What's the coolest thing about playing as the Transformers? If you said "driving around as a car and never ever being a robot" then you probably work for Activision. That's right folks: in Dark of the Moon - Stealth Force Edition for the Wii you never play as Transformers in robot form. So what do you do? Well you kinda just drive around shooting stuff and try really, really hard not to die.
This is difficult for several reasons. The first reason is the control scheme is sloppier than a Friday with the Real Housewives of Orange County. You control regular driving with just the Nunchuk’s stick. There are no buttons for acceleration or braking, just the joystick. Spending half the game only using one thumb is weird enough, but once you transform into stealth mode (which is just a car with guns sticking out) suddenly turning is controlled by the left and right directions on the D-pad. Why? Because screw you, that's why. Even as the credits rolled we felt we never really mastered the controls. To compound problems, no matter the level length or happenings, there are never checkpoints.
Above: 360/PS3 screenshot
One mission, you're racing the clock to an exit, another you're solely required to stay alive for five minutes, and on a few very special dips into madness, you're tasked with protecting random things that enemies want blown up. Standard fare, maybe, but after you get to the end of the five-minute level, mess one thing up, and have to restart you'll be about ready for your Wii to transform into a broken Wii. On one especially brutal stage, you have to protect three satellites, conveniently stationed at the furthest sides of the map, whilst enemies spawn faster and faster as you get closer to completion. When - not if - one explodes in the 4 1/2 minute level it’s back to the beginning. We had to restart it far too many times.
It's hard to believe the sole purpose of this game isn't just to frustrate you. The levels seem to be designed by trolls - one stage’s challenge changes from "Destroy 12 Autobots" to "Destroy 12 more Autobots." Remember: if you die once, it's back to the beginning. As the game gets more and more difficult, your time is spread between attacking, retreating, and attempting not to throw your Wiimote out the window. To make matters worse, after each level the cutscenes show the Transformers standing around talking as their humanoid robot forms - you know, the exact forms you never play as.
Above: 360/PS3 screenshots
There are still a few places that the Transformers shine, but they're few and far between - a level here that you're racing in car form to complete checkpoints, or a level there where you only have to kill a single enemy. There’s two-player co-op which gives you a chance to end a friendship by reliving the horror of six of the levels and – surprise - it’s nothing special.
Unfortunately the good moments are just not good enough, and that there's no multiplayer reduces replay value to zero. For fifty bucks you'd be better off buying the second Transformers movie on Blu-Ray. Twice.
We know. Harsh.
Jul 1, 2011