Right from the start Transformers: Dark of the Moon does things right by not following the plot from the film. In fact interestingly enough, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is setup to act as a prequel to the film and plays a major part in the overall narrative, making this title an important transmedia project as well as a crucial part of any fan’s experience. But is this enough to make this movie tie-in a success?
Transformers: Dark of the Moon follows the continuing fight between the Autobots and their human allies against the Decepticons, concentrating on the robot action as opposed to the film’s focus on the human struggle. On each level you control a Transformer with a specific set of abilities that suit multiple styles of play, experiencing heavy combat, stealth and flying missions amongst the usual robot on robot combat. The new addition of a vehicle transformation called Stealth Force allows your Transformer to switch to a vehicle mode equipped with weapons, on top of the robot and vehicle form, giving further tactical scope to your approach. It’s a great addition that sees a lot of use due to the increased armour it provides and the excellent manoeuvrability.
With each level focusing on a different Transformer, playing to their strengths and therefore offering a different style of play, variety is excellent. Level environments are also drastically different from one to the next, but the presentation walks a precarious line, with low quality textures spoiling the visuals but excellent voice work keeping you immersed. The overall level design is less impressive. Linier, narrow corridors either within cities, jungles or interiors have a claustrophobic feel and offer a restrictive scope for tactics. Despite the Transformer’s size and excellent variety of weapons and forms, the levels seldom provide the room to fully utilise them. The odd occasion where the environment does open up, however, feels excellent, as you strafe, jump, transform and fire around large open areas with smooth, intuitive controls. Unfortunately these more open areas primarily occur on boss encounters.
The linearity does have its benefits, however. The pacing is maintained at a brisk level and sequences of vehicle travel and combat, as well as a combination of the two in Stealth Force mode, are introduced and dismissed in nice, desirable chunks. Unfortunately this results in a criminally short campaign at around the six hour mark. Collectable Transformer symbols and achievement/trophy challenges promote replayability, and the whole experience is enjoyable enough to promote replay inherently, but it’s still far too brief.
Multiplayer helps to alleviate this disappointment, offering classed based deathmatch, team deathmatch and a Capture Point objective mode, with the now standard experience points and character upgrade system you’d expect from any multiplayer offering with intensions of longevity. It’s all a very standard affair but, as with the developers previous work on War for Cybertron, it works. The combat is intense and visceral, the power-ups strewn across each arena can quickly turn the tide and switch up the leaderboard, and character customisation is subtlety effective – giving veterans an edge but without compromising balance. Each arena is also well designed to offer more room to manoeuvre than the campaign levels.
The overall package of Transformers: Dark of the Moon still feels light on content despite the potential longevity in the multiplayer. The six hour campaign does a great job of telling the story leading up to the third film, explaining aspects of the film that otherwise would baffle movie goers. This idea of marrying the mediums together through shared narrative with different stories is excellent, and for Transformers: Dark of the Moon it works. It’s just a shame the game is over with so quickly and the campaign levels are so linear.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon doesn’t tell the grandest of tales and lacks the polish of War of Cybertron, but it’s an important part of the movie trilogy that fans should certainly experience. The visuals may be rough, the campaign too short and restrictive but it’s easy to appreciate the potential and enjoy what’s on offer.
MLG Rating: 7/10
Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3 Release Date: 24/06/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a physical copy of Transformers: Dark of the Moon for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.