I'll admit that growing up, I was never the biggest Transformers fan. I never saw the animated movie as a kid, and while everyone had their Transformers toys, my big obsession was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Hey, at least it was something else big at the time. To date, I've have yet to fully see the first of the live action/CGI movies, and haven't seen any of Revenge of the Fallen, but I do plan to see them both, then check out Dark of the Moon on June 29th, and why is that? Because playing Transformers: Dark of the Moon on the Xbox 360 has definitely revitalized my interest in Transformers...even though it's a movie licensed game. Let's take a deeper look and find out why. As a small warning, this review may contain a couple small notes about the gameplay that may act as a small spoiler for the story, so take that as a heads up.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon actually takes place prior to the movie and three years since Megatron and the Decepticons last threatened the world. The leaders on Earth believe that Megatron has fled for good, but if you've ever seen a movie series or played a video game series that has multiple games, you know that's never the case. Optimus Prime knows this as well. He intercepts a transmission that exposes Megatron's plan to spread chaos amongst the humans. It's now up to Optimus Prime and the other Autobots to stop Megatron and the Decepticons and save Earth in the events leading up to the movie.
The first thing I did when starting out in campaign mode was to get used to the controls, which didn't take that long at all. Keep in mind that I've not played Revenge of the Fallen
, so I'm not sure what all from this game was carried over from the previous game, but one thing I know is new to Dark of the Moon is Stealth Force Mode. We all know that the Transformers can transform between robot and vehicle, right? Well, Stealth Force Mode is kind of the in-between mode. You still turn into a vehicle, but you have complete mobility in all directions, increased defense, and two weapons you can switch between (typically an assault rifle and some sort of explosives), each with unlimited ammo. While in Stealth Force Mode, you can also fully turn into a vehicle by holding LT and then boost by holding RT, which is especially useful on long stretches of road where you aren't fighting anything. I had so much fun seeing a car with that kind of mobility that I stayed in Stealth Force Mode for much of the first stage.
Something I really like about the game is that in each stage you're a different bot. Each bot has two different weapons, a unique special ability and Stealth Force Mode, and different attributes about them. Notice the way I keep saying "bot"? Here's that small spoiler I mentioned above. There are seven stages in the game (I'll get to my opinions on the game's length in a bit), and each stage you play as a different bot, but you're not always playing as an Autobot. When I was about to start the fourth stage (or chapters, as the Xbox Live Achievements calls them), I was surprised to see that I was playing as Soundwave, a Decepticon. Yes, you actually play as Decepticons occasionally in the Campaign mode, and for the most part, I was perfectly fine with this, as I've always enjoyed seeing the villians' side of things, and it makes for a nice story. The abilities for each bot goes really well with them. For instance, Mirage has a cloaking ability while Soundwave can create shock waves and stun enemies. Since you're playing a different bot for each stage it doesn't feel like you're doing the same thing over and over. Definitely a refreshing change of page after playing Thor
So I mentioned that the campaign mode was only seven stages. That's one of my small complaints. The stages themselves can be quite long at times, the game overall only took me about five and a half hours to complete, but I was okay with that for the most part. I know there were a few Autobots and Decepticons that were part of the story that you didn't control, but even adding stages for them could have been nice. Even still, there were enough gameplay elements that the game kept me entertained throughout my time with it, and for once I actually wanted to finish a movie-licensed title (though a prequel to the movie technically). However, the fun doesn't end with campaign mode, as Dark of the Moon also has an interesting multi-player mode that can be done online or offline. The first thing you can do is to create a character...sort of. You can take one of the four classes (Scout, Hunter, Commander, and Warrior) and either create a custom-colored generic bot or use one of the pre-determined bots for that class. For instance, if you wish to go with the Commander class you can either create a custom-colored generic rig, or can choose from Optimus Prime for the Autobots or Megatron for the Decepticons.
Once you have all of that taken care of, it's time to see how you stack up against the rest of the Transformers fanbase. The first thing you'll notice is that there's surprisingly little to do compared to games like Call of Duty and Halo. You have three game modes (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Conquest). The two Deathmatch modes are self explanatory except for one thing: for Team Deathmatch, the game automatically puts you either on the Autobot team or the Decepticon team, so make sure you have your classes set how you want them. You don't want to have Starscream setup as your Hunter class only to be put on the Autobots and be stuck with a generic Hunter. In Conquest, there are three Energon nodes located on the map. The teams must capture these nodes in order to gain points, and the team that reaches the score limit first, or has the most points when time runs out, wins. During the matches, you can actually gain experience for the class you're using, and as you level up you can gain new abilities for that class. In the early going it doesn't take long to level-up. I've only done a few Team Deathmatches with the Scout class and I'm at level 4.
So I've gone on for paragraphs about how good the game is. Outside of the small complaint about the short length of the campaign, everything seems good, no real complaints, right? Well...not quite. There are a few small things with the game that kind of made me scratch my head. When you're going to your next objective you'll have waypoints on the screen showing you where to go. Green waypoints show you the next object you can interact with, red waypoints are the next objects to destroy, and blue waypoints just show you the correct area to head to so you can progress the stage. There were times that I looked all over the screen and saw no indication of where to go next. This only happened once or twice, and wasn't too bad as it was mostly because I got turned around during a fight and couldn't remember where I came from (thankfully, I only backtracked about ten seconds before realizing I was going the wrong way). The other complaint I had is at the end of the game, but that contains a spoiler that I won't get into as it's about the final boss. Just remember, if you can't damage the final boss one way, you do have another option. It took me half an hour fighting that thing to figure that one out.
To conclude...I'll admit, Transformers: Dark of the Moon surprised me. I honestly wasn't expecting the game to be this good. Granted, it is a Transformers game, and Transformers is all about action, but even then I was really surprised by how well I like the game. As I noted above, it's probably the first movie-licensed game I've played that I actually wanted to finish. I was a bit taken aback when the game ended, as I wasn't expecting it to end that soon (again, it took me about five and a half to six hours to finish campaign mode). Multiplayer is a bit lacking in game types and maps, but is still a fun experience. Before doing any multiplayer I checked out a few of the maps. Each map is different and has their own ways to hide and ambush your opponents. I'm not sure how many people can play in an multiplayer match (either locally or online) but a couple matches I was in had upwards of ten people playing. I'm not sure if there's a limit based on the map or if it's based on gametype, but running around (or driving around) and just blasting anyone in my path was definitely enjoyable. If I had to play the game again, or if I felt the need to do some multiplayer, I'd go back to Dark of the Moon in a second. I just hope they release more maps down the road.