Okay I’m going to clear the air here. I know video game adaptations of movie licenses pretty much always suck, there is the odd one that’s good, but most gamers know that any game tied in with a movie is going to be awful, just take the first two movie licensed Transformers games. So by all accounts I should have had no interest in this title, except for one major detail: High Moon, the same geniuses who brought us War for Cybertron, made this game.
So naturally I was stoked to see what these brilliant minds would bring us with Dark of the Moon, hoping for something to tide me over until War for Cybtertron 2 comes out… and they delivered… kinda.
It’s a game about a movie that’s not out yet, so what this title does is act as a lead-up to the next movie. If you’ve seen the trailers, then you’ve likely noticed the intimidating cycloptic machine who totes a huge gun on his arm; yup, Shockwave is a major player in the next film!… you know, Shockwave? The Decepticon who stayed behind on Cybertron and made brief appearances every few episodes in the original Transformers?… sigh…
Anyways, Dark of the Moon’s premise, in the game, is Megatron and his followers are focused on freeing Shockwave from his cryogenic sleep as a means of bolstering their ranks. It’s a simple premise that will act as a nice bridge between movies for those who absolutely must know what has happened between Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon the film.
High Moon hit a real homerun with War for Cybertron’s flawless control scheme, and they brought it over to Dark of the Moon. The game handles wonderfully… when it wants to run properly.
Yes this is launch day, but this game is still very buggy. Hit detection can be a huge frustration more often than not and environments are unfinished in places, leaving what would appear to be, say, a harmless puddle of water actually is a bottomless pit that will leave you falling through the map forever. These are simple elements that can be easily patched, but it astounds me that the meticulous team that made such a fantastic game in their last attempt would miss so many major issues; again, easy to fix, but the fact that they got through to the final build is bewildering.
As far as the game itself, the single player campaign is pretty short, being able to be powered through in about six hours with minimal exploration for hidden collectibles. The campaign is cool and enlightening to what the next movie will have in store for us, but just as it gets good it ends, I know they were going for a cliff-hanger, but too many questions are plot holes are left unanswered. Characters are haphazardly thrown in with little to no introduction or development and this severely hurts the campaign; these are huge, alien robots fighting a war on our planet that will mean the ongoing life or extinction of our race, damn it I want to know more about these guys!
The graphics aren’t the best you’ll see on the current generation consoles. Long-loading textures leave the characters looking like little more than moving blobs until their textures finally pop into frame. Environments aren’t anywhere near as detailed and awe-inspiring as War for Cybertron boasted, but instead feel closed in and hastily thrown together.
The graphics are passable, but this looks more like a previous generation system title, not a title that’s being released in the prime of the current gen consoles’ lifespans.
The script and voice-acting is strong, with High Moon getting most of the voice actors from the films; the key players are there, Optimus, Megatron and co. mostly are voiced by the actors behind the machines.
The music borrows lightly from the films, but not enough to entirely capture the feel of the films. The anthemic Arrival to Earth makes brief melodic cameos, but not enough to make the music of the game feel in canon with the orchestral pieces that graced the first and second films.
Anyone who’s talked gaming with me in the last year knows that my favourite game of 2010 was Way for Cybertron, and it’s a claim I still stand by proudly. As much as everything was awesome about it, the online multiplayer was the big draw for me, as this was the Transformers game that we’d all been waiting for. Amazing battles scrawled out across Cybertronian cityscapes, breath-taking space battles, there was a sense of wonderment when one played War for Cybertron online.
For about the first three months.
Then, the servers went weird, and it became tragic that such an amazing online experience became marred with such crippling lag that games became nigh unplayable, and sadly War for Cybertron’s astounding online element faded into obscurity.
High Moon promised to not only take their recipe for War for Cybertron’s online mode, but they made claims that they would fix the things that players complained about. Claims of customizable robots were made, amazing new abilities, and most importantly, servers that wouldn’t be paralyzingly laggy… none of these promises came through.
The create-a-character mode is even more bare bones than War for Cybertron’s was, allowing the player to choose from a very limited number of pre-set models that the player can change two colours of, it’s actually less selection than War for Cybertron offered upon its launch. There are less character abilities than War for Cybertron offered, with many of the old favourites, such as disguise, eliminated from the selections.
And my God, the lag is even worse.
After trying 10 rounds online, eight sessions lagged out completely, and the two that finished were so choppy that scoring takedowns was really more luck than anything else; several times I was taken down by an assailant I never saw, and likewise I scored a few takedowns myself when I wasn’t even aiming at the target I defeated. High Moon needs to get these server issues solved, it cost an amazing game the popularity it deserved, and if it’s not fixed it will cause this title to fall into complete obscurity as just another movie license game that couldn’t get the job done.
What I liked
It’s Transformers. It has a cool story, great voice acting and a lot of variety in the missions.
What I would change
Original Xbox and PS2 calibre graphics, lack of character development, bare bones multiplayer that suffers tremendously from lag that makes the online experience more frustrating than fun.
This game was made using the recipe that War for Cybertron had, and it succeeded, it has made me want to play War for Cybertron more. This game isn’t bad, but it doesn’t live up to the standard set last year by High Moon’s previous Transformers adventure. If you haven’t played Wr for Cybertron, then you may really enjoy this game as it does have a lot of positives going for it, but if you’re a Transformers fan then you’ve likely played War for Cybertron, and playing this game would feel like a step backwards on every front. I really want to stress that this is not a bad game, I’m just disappointed that a studio that made the greatest Transformers video game ever made was willing to say “okay, let’s ship this in the state it’s in”, it just feels like a step back.
When the price drops, and the servers hopefully get fixed up, I suggest giving this game a try as it does have a lot of potential to be fun, I just hope the only reason it’s in the state it’s in now is because High Moon has been putting so much effort into the next War for Cybertron.