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Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Score: 72%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: High Moon Studios
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 2 -10 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Shooter/ Mission-Based Driving

Graphics & Sound:

I'm a major Transformers fan, so I'm happy to finally see the series get the videogame treatment. They haven't all been great, but I've enjoyed most of them. Transformers: Dark of the Moon has pedigree on its side, coming from the same developers behind Transformers: War for Cybertron, the crown jewel of Transformers games.

Visually, the game lives up to the look of the movies. I'll leave aesthetic judgment to you - the "Bay-former" designs are always a fun bit of controversy - though on a technical level, the game looks great. Characters have just the right amount of details and are modeled right off their movie counterparts. Transforming animations look cool, and there are a few neat special effects at play.

Environments are diverse; ranging from South American jungles, to a Sector 7 installation, to an icy Siberian missile silo. Levels are a little too linear, but are detailed. Some feature cool in-level effects like the frost effect in the missile silo.

Music and audio are in tune with the movie's soundtrack. Other than Peter Cullen, who voices Optimus Prime, I'm not sure if anyone reprises their role from the movie. Though I can't speak for the new characters, the returning ones sound in character with their movie counterparts. I was also happy to see that High Moon Studios found a way to get Nolan North some work -- poor guy needs it. ;)


Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a prequel to the movie. After the Decepticons are routed in the second movie, they go into hiding, planning their next move - which I assume is the plot for the third movie. High Moon Studios deserves credit for trying to piece some sort of narrative together, but they were in a bad spot from the start. The story is just a loose narrative meant to stick the bots in different locations and give them something to shoot at. Nothing major happens, nor is there any sort of satisfying finality. Instead, everyone is moving around trying to get in place for the third act.

Each level places you in control of a different Transformer. Unlike War for Cybertron there's no co-op play, though considering how tight each level is, it wouldn't be much fun with another player in tow. The designs are simple; you move from one corridor to another blasting enemies and occasionally transforming into a vehicle. It's fun, but only in a mindless Michael Bay film sort of way. That's not a bad thing, but its hard to shake the feeling that the team was handcuffed in what they could do.

There are a couple of bright spots. The two stealth-focused levels - one featuring Mirage and the other Laserbeak - are really cool since you have to rely on something other than a fast trigger finger. I also enjoyed the dog fighting section between Starscream and the Aerialbots. All three missions are big departures from the norm and a lot of fun.

Multiplayer is another surprise. Comparered to War for Cybertron, it is reduced to a few core parts. There are a few features missing - again, mainly due to license limits - though High Moon Studios was still able to retain the elements that made the mode enjoyable. The only sour spot is the lack of maps. The five maps are fun (Chicago is a real stand out), but get old. The game is limited to three modes -- Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and a Control-point mode -- though all three are fun, so I can't find much room to complain.


Transformers: Dark of the Moon manages to find the sweet spot. Levels are usually easier than they are hard, though it mostly depends on your approach. There's an unstated strategy to making it through levels. It's not as easy as barreling into situations, though it never bogs down into Gears of War style "wait and see" shootouts.

A lot of the strategy comes from effectively using your bot's two special powers. One automatically charges over time, while the other requires an influx of Energon from downed enemies. You have some leeway with the recharging one, though misfiring the second can leave you in a tough spot.

Multiple difficulty options are available if needed, though I had few problems on the default setting.

Game Mechanics:

Stealth Force is a cool new mechanic, though its usefulness is situational. The mode is a half step between robot and vehicle mode. You get the firepower from robot mode and the durability of vehicle mode. The mode is best in multiplayer and introduces a Twisted Metal feel to matches. Stealth Force introduces some balance issues. It's too powerful in single-player situations, especially boss fights. I beat most by dropping into Stealth Force and strafing around them in a circle until they died.

Handling, however, could be better. It's easy to strafe, though forward movement is floaty. It is hard to maneuver in tight spaces. It's not as big an issue in multiplayer matches, but it does slow your progression in some single-player areas.

The same goes for driving in general. I had a hard time not running into objects. Even with a clear path, I somehow managed to veer off to the left or right. It takes away from the slick feeling of fighting and quickly transforming into a car. Though it doesn't ruin the experience, it does take some of the shine off an otherwise neat mechanic.

Not that it matters much. Levels are so linear there isn't much room for stylish transformation-fused tactics. It's usually clear where you're supposed to play as a vehicle and where you're supposed to play as a robot. Stealth Force offers the only grey area between the two. Even with the steering issues, zooming forward then dropping into Stealth Force is a fun experience.

Compared to War for Cybertron, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a step down, but it isn't a complete fall. I really think most of the issues are due to certain license restrictions. It doesn't excuse every issue - past movie-related games have offered lots of cool ideas - though it does explain some things.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a fun title, though it is a better pick up if you're into the multiplayer side of things. The single-player experience has a few great moments, but there aren't enough to keep you engaged for very long.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Related Links:

Sony PlayStation 3 Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls Nintendo Wii Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Stealth Force Edition

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated