Much of what made War For Cybertron’s combat so satisfying has been carried over to Dark Of The Moon. The game’s third person shooting is still effective and engaging, especially when using your Transformer’s shape-changing abilities. The game never limits your character’s ability to switch between robot and vehicle form, with each mode having distinct advantages.
You’ll have many objectives to complete throughout the campaign, but no matter what sort of goals the premission briefings tout, they ultimately all boil down to killing the opposition before they do the same to you. Exploration is a particularly repetitive mix of speeding to your destination in vehicle form, and then switching to bipedal mode when enemies spawn. Wash, rinse and repeat. Enemy variety is considerably poor, with wave after wave of similar looking robots popping up until the game decides it’s time for you to move on to the next area.
There’s some minor fun to be had playing as different Transformers, but since most of the differences are cosmetic, one character mostly plays pretty much the same as any other. Sure, each robot wields visually different weaponry, but they’re all equally effective. As expected from a game starring transforming robots, you’ll have to trudge through several lengthy aerial and automobile sequences. One section requires you to maneuver Starscream, in jet form, for a long period of time, causing me to peek at my watch more than once. Dark Of The Moon isn’t hard per say but it does have a “…and the kitchen sink!” approach to challenging players. You’ll always be surrounded, outnumbered and outgunned. Most deaths you experience will be due to cheap enemy spawning rather than lack of player skill.
So we’ve established that Dark Of The Moon’s single-player campaign is lackluster but, as fans of War For Cybertron already know, multiplayer is where the magic happens. High Moon Studios received a lot of praise, all of it justified, for fully translating the Transformers experience into a team-based online mode and, though Dark Of The Moon is the lesser of the two games, there’s still tons of fun to be had here.
Multiplayer classes are divided into four groups: scouts can cover a lot of distance quickly, hunters are capable of transforming into jets for airborne attacks, commanders are middle-of-the-road in every department, and warriors pack the biggest punch. As is the case with almost all recent online shooters, you can level up your chosen Transformer, gathering experience for kills and other tasks and eventually obtaining perks that greatly change your style of play as you progress.
On the downside, Dark Of The Moon only features the bare minimum of gameplay types. You have your deathmatch, your team deathmatch and your node-controlling Conquest mode. Plus, with only a handful of maps available upon release, you’ll quickly blow through everything the game’s multiplayer has to offer in well under a week. Ultimately, I’d recommend picking up War For Cybertron if you haven’t already. It features both a better main campaign and multiplayer matches.
For a rapidly created movie tie-in, Dark Of The Moon’s graphics are decent but far from spectacular. Utilizing what appears to be the exact same engine asWar For Cybertron, the visuals push far fewer pixels around than any triple-A title, but they get the job done. Though, you should expect some clipping issues and the, by now, industry standard annoyance of disappearing corpses and texture pop-in.
The game takes you to several exotic locales, South American ruins, deserts, crowded city streets and whatnot, but don’t expect the environment to do much more than sit there and look somewhat pretty. Textures are blocky and nothing around you really reacts all that much to all the explosions and carnage being unleashed. You’ll be lucky to knock a few leaves off trees.
The sound department fares better, of course. Franchise veterans voicing their respective Autobots and Decepticons are the standout as far as the audio is concerned. Peter Cullen, voicing Optimus Prime, as if you didn’t already know, always brings a smile to my face. There’s something endlessly enjoyable about listening to him bark orders and go on about the rights of all sentient beings. The same can be said of most of the voice cast, all of them have several projects’ worth of experience voicing these characters and it shows in their performances.
The Verdict: [rating:2.5]
If you’re looking for a quickgame fix or if you simply want a quick dose of Transformers goodness you could do a lot worse than Dark Of The Moon. It’s not a bad game, it’s not exactly a good one either. It is what it is: a movie tie-in game, cheap on the production values, over quickly, but still considerably better than the or Thor games currently available. And the multiplayer might keep you entertained for a day or two.
Your faithful reviewer,