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Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Stealth Force Edition

Score: 55%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Behaviour Interactive
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Mission-Based Driving

Graphics & Sound:

Let's face it, owners of the Nintendo Wii have gotten used to the different ways big title, cross-platform games get released onto this console. Typically, the game is either a standard port from the PS3 or Xbox 360 version with the graphics turned down and some motion-controls thrown in, or a different development studio is hired to handle the Wii version than the one for the two other, beefier consoles. In both cases, the outcome usually results in a version for the Wii that feels considerably lacking when held next to the other two platforms.

Well, the Wii version Transformers: Dark of the Moon, dubbed Stealth Force Edition is a prime example of that, and has a lot of shortcomings.

Visually, the game looks okay for a Wii title. It would have been nice if the vehicle textures and environments had a bit more detail to them, but I have seen worse (and far better) on this system. One good aspect of the game is that the vehicles are very recognizable. Optimus looks like Optimus, Bumblebee looks the part, even the Decepticons appear as you would expect. It's the rest of the game, including the generic enemy vehicles, that really brings down the graphical feel of the game.

I will say, I was pretty disappointed in the between-level cut scenes. These brief videos that try and explain what the overall story is are little more than simple Flash animations. Unfortunatly, as let down by the cut scenes as I was, that is far from the worst aspect of Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Stealth Force Edition, but more on that later.

Audio is one of the game's better aspects. While the sound effects are generic, the voice acting fits the bill with either the actual actors reprising their roles, or good stand-ins doing solid impressions were in the recording booths; it's hard to tell. As for the game's background music, it also seemed to fit, even if it was generic action-movie stuff.


Gameplay:

Okay, so, here is the problem. It seems like, if nothing else, there should be one feature built into any Transformers game, and as far as I can tell, every one has had this feature. They might not have handled it well, but it was there. That feature is built right into the licenses name, it is, in fact, the core idea behind the license, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Stealth Force Edition doesn't have it. That is to say, you can't transform.

Well... that isn't entirely true. You can transform a little. All three of the console versions of Dark of the Moon introduce a new transformed stage that is somewhere between vehicle and robot. This is called Stealth Force Mode. This is a mode that gives you the maneuverability of a third-person shooter and weapons of your robotic form, but supposedly, the speed of your vehicle mode. While all three versions has this new semi-transformed state, the Wii version doesn't let you transform into your robot form. That's right, no robots. Even the enemies stay in their two vehicular modes.

When this realization hit me, and sadly, it was a couple of levels in when I realized the game never told me how to fully transform, I was flabbergasted. Speechless. I had to stop the game and go to watch Geck0 play some of the PS3 version for a while just to make sure this wasn't a "feature" of the other versions. What I saw was what you might expect a modern Transformers game to be. You know, driving, shooting, big boss battles and such.

Returning to my game, I kept making my way through the single-player levels and found myself in what I can only describe as a mission-based driving game... and a poorly executed one at that. It's like the developers had got it in their mind that not allowing you to transform into the robots would make them stand out as a Transformers game (they succeeded there), but didn't focus hard enough on what that would allow them to do. If the game was a more pure mission-based driving game, or even a vehicular combat game, then the odd choice wouldn't be so bad.

On the other hand, this game is supposed to be a prequel to the new movie, so I can understand that there were restrictions in the story they could tell, but it seems those same restrictions, if nothing else, then by the license holder, should keep them from developing a game that doesn't let you transform into a robot.

So, by removing the robot aspect from the game, the developers pinned themselves into doing nothing but driving-based levels, since assumedly, they had to tell the same basic story that you find in the other versions of the game. As a result, Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Stealth Force Edition contains the same few flavors of levels over and over again.

These types of levels range from running through checkpoints as fast as possible while taking out or avoiding the enemy forces, to destroying the enemies that rush into the arena you are in, to protecting various items in the level that your enemy is trying to destroy. While there are a couple of variations on the theme here and there, that's pretty much what you have to work with, and it isn't long before you realize that you've seen all the game has to offer.

