Transformers: Dark of the Moon doesn’t suck – which in and of itself is pretty good for a summer blockbuster’s obligatory game tie-in. But really, it’s not all that surprising - it’s developed by High Moon, the same studio that created last year’s excellentWar for Cybertron (opens in new tab). Dark of the Moon isn’t as good, but if you never played its predecessor you’ll find lots to love from a weekend rental. You definitely won’t need more than a few days to plod through the breezy six-hour campaign.
That campaign is spread between six levels in which you take the helm of a different transformer – ranging from varsity stars like Optimus Prime to lesser known ‘bots like Laserbeak. Each character has a slightly different aptitude: you can use Ironhide’s big guns to go all Canucks on a major city, which allows you to blow buildings to bits with a surprising amount of destructible terrain, or use Mirage’s espionage tactics to cloak and snipe your enemies in once-forgotten Mayan ruins.
Above: Stealth Mode – now with nothing actually resembling “stealth”
Most Transformers have a similar three-morph set and with the click of a button you can switch between a robot, a vehicle, and a vehicle that can shoot guns, which is called Stealth Mode (because apparently to Michael Bay “stealth” means “bright yellow Camaro firing rocket propelled grenades”). Switching between morphs not only gives tactical benefits, like better armor in Stealth Mode, but it also helps you fly through the levels – why lumber to that far-off beacon when you can haul ass as a Ferrari 458 Italia?
Whether it’s a stretching corridor or wooded jungles, most levels are designed similarly, ushering you from combat area to driving section to next combat area. Fortunately, there are a few changeups, like Starscream’s aerial shooting level (which surprisingly doesn’t suck) and Laserbeak’s “stealth” section (which unsurprisingly does). There are Achievements/Trophies for getting a specific score on each level, which can only be achieved by giving up your guns in favor of beating down or running over robots for huge multipliers. This adds a level of complexity to the otherwise standard fare shooting and might just make you play a level again.
Above: It’s hard to take life seriously when your name is Laserbeak
Each level is bright and colorful, directing you from erupting volcano to secret Russian facility faster than Michael Bay can say “explosion.” The characters look equally shiny and polished – except, ironically, their faces, which look like shiny turds transforming into steam irons. A small complaint for a world this pretty, but stop and examine it for a second and you’ll be reduced to scrap metal. Even on normal the game is fairly difficult and your health bar is small and tucked in a corner; you’ll die plenty of times before you realize how closely you have to keep watch over it. This problem is compounded by the on screen feathering/reddening effect only appearing seconds before you die. Whoops. At least the checkpoint system is well thought out.
Above: Impressive face you’ve got there, Megatron
After Optimus Prime’s epic final battle, those who still haven’t had enough of Megatron’s nuts and bolts can face off with others in DotM’s chaotic online modes. The modes are pretty generic, amounting to Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, and Conquest (capture the flag and king of the hill hybrid), but leveling up and acquiring new skills is easy and addicting. You can gain up to three or four levels in a single match, making the 20-level cap easier to gain than a picture of Megan Fox’s toe thumbs.
The true winner in Dark of the Moon isn’t Autobots or Decepticons – it’s excellent pacing. Before any one part of the game starts to truly show its flaws, you’re done with it and on to a new section. Sure, it’s not the best Transformers game we’ve ever played, but it’s still a good a Transformers game, and that’ll be enough for a lot of people.
Jun 22, 2011