Transformers - mediocre gaming in disguise.
First off, there will be no spoilers in this review, so no one will suffer the way I did when I played this game. The plot of the game closely follows the plot of the movie, so if you care about watching the movie at all, hold off on playing this. Although I still enjoyed the movie, it was kinda lame thinking “alright, now this is going to happen…
You’ve been warned.
Now then. *Cracks Knuckles* On to the game. I had a chance to test out Transformers: Dark of the Moon at E3 a few weeks ago and, at first glance, I was rather impressed. The game looked pretty good at the time. It was very straightforward, provided an ample amount of action, and boasted a fair amount of replayability.
The game still looks pretty good. Definitely not the best graphics we have seen on the iPhone, but far from the worst. Although a little rough around the edges, there is plenty of attention to little details in the game, such as lighting and shading, cracked roads, moon craters, or patches of grass. The character and enemy AI models are well structured and stand out very well from each other, as well as the background – which is extremely helpful when fighting ten or more enemies at a time. They got Optimus’ badass flame detailing, so I was pretty happy.
The action is still there, but the gameplay is definitely very straightforward. The game allows you to take control of either Optimus or Bumblebee and fight your way through levels with plasma cannons blazing or melee your way through masses of enemies. Unfortunately, you don’t get to choose which robot to play as. Out of the twelve levels, only four are playable by the loveable yellow bug. The level maps are also extremely linear – save from a couple side alleys or backstreets you can take, which usually just lead you to some extra Energon (currency) and a Decepticon ambush. This may definitely get frustrating for the players (like me) who like to roam freely, collecting items and killing enemies as they see fit.
Another frustrating aspect of the game was the integrated dual-joystick control system. The left stick moved your Autobot, while the right stick automatically fired your weapon in whichever direction you were facing. While this system has worked in many games, and it’s not horrible here, the controls just seemed kind of clunky. This was particularly true in vehicle form, where it was a chore to try to even turn smoothly, let alone turn completely around if you missed something. I know we are supposed to be controlling giant mechanical beings, but the controls don’t have to feel this robotic.
The combat in the game was at least fun if you like basic shooters. There are 11 weapons that can be purchased as the game progresses, and each can be upgraded in damage, fire rate, and speed. Many guns have the same function, ranging between rapid fire machine guns, wide radius shotguns, or slow explosive weapons that effect multiple enemies. The hardest part was balancing how long I held down the fire button, since weapons overheat – forcing me into either melee or switching to a secondary weapon. This was never a huge hindrance however, and did force me to use a wider range of weapons besides fast-shooting machine guns. Unfortunately, most combat was made fairly trivial by the “special bar” and “target mode.” After killing five or six enemies, a special attack could be unleashed that allowed you to target multiple mobs and instantly blow them up with a missile barrage. I soon realized that enemies killed with my special also recharged my special… so I went through entire levels chaining my special attacks together and taking almost no damage. This becomes a very cheap tactic, and frankly is something that should have been caught and fixed before the game was released.
Since playing through a story once can get boring, the game has three difficulty levels to play through. Also, Energon can be collected and spent to upgrade your character and each weapon in multiple categories. I was initially told it would take more than one play through in order to buy and fully upgrade each weapon, yet in my initial play through on the easiest difficulty I had every weapon fully upgraded except the last one.
Fans of the franchise will enjoy this game, as will fans of shooters, but I fear there is little to keep anyone interested for very long. Each level only takes 10-20 minutes to complete, and the game can easily be beaten in a day. If you have a couple hours to kill and don’t mind dropping a couple bucks, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is entertaining enough… otherwise, make like an Autobot – and roll out.