Ultimately the most important thing that any consumer wants to take away from a review is: is it worth buying? In the case of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the answer is clear. No.
It’s not that Transformers is terrible exactly. It’s far from the greatest of titles but it’s not soul crushingly awful either. However, when you look at all the other options out there and the fact that free time is almost always going to be limited for many, there’s just so many better ways of spending your time and money.[drop]It would, however, be unfair to say that Transformers: Dark of the Moon doesn’t try. By offering a different Transformer to control in each level it keeps things feeling relatively fresh on the surface. Dive a little deeper though and players are doing practically the same thing every time; running from objective marker to objective marker while shooting anything that moves.
Perhaps the oddest aspect of the title is its attempt to be a cover shooter without any sign of cover mechanics. Instead, players find themselves standing behind a large pillar pretending they’re taking cover without actually having their back against the wall. There is always the promise of a different Transformer though which does help to get past the issues a bit, particularly with each Transformer having their own forms of attacks and special abilities, as well as a different vehicle form ranging from a car or a truck to a plane.
The various guns the game employs feel fairly meaty and appropriate for different situations. Often, players will find themselves with a rifle type weapon and a machine gun, thus covering long and short range combat just fine. Abilities are an interesting bag too. Whilst Bumblebee promises strong melee attacks in the early stages, later stages with Starscream promise rocket launchers and playing Soundwave offers a potent stun ability.
The problems, however, lie in the implementation. It’s all a tad unbalanced. Each of these characters can switch to vehicle form which in turn opens up the possibility of the Stealth Force mode. This mode offers more manoeuvrability and the ability to lock onto enemies. Basically this means that players can strafe at speed whilst never losing sight of their foe, which makes for some tremendously overpowered gameplay. The only practical reason why players would switch to robot form is to use melee attacks which benefit from a significant multiplier bonus. This score bonus then aids players in their quest for precious score related achievements and trophies.[drop2]It’s quite fun running/driving around shooting at enemies but it’s disjointed. Sluggish movement, even by the standards of giant robots, hampers the fun that can be had. Driving controls that rely on the right stick to steer prove increasingly frustrating. Stuttering loading screens that I feared I would never come out of also proved annoying.
Then there is the mix of levels. Rather than sticking solely to pseudo cover shooting, Dark of the Moon tries to break this up with stealth missions and drawn out boss based levels. The stealth missions are quite terribly implemented as Dark of the Moon just hasn’t been designed with sneaking in mind.
Other stages, such as the flying Laserbeak based level, ensure the risk of repetition is minimal but it feels undercooked like the rest of the game. Special note must go to a chase sequence at the end of Chapter IV however – one that will invoke much swearing and leave you wondering who on earth enjoys such sequences. Instadeaths due to minor slipups are really not fun.
Ultimately though, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is just too patchy. It only takes around six hours at the absolute most to complete and switching from Autobots to Decepticons every other level is a lazy solution to offering separate campaigns for each side like in the previous, and superior, Transformers game: War for Cybertron. There is a multiplayer mode to extend longevity but I’d be wary of exactly how long it’ll have a thriving community. It just doesn’t offer anything above many other titles, with predictable modes of play on offer (deathmatch, team deathmatch and conquest style) and the now standard feeling upgradeable character class system.
- Enjoyable to switch between different Transformers.
- Mixture of different level types.
- Avid fans might enjoy it more.
- Weird control systems.
- Too many ideas, not enough well developed ones.
- Far too short.
Some fun can be had from Transformers: Dark of the Moon but it’s not enough. Instead it’s exactly what anyone would expect of a film tie in game. Functional but underwhelming. The smattering of effective ideas is eventually overwhelmed by mediocrity. Perhaps if the game had been in development for longer or had focused on doing one thing right rather than many, it could have been something special.
Reviewed using an Xbox 360 copy.