Transformers: Dark of the Moon videogame review
|REVIEWS - VIDEOGAME REVIEWS|
Here's hoping Dark of the Moon can 'transform' into a better game...
For me, the prospect of playing as a Transformer is shamefully appealing. Last year’s War for Cybertron proved that a Transformers game can deliver a fantastic experience in its own right, without following Michael Bay's craving for explosive destruction. Unfortunately, this is the biggest problem with Dark of the Moon. It’s a poorly delivered movie tie-in that never becomes an enjoyable game in its own merit. Bland level design and unsatisfying mechanics mar an average experience, while an unresolved storyline lacks any depth.
Despite its lack of originality, one cannot help but enjoy stepping into the mechanised shoes of a Transformer, switching between robot form and vehicle form as you please. You’ll play as several Transformers throughout the campaign - both Autobots and Decepticons - and each of them have different weapons and a different vehicle that keeps things from becoming stale. As you'd expect, you start off as Bumblebee, but you’ll have the opportunity to play as a number of different characters including Starscream, the ominous Megatron and the ever-fighting-force-of-good, Optimus Prime.
However, this sprouts one of the main problems with Dark of the Moon; a poor - and somewhat lacking - story. Playing as both good and bad, you lose the connection to either side, and eventually just play through without paying any attention. One minute you’re fighting the Decepticons as the Autobots, and then it completely switches around for you to play as the opposite side. Done correctly, this could have been a great campaign feature - especially if the game had two separate campaigns – but Dark of the Moon lacks the great story, involving script and conclusive ending for the whole presentation to work well.
Throughout the campaign, you’ll play through seven chapters, each of which has its own playable Transformer. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a lot of fun to play as the various protagonists, with each of them varying slightly in how they play. Alternating weapons offer up different approaches to combat situations, from rapid fire weapons to sniper rifles. Each robot also has two special abilities for you to take advantage of. From the massive destructive power of Optimus Prime's rocket launchers to Megatrons’ life-drain ability, there is a considerable amount to play around with and it keeps the action fresh. It seems odd to compliment a game so soon after knocking it, but its a result of a rushed production - rather than a poor game - that makes this so.
One gripe I do have with the gameplay is the weird vehicular sections, which are both disjointed and lack challenge. When in vehicle mode, your defences are increased dramatically and you have unlimited offensive capabilities without the need to reload. I found it far too easy to simply transform into a vehicle, drive through the levels with higher damage resilience and a constant stream of ammunition, worrying not about death...nor defeat. The vehicular controls are also extremely weird, and you never feel as if you’re actually in contact with the ground as you seemingly float across the floor like some ghostly spirit.
Despite the variation in playable characters, Dark of the Moon suffers from poor level structure and banal, unvaried missions. Most of the seven levels follow a ‘go here and do this’ objective, occasionally defending a team mate or holding off waves of enemies until reinforcements come to your aid. It doesn’t help that the levels are underwhelming, either. You never get the sense that you’re part of something bigger; instead taking part in small missions in tiny villages - or portions of a decrepit city - that don’t have any sense of place. Basically, the game funnels you down the same looking corridors while the same looking enemies pop out of a corner to try and take you down. Such repetition hasn't been present since Frogger...
Aside from the single player, Dark of the Moon also packs a multiplayer experience for players to dive into. There are four classes to choose from and three game types that include death-match, team death-match and conquest, which requires teams to control nodes in order to win. I found the amount of choice in game modes to be slightly disappointing and, like its single player counterpart, the overall experience didn’t hold my interest for too long. You earn perks and abilities as you level up, however the entire progression system hits its maximum very quickly and you can see everything there is to earn in a number of hours. The overall experience was adequate, and players looking for a distraction from the single player will only find one with limited choice and a brief longevity. To put it simply, the games multiplayer is just another glaring discrepancy in the finished products collection. While no-one expected the game's multiplayer to match that of the CoD or Fifa franchises, one would expect some form of originality; something to differentiate it from every other game around it.
After all, who'd purchase a game with a cripplingly short campaign and a lacklustre multiplayer?
In short, Dark of the Moon is a perfect exercise in movie tie-ins. The experience is extremely short - averaging at about five hours - and the content that is apparent is both repetitive and uninspired. For someone like me, who relishes the opportunity to play as a Transformer, Dark of the Moon is a massive disappointment, especially when compared to the excellent War for Cybertron. By all means, Dark of the Moon is not a terrible game - in fact far from it. On the whole it plays well, and has some enjoyable elements, yet the problem that it cannot shake is that it never meets the expectations laid down by its predecessor. If this was a first release, it would most likely score higher; the concept would be fresh and its minimalistic length could be seen as mere 'teething' problems. However, as this is a sequel - and a poor one at that - I cannot recommend Dark of the Moon for anything more than a rental, and it pains me to say I won’t be bothering to see the new film for fear of destroying my faith in the Transformers universe any further.
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