Unfortunately, a lot of these details can be viewed as the standard movie tie-in quality, well, except for the whole transforming part, of course. If these were the only issues I had with the game, then things would be a lot better. Where Stealth Force Edition really breaks down is the limitations the game imposes on your only useful mode, that half-way transformed state.

While in your standard vehicle mode, you can't shoot. You are faster than your Stealth Force Mode, but that's it. Basically, the only purpose of that form is to get out of danger as fast as you can so you can collect Energon so you can keep up the fight. Your alternate form has two types of weapons, machine guns and rockets. All transformers have the same two weapons, and, quite frankly, despite some differences in speed and handling, they are all the same. This bigger weapon requires actual ammo, which is dropped by fallen enemies or scattered throughout the level.

This is all fine and I can understand this aspect of the game. What doesn't make sense is the fact that you have an energy meter that your Steal Force Mode is based on, and that constantly drops when you are in that form. When you run out, your revert back to your normal vehicle mode. From there, you drive as fast as you can to look for more Energon so you can "transform" again and use your weapons some more.

So yes, not only are you limited in your transformation, and can only deal damage in that alternate form, but you can't, and won't, stay in that form for any real length of time. As a result, the levels become mad dashes of running in, shooting things, running out and looking for Energon, then running into the fray again to deal more damage. This gets really old, really fast.

Oh, one more thing before I get off this rather tall soapbox that I've gotten myself onto. If there was some kind of in-story reason for the transformers not being able to get into their robot form, then maybe, maybe I would accept that decision better. This isn't the case though, and to make matters worse, during those flash-styled cut scenes, the transformers are in their robot form. Yup... the developers are fully aware that the transformers are supposed to be able to transform into robots, they just don't in-game.


Difficulty:

As far as how tough Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Stealth Force Edition is; the game is pretty easy all around. There are a few levels that had me retrying them a few times, typically the "protect these objects" levels, but once I got past those hurdles, it was generally smooth sailing again.

Actually, some of the tougher parts of the game were with the controls and having to get used to being able to drive a car that maneuvers like a third-person shooter, you know, being able to strafe and whatnot.


Game Mechanics:

Which brings us to the game's controls. While Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Stealth Force Edition doesn't throw in any odd waggling or shaking of the controllers simply because it's a Wii game, it still has odd controls that can be hard to get your head around.

Basic stuff like shooting your weapons and "transforming" are easy to do and pretty intuitive. Where things can get a bit confusing is the fact that the game has two different control schemes for moving your transformer based on which of the modes you are in, and really, the controls themselves aren't bad, its the mental chugging that goes along with having to switch between them when there is very little apparent difference between the two modes that kept tripping me up.

Here's the deal, while in your standard vehicle form, you accelerate and steer with the Analog Stick on the Nunchuck. I personally would have preferred steering with the stick while controlling the acceleration with a separate button, but I was able to deal with this part.

When in Stealth Force Mode, the game switches to shooter controls. You move around with the Analog Stick and look around with the D-pad on the Wii-mote. At least this gels with the character's animation and the wheels do some interesting twists and turns to correspond with the odd movements that follow from your actions.

The problem really comes down to the fact that when my character switches between the two modes, either voluntarily or because I ran out of Energon, then it would take just a fraction of a second to switch my mind over to using the other controls. I've never felt like this in the past Transformers games, and I have to wonder if a part of that is because the two normal forms look so radically different. When I'm playing a vehicle, I expect the controls to be like a car; when I'm a humanoid, then shooter controls are fine, and the transition in those cases doesn't trip me up.

So it all comes down to this. I simply can't see a reason to purchase or even rent Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Stealth Force Edition. I have been racking my brain over this and I can't see any audience that would want to play this game. Transformers fans won't like the fact that you can't run around as robots and mission-based driving or vehicular combat gamers won't find enough depth or variety in Stealth Force Edition to warrant a second look. I don't say this too often, but I just can't see anyone wanting to play this game.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Related Links:



Microsoft Xbox 360 Transformers: Dark of the Moon Sony PlayStation 3 Operation Flashpoint: Red River

 
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