game and overall it is a fun title which is ideal for playing in advance of seeing the film, or afterwards to relive some explosive action... just don't expect a deep plot or a particularly challenging campaign.
Fans of the Transformers franchise will get a kick out of fighting alongside Optimus Prime when he drops in to assist in our battle with the Decepticons, we certainly did.
||A similar mechanic to the last transformers game, enhanced by Stealth mode which will be most people's preferred style. Easy to pick up and play but not ground-breaking.
||Decent, functional and some nice touches throughout. Shame about the framerate issues.
||Optimus Prime is awesome. That makes the game really.
||Average single player campaign in terms of length, some decent unlockables. Good multiplayer.
(Not an Average)
||A fun, mindless afternoon's worth of blowing stuff up. Exactly what a game based on a Michael Bay film should be.