Review: Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (PS3)

Title: Transformers: Dark Of The Moon
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Publisher: Activision
Developer: High Moon Studios
Price: $59.99

I volunteered to review Transformers: Dark Of The Moon because I consider myself to be a pretty huge Transformers fan.  The notion that High Moon (the developers of the well-received Transformers: War For Cybertron) was developing this title gave me some semblance of hope for this movie tie-in.  After all, War For Cybertron was like a Transformers Fan’s wet dream come true.  Sure there were some minor issues, especially in the multiplayer department, but the online component was a pretty awesome romp.  And the story mode (complete with three-player co-op) was pretty amazing.

Still, Dark Of The Moon was a movie-based game, and caution should always be observed when reviewing a movie title.  One must keep his or her fanboy-ism in check, in order to judge a game with a critical eye, for the purpose of delivering an honest opinion.

That said, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon reminds me of a Clone Trooper from the Star Wars Prequels.  For those unfamiliar with Star Wars, I will elaborate.  A Clone Trooper is named as such because he was grown within a lab, his DNA borrowed from a powerful bounty hunter named Jango Fett.  The clone is raised with accelerated growth in other to make the demanding deadline of the ongoing war, thus his conditioning and training is also accelerated.   While some of the Clone Troopers grow up to be formidable warriors, most of them are pretty much cannon fodder, reaching nowhere near the caliber of skill that their “father” attained, before Mace Windu robbed him of his head (which is a spoiler, for those of you who are still living in the 90s).

As such, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon was developed by High Moon, and it shows.  The game does indeed feel like War For Cybertron.  It plays like it, it controls like it, and it even sounds like it.  Where the game loses some of its strength, seems to come from the accelerated growth, much like a Clone Trooper.

High Moon took the smart route with the game and made it into a prequel of sorts, detailing the events that precede the storyline of the movie.  While this gave them some liberties with the direction of the title, it could not protect them from the release of the game.  And Dark Of The Moon looks like a good game hiding behind the potential of a great game that simply didn’t have enough time to develop properly.

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon doesn’t suck.  It actually plays pretty well.  Again, this is probably attributed to the fact that the developers use the guts and blood of their previous game.  This title feels exactly like War For Cybertron, save for one thing: the PlayStation 3 is not an Xbox 360.  While I completely understand why some developers make the mistake of assigning R2 and L2 as the default buttons for shoot and aim respectively, most of them have the sense to allow PS3 users to change those to what feels more comfortable to them (R1 and L1).  Hell, High Moon allowed this in War For Cybertron.  But not here.  So if you have been playing inFamous, Uncharted, Killzone, or any PS3 games where R1 is responsible for shooting, then you will have some adjusting to do.  L.A. Noire was guilty of the same thing.  It’s almost like putting a game on two BluRay discs just because the 360 version does it with DVDs.  I sincerely hope that developers observe this more in the future, because going between this game and inFamous has not been fun. 

That gripe aside, the gameplay in Dark Of The Moon switches between the driving mechanics, the Stealth Force mechanics (think Twisted Metal, with strafing capabilities), and of course, the robot combat.  The Stealth Force mechanics are pretty smooth (much like the third alt mode in War For Cybertron).   Your vehicle is able to strafe, shoot, and even jump.  But for the added speed boost, you can immediately transform into full vehicle mode and haul ass across the landscape.  You are even allowed an added boost for the traditional car mode, which helps you get out of tight situation.  The Stealth Mode and robot mode both have unique weapons assigned to them, and are both are fun to play, though I did find the Stealth Mode to be a bit powerful, and sometimes ended up remaining in this mode during boss battles.

Unlike War For Cybertron (which lets you choose one of three characters per level), each level pits you as one character, but that character’s strength’s are relative to the design of the level, so this was never really an issue.  It’s not like every other game out there gives you a choice of 3-4 characters at the beginning of each stage, so I will judge that element specifically to only this game, and not in comparison to others.

Some of the characters are a blast to play.  For instance, Mirage’s level has you speeding across a jungle road at night and sniping away at cons from high outcroppings.  He is also a nimble and speedy character with invisibility (much like his cartoon counterpart), which makes him fun to control and stealthily move across the level.

Ironhide on the other hand was a bit slower to handle, but he packed the firepower to make up for it.

You are also allowed to play as Sounwave and Starscream, and of course, Megatron.  Again, they are all packed with unique weapons, though some of the Stealth Mode artillery seem to overlap.

Driving mode takes a bit to get used to, but I popped in the game last night and found myself driving around Mirage’s level with great ease, and even enjoyed it.  But it did seem like this element was tacked on because…well, they turn to cars).

The visuals in Dark Of The Moon look better than most movie games out there.  That’s not saying much, but a compliment this remains.  While some of the more industrial levels look rather bland and simply exist to move you along, the foliage in the “outdoorsy” levels are pretty pleasing to look at and traverse.

The characters themselves look pretty solid, and represent some of the better visuals of the game.  The transformations look smooth and High Moon’s experience with the robots in disguise shows.

The cinematics were pretty disappointing, particularly coming off the heals of the amazing War For Cybertron storytelling elements.  This could probably also be attributed to time constraints.  As a fan of Transformers, I will sometimes pop in War For Cybertron just to watch the awesome cinematics.  Not so with this game.  I heard what the characters had to say in the briefing (so I could get some insight into the recently-released movie), and I’d skip the rest.  There simply isn’t much going on here.

No complaints here.  The game sounds great, with familiar laser and transformation sounds straight from the game’s predecessor.  Also of note is the great dialogue.   It was great to hear the movie characters interacting with each other as they did.  Ironhide is continuously berated by Optimus Prime for causing extensive damage to the city, while Mirage’s cocky nature has him talking down to his human companions.  It’s a treat hear the banter amid the sounds of lasers and explosions.

Transformers: Dark Of The Moon isn’t breaking the tradition of lackluster movie games.  But it certainly has taken a step in the right direction.  The game was fun to play, but it simply felt incomplete.  For example, its spiritual predecessor allowed for 3 players to take on the campaign together.  This game does not.  And I am certain that this too was a result of the need to get the game out before the movie.  Which is a shame.  The campaign was also extremely short, and while multiplayer does lend some longevity to the experience, it’s not going to take you out of playing War For Cybertron (if you are still) or any other more-recent game out there.

As a whole, though, Dark Of The Moon is a complete game, that isn’t broken, and plays well enough.  And if you are a fan of the series, or the movies, the game will entertain, but not for the asking price.  Rent it (as you could beat it in one sitting) or wait for the bargain bin.  I don’t think it’s fair to rate this game any higher, because it devalues what the same team did on their previous outing.  But the Dark Of The Moon is still a fun little run, for what it is.


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