Later this month, gamers are going to see a bunch of new Transformers game hitting store shelves along side the latest Hollywood release, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Not all games are created equal though as I recently found it during a trip to San Francisco to check out the new titles. Despite the fact that the games are launching with the same title of the movie, they tell a different story. These aren’t your typical movie-game tie ins but rather an intricately craftier prequel to the motion picture. In order to get the “whole picture” in preparation of the film, you are going to need to not only play through either of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 titles but also the 3DS / Wii version(s) of the game.
In total, there will be four separate version of the game that will tell four different stories: Nintendo DS Autobots version, Nintendo DS Decepticons version, Nintendo Wii / 3DS Stealth Force Edition(s), and the Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3 version. All four will help to set the stage for Michael Bay’s latest film in the Transformers franchise. During my recent time in San Francisco, I got a chance to sit down with the Nintendo 3DS version of the game which will be entitled Transformers: Dark of the Moon- Stealth Force Edition. It should be reiterated that the 3DS version of the game is nearly identical to the Wii release, containing only slight graphical differences as the team had to scale some things back on Nintendo’s new handheld.
The 3DS version of the game focuses solely on vehicular combat and the series’ new “Stealth Force mode”. Stealth Force is sort of a hybrid between the Transformers vehicle and robot forms, making them into weaponized vehicles. While in this form, your robots isn’t nearly as mobile as their full-vehicle form or as effective in combat as their full robot transformation. Think of it as a combination of the two with some effectiveness given up on both ends of the equation. The game plays a lot like other vehicular combat games such as Twisted Metal or perhaps the Vigilante 8 series. Players have two transformation modes available to them at will: vehicle and Stealth Force, one is for movement and one is for combat. You can switch between the modes, and will need to do so quite frequently with the press of the A button.
As I mentioned, you are at your most mobile when you are in full vehicle mode. This is the mode that you will spend time in while you position yourself in the battleground and hunt for your enemies. The landscapes vary widely throughout the various stages of the game and different characters’ vehicles are more convenient for different situations. For example, Bumblebee is perfect for zipping around the open areas and cityscapes, but things get a little difficult for him when the ground becomes uneven and the terrain begins to vary. In times like this, other vehicles such as Ironhide or Optimus Prime’s full truck forms will be more efficient at getting around. When you switch into the Stealth Force form, weapons will emerge from your vehicle and you will loose the ability to full control your character. Instead of maintaining full mobility, you will become reduced to simply strafing around your enemies and forward / reverse movements. To make the most of your situations, you will need to master the art of switching between the two modes regularly depending on the situation.
When weaponized, characters have both standard and special attacks available to them to make up for their lack of mobility. The standard guns, usually machine guns or shot guns, have unlimited ammunition but are usually less effective than your limited, special weapons. These include things such as rocket launchers and high-powered cannons which can take out enemies in quick fashion. Thankfully, refills for your special ammunition can be found scattered throughout the various stages as well as a variety of power ups including additional shields and damage boosters.
The game controls really well in vehicle mode, enabling the player to maneuver around at will. There are variations in the handling of the various vehicles as you would expect, with the smaller cars focusing more on speed and maneuverability while bigger trucks feel more like giant tanks, plowing through anything and everything in their paths. It takes a little getting used to the Stealth Force mode considering how drastically your mobility changes between the modes. Once you become accustomed to the game though, you realize that you have to switch between the two rapidly during the course of battle in order to succeed. It is really important for you to master the art of “hitting and running” as staying in Stealth Force mode for too long will make you an easy target for someone who isn’t directly in your cross-hairs.
The game will take players through a series of missions, each with different types of gameplay elements involved. Some stages may require you to destroy a set amount of enemies, while others will involve capture the flag or base-capturing style gameplay and perhaps some straight forward, racing sequences. After you have completed a mission in the campaign mode, you will be able to select it and replay it at well from a mission select screen. Oddly, Behaviour has decided not to include any sort of competitive gameplay modes in the game. That means that you won’t be challenging your friends in battle, online or off. Maybe it is just me, but that sort of gameplay option seems like a no-brainer to me and something that the game would benefit from greatly.
Being a Nintendo 3DS game, there is some 3D graphical support incorporated into the title. The effects aren’t the focus of the game and the developer seems to have added them simply as something to sweeten the deal. When the 3D slider on the system is enabled, a lot of the environmental elements gain a great sense of depth, making it feel like a true 3D racer. I didn’t find there to be much difference between the 3D mode and the standard (off) mode; I was able to switch between the two at will and not have it effect my performance in any way.
Although my time with the game was extremely brief, I can say that I enjoyed what I played. The vehicle-combat genre seems like the perfect fit for the Transformers license and could open up an endless amount of possibilities. Although I was told that there were no additional content planned at this time (DLC), it isn’t out of the question. Sure, Nintendo isn’t known for doing much additional DLC for their various games but the option is there. Hopefully Activision and Nintendo will put some consideration into some sort of multiplayer or versus mode, if they haven’t already. The single player experience that I saw was very solid and adding in some multiplayer options could really make this title great.
You can check out the game for yourself when Transformers: Dark of the Moon- Stealth Force Edition launches on June 14, 2011.