Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review - Transformers: Dark of the Moon

After the muted success of High Moon Studios' previous Transformers game, expectations were high for Dark of the Moon - a prequel to the movie currently showing at cinemas. War for Cybertron had helped to make the mutating robots cool again. Sure, the plot was rather run of the mill, pitting the Autobots against those pesky Decepticons in a bid to save the world. However, the inclusion of campaign co-op was a nice touch and the various online game modes offered plenty of replayability. For some reason, some of these elements that made Cybertron so popular have been removed. What you're left with is only a reasonably enjoyable game that could have been so much better.

It's been over two decades since the cartoon series first appeared on our screens but the recent films have revived the franchise and made Transformers cool again. Many of our favourite characters make an appearance, with Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ironhide and Sideswipe taking on the evil Megatron and his cohorts. They're all nicely animated and the transitions between their different states are done well.

The new much-heralded Stealth Force mode offers a mid way point between robot and vehicle form, the hybrid state decking you out with both heavy weaponry and decent shields. Besides the weird, floaty movement, it looks nice enough and proves highly effective against the waves of enemies - problem is, it's just too damn good. During our playthrough, we found very little incentive to ever switch out of Stealth Force mode.

Robots may look cool but they're slow and the guns don't seem as good, whereas when you're a car/plane you're nice and speedy but hardly much of a threat to the bad guys.
In fact, being a vehicle is a pretty unpleasant affair. The handling is shocking and the brakes seemingly make no difference when trying to take a corner, even if it's not too sharp. As a result, you'll find yourself relying on hitting a nearby wall to slow you down and change direction. It's frustrating at best!

Time-wise, the campaign mode will only offer a few hours gameplay and there's little reason to come back for more unless you want to mop up some of the easy achievements/trophies. It would have been so much more fun had it retained Cybertron's ability to play with a friend.

Fortunately, the multiplayer mode online is still good fun and although it's been stripped back, it will provide hours of enjoyment. Before you dive into the action, you're given the option to customise a robot in one of four classes: Scout, Commander, Hunter or Warrior. As you'd expect, they all have their benefits and downsides, some with better armour or bigger, more destructive weapons. Sadly, there aren’t many game modes on offer, just the usual Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch games, or Conquest mode, where you have to capture and protect power nodes dotted about the map.

Other than the Transformers themselves, the graphics are nothing to get excited about. Even though the environments are varied, taking you through cities, jungles and military bases, they are uninspiring and won't be winning any awards. The sound effects are well done, with the robots' voices suitably booming, the guns making decent enough sounds and the noise when transforming is great.

Dark of the Moon is not a bad game, it's just a mediocre third-person shooter. Fans of the cartoons or movies will lap it up but I've a feeling those who played Cybertron will be fairly disappointed. With the short play time and lack of replayability, this is one to rent.

*Reviewed on PS3