Developer: High Moon Studios
ESRB Rating: Teen
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Alright, first things
first-- if you haven't read my review of the
PS3 version of War for Cybertron or played it, I highly recommend you'd
follow that link now and read up on WFC. Being from the same developer
and engine, this game borrows HEAVILY from War for Cybertron's game design
and I'll be referring to it quite often during this review, so being familiar
with WFC is essential to getting the most out of this review.
In fact, the easiest way to describe the Dark of the Moon would be that it's the War for Cybertron game, but with a "movie skin". The gameplay is pretty much identical-- it's a third-person shooter, and your Transformer of choice has three modes-- a robot mode, a "hover" vehicle mode, and a standard vehicle mode. This time around, both for movieverse fictional reasons and to help promote Hasbro's sub-line of the same name, the "hover" vehicle mode is now Stealth Force mode, with the vehicle splitting apart into a sort of "half-way" mode between it and robot mode. In addition to the standard "hover mode" controls found in War for Cybertron, Stealth Force mode also comes with a nifty auto-targeting feature, slightly raised defenses, and basically unlimited ammo. This can make it a bit over-powered in some situations, but it can't kill enemies SUPER-fast, making it impossible to use both it and get the high score trophies for each level (discussed later). Plus, in some parts in certain levels you're simply stuck in one mode for story reasons. You have one weapon in Stealth Force mode. In robot mode, you have two different weapons-- one of which is customizable if you're playing multi-player, but one of which is standard in both single- and multi-player. You also have your standard grenades you can launch at enemy TFs, one TF ability that recharges over time, and one TF ability that recharges slowly with energon you collect from killing enemies.
Let's focus on the single-player first, shall we? Generally, we've got the same play experience that you had in War for Cybertron, only on Earth this time. THe graphics are fantastic-- in fact, maybe even a little better than WFC's, because of the detail needed for things like trees and the like. In Cybertron you felt like you belonged there and everything was sized appropriately-- in this game, you definitely feel like you're an alien because you're so much bigger than most structures. An interesting contrast, that. Like WFC, Dark of the Moon has one story line-- but it's not the movie's storyline, but rather a prequel to it. It matches up quite nicely, with some details either leading into the movie or at fleshing some story bits out a bit more. The voice acting is quite good, with Cullen reprising his role as Prime and even the voice actor for WFC Megatron doing the voice for DotM Megatron-- basically his WFC Megatron voice, but a bit gruffer and more throaty. Steve Blum, who does the voice of Starscream in Transformers: Prime, does the voice of Starscream here as well, which is a nice touch. Bumblebee beeps and boops as you'd expect-- no RotF "English accent" here-- and Jess Harnell, the voice of Ironhide in the movies, reprises his role here. Soundwave isn't done by Frank Welker, but by someone who sounds a LOT like his Movie Soundwave voice. Ratchet is voiced by someone who doesn't sound much like his movie voice actor at all, but everyone else generally is pretty close. (Mirage even sounds better than his movie voice actor-- the Italian accent isn't as overblown.)
Like in WFC, the single player experience is divided up into chapters, most of which are huge levels that will take you nearly an hour to complete. However, it's definitely a shorter experience this time around-- there's only seven chapters as opposed to ten in WFC, and out of those seven, three are somewhat short. You still can hunt for Autobot/Decepticon symbols to help up the replayability, but it's still definitely a bit on the short side, even for a shooter. There is one new thing in this game that wasn't in WFC, however-- melee-killing enemies will multiply your score exponentially for each successive kill, and if you melee-kill enough in a row, you'll earn enough to get a "Top Score" trophy for that level. Unfortunately, it isn't based on how good you are so much as just remembering to melee-kill everyone you can for that trophy, so it doesn't really add a substantial new side of strategery to the game. Also like in WFC, sometimes you'll be aided by up to two allied Transformers, but unfortunately this time around-- likely for time reasons-- those allies cannot be played by other players online. They're AI-- the single-player experience this time is solely single-player, which will definitely be a big downer for very social gamers (of which I'm not really one). Also, you cannot go back and replay a level with someone else of your set trio. You've got one TF you play as in a chapter, and that's it. This does admittedly free up the story a bit to go in a few more directions, though.
In each of the chapters you play as either
an Autobot or a Decepticon, and most of the chapters differ from each other
a fair bit:
-Chapter 1: Bumblebee-- Takes place in South America. A fairly short, introductory chapter that introduces you to the gameplay basics.
-Chapter 2: Ironhide-- Takes place in Detroit. (This is one weakness in the story-- it never really explains WHY, exactly, the Decepticons are attacking Detroit.) A very enemy-heavy, shoot-'em-up level, ending with a nice boss fight with Mixmaster. A pretty long chapter.
