Transformers: Dark Of The Moon Xbox 360 review
Can the videogame of Transformers: Dark Of The Moon eclipse the movie? Aaron has been finding out...
Few would argue that Michael Bay’s Transformers movies are prime pap, and little more than an excuse for overworked CGI and explosions. Quite how Mr Bay has turned a winning franchise into such drivel is beyond me, but hey, that’s the way it is.
Sadly, the Transformers haven’t fared all that well in videogames lately either, and the first two movie-inspired games weren’t that much better than their silver screen muses. In fact, aside from the PS2 Transformers title from Atari, there haven’t been any real decent Transformers games at all. Then, when all looked lost, High Moon studios gave us the surprisingly good Transformers: War For Cybertron. It may not have been game of the year material, but it was a solid, G1 inspired tale that hit the right notes.
So, now that the same developer has taken on the game of the latest big screen Transformers outing, is there some hope for the clockwork-looking robots of Michael Bay’s creation?
Robots in distress
Although it’s the official game of the movie, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon is not a retelling of the movie’s story, but is instead a prequel leading up to the events of the film. The main thrust here is the Decepticons’ plot to revive Shockwave, who’s suspended in cryostasis, and during the course of the story, players will take control of both Autobots and Decepticons in various missions around the world.
Gameplay is pretty standard third-person fare, and the action is as basic as it gets. Each mission is a simple slog through a linear level as you move from one battle to the next, and there’s the occasional short road race style interlude thrown in to get token use out of the titular robots’ abilities.
Each Transformer has a dual weapon setup when in robot form, and they also have two special abilities unique to each. Mirage has a clocking field, Bumblebee can detect all enemies on the battlefield, and Soundwave can stun enemies for a short time, to name a few. As well as their robot forms, each character can also transform, but here it’s a little different.
One of the game’s main features is the new ‘Stealth Force’ mode. This sees each Transformer change into a vehicle mode that’s replete with guns and can hover around in all directions, able to strafe attack enemies with ease. When in this mode your character’s armour is more effective, and your smaller profile helps avoid enemy fire.
This mode has different weapons to the robot mode, usually including a rapid fire machine gun-style weapon and some form of missile or grenade launcher. There’s little difference between each Transformer, at least not for land-based ones, anyway.
The problem is this mode isn’t as useful as the developers would have you believe. In fact, even on the hardest difficulty level, I found myself often sticking to robot mode, eschewing the Stealth Force mode, as it just wasn’t necessary. Often your robot mode weapons are more effective in most situations, and the Stealth Force mode is only used when you need to take cover and regenerate your health.
Not only this, but Stealth Force mode is also very slow, and in order to use the faster vehicle mode, you have to hold down the left trigger. This may sound okay, but that’s until you realise that this also causes your Transformer to accelerate, with no ability to stop, unless you let go of the trigger, which then causes you to turn back into Stealth Force mode. It’s a very odd setup that’s clunky and, outside of scripted race sections, is largely a waste of time. Whilst High Moon managed to finally blend transformations into the game in War For Cybertron, here’s it’s a total mess, and, in my opinion, wouldn’t be missed if it was left out. I mean, come on. If your best excuse to use vehicle mode is to fit under a low passageway, then you’re doing it wrong.
When you do actually have to use vehicle mode, either to race to an objective or outrun lava from an erupting volcano, the vehicle handling is terrible. The constant acceleration and limp handbrake only leads to constant bouncing off walls, and the boost mode compounds this. Thankfully, such sections are short, so you’re not forced to endure this mechanic for long.
Up in the sky
Fortunately, some characters are more enjoyable to play than others. In particular there’s Starscream, whose mission is certainly the standout level of the game. His outing involves a little on-foot combat, but then leads to some pretty enjoyable, if simple, air to air combat, culminating in a rather cool mid-air boss battle. It’s a decent bit of action, but is a rarity in a game that’s almost always dull and repetitive, something you really shouldn’t hear from a title about massive transforming robots.
Each level, regardless of the location and character, consists of wave after wave of generic Autobot or Decepticon clones. Defeating these waves simply opens the next doorway to another wave, and you rinse and repeat, ad nauseam. Enemies have little to no AI, and simply run at you blasting, and level design is so bland and basic it hurts.
Sometimes the game tries to do something different, but has little success. The stealth level with Mirage is terrible and wholly uninspired, and a mission in which you control an allegedly weaker Laserbeak is ridiculous, as it’s actually easier to defeat Autobots here than it is with the full-sized Soundwave, thanks to Laserbeak’s quickly recharging stun beam, and that’s if you ignore the rubbish spouted at you about using holographic items (erm, what?).
None shall stand
Based on the Unreal engine, Dark Of The Moon does, at times, look okay, but it’s never a treat for the eyes. There’s a ton of typical texture pop-in, and the locations are often packed with repeating textures on objects, leading to a feel of copy and paste level design. When you compare this to the vastly superior War For Cybertron, it’s just disappointing, and I mean in more ways than graphics.
War For Cyberton, although it had similar core gameplay mechanics, was far more enjoyable than this and managed to keep things interesting and varied throughout. Although you expect some variety with the different characters to play here, most of the Transformers feel and handle exactly the same, making each more of a simple player skin change than a unique combatant, and the limited enemy types and unimaginative boss battles don’t help either.
The story isn’t that long or challenging, and most should plough through it in four or five hours. And, although the multilayer may present a little more longevity, it’s certainly not going to keep you hooked for long.
In fact, aside from Starscream’s section, there’s very little here to like. It’s so painfully apparent that Activision has rushed this out to capitalise on the movie, and the end result is a typically lacklustre tie-in that really should be avoided, at least until you find it in the bargain bin. Shia LaBeouf isn’t in it. though. That must be worth an extra star.
You can rent or buy Transformers: Dark Of The Moon at Blockbuster.co.uk.