-Chapter 3: Mirage-- Takes place in Central America. This shakes things up a bit-- for a pretty large portion of the level you're stuck in robot mode without your weapons and have to use your invisibility to sneak by enemies and rely on melee attacks. There's also a nice driving section and then some traditional shooting near the end o the level. Fairly long chapter.
-Chapter 4: Soundwave-- Takes place on a tropical island. This is my favorite chapter, as during the first half you play as Soundwave in his Earth mode, with a fairly standard shootout between you and enemy robots-- but then for most of the second half, you control his minion Laserbeak as you sneak into a NEST facility! This is quite a cool gameplay change, as you're not very strong and have to sneak around a bit. Also a hectic driving section at the very end. Definitely the longest of the individual chapters.
-Chapter 5: Starscream-- Takes place on the mountaintops and in the sky. There's a bit of run-and-gun at the beginning, but this fairly short chapter is mostly either chasing an Autobot or engaging in a fairly lengthy boss fight with the massive Autobot Stratosphere-- who, somewhat disappointingly, switches to Stealth Force mode, but you never fight him in robot mode. Starscream can go to all of his modes, though.
-Chapter 6: Megatron-- Takes place in an old military base. Much like Ironhide's chapter, an enemy-heavy run-and-gun chapter, though you're damaged and can't transform for much of it, and at the beginning you don't even have functional weapons, which is a nice twist. It's quite a long chapter and does get a bit repetitive, but thankfully near the end the introduction of some cryo technology helps to mix things up a bit by giving you a bit of a time limit in certain situations. TWO boss fights, one with Optimus Prime and another with a game-only character, a movie version of Warpath!
-Chapter 7: Optimus Prime-- Very short chapter, it's all a boss fight with an awakened Shockwave and his "Colossus" driller monster. It's a fairly impressive boss fight, and Shockwave is a TANK (literally and figuratively). Unfortunately Shockwave doesn't transform or speak in the game, which I considered a negative-- until I saw the movie, and then I considered it acceptable since he didn't really do any of those there, either.
Generally speaking, there are some pretty neat experiences in these chapters, but with the exception of parts of the Stratosphere and Shockwave fights, there aren't any "oh, WOW" moments like there are in some of the ultimate boss battles in War for Cybertron.
The single-player campaign admittedly loses some length and features due to the whole "movie crunch" problems that go with games of this nature, but multiplayer is really where most of the cuts where made. There is no Escalation mode whatsoever, and the Multiplayer play options have been reduced to three-- just Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Conquest. The environments are still pretty cool and nicely varied, with some jungle environments, two in a destroyed part of Detroit, and one completely indoors in a military base. Like War for Cybertron, you still have four classes, with the same general abilities, but their killstreaks are all the same now regardless of class. You can level each class up to 20 (not 25 like in WFC), but it takes a LOT less time to level up-- you can level up all four classes in only a small handful of hours. The "mini-achievements" for each class which give you experience in WFC when you complete them are gone. You still get ability upgrades and such as you level up, but like with killstreaks, all the upgrades are the same for each class this time around, sadly. Generally it's still pretty balanced, however, there are a few "spamming" moves that can be pulled. With the fliers there's a particular move in jet mode that, when combined with double damage upgrades you can find throughout the map, just makes them ridiculous (no, I'm not listing here-- anytime someone does it it completely ruins the balance of the game). Frustratingly, you still have all the same host migration issues and small bugs in multiplayer that WFC has.
Also like in WFC, you can pick your chassis for each class and change the colors, but you can't totally customize your look. Also, as you can see from the list of available characters in each class below, due to the character selection there's a LOT of options for the Scout and Commander classes as an Autobot but not many for the others:
Scout (Weak but fast): Bumblebee, Mirage, Sideswipe (Gamestop pre-order exclusive or $1.99 as DLC), Crankcase
Warrior (like Soldier in WFC; Tough but slow): Warpath, Megatron (as a tank), Shockwave (he can't transform, though, which is lame)
Commander (like Leader in WFC; fairly well-rounded): Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Ratchet, Megatron (as a truck), Soundwave
Hunter (like Scientist in WFC; the fliers): Breakaway, Starscream
Overall, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the best of the movie games, with a solid story and solid gameplay. However, it can't help but be compared to its superior predecessor, War for Cybertron, which didn't have the time limitations of movie games. Dark of the Moon is essentially War for Cybertron in the Movie-verse, but with some of the features missing, such as a longer, more involved campaign and several additional multiplayer options in nearly every respect. It's still a great game, but I'd recommend the more involved, well-rounded War for Cybertron over it.
Level Design: 9/10
Technical Issues -5
Overall Rating:89/100 Great
(Screencaps taken from Gamespot.com)
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