As I stared at the RedBox kiosk outside my local Walgreens, I glanced back down at my phone. The promotional code sent to me would be good for a free DVD rental, or as I have learned from past experience, a dollar off of a game rental. I glanced back up at the kiosk and thought to myself, “Well… it will only cost a buck, might as well.” With that, I hesitantly selected Transformers: Dark of the Moon as my rental. Almost immediately after I took the case from the machine I began to think twice, “I probably should of just gone with You Don’t Know Jack instead.” The reason for all this hesitation was quite simple: here I was, renting a movie-tie-in game, which are notoriously bad, for a movie that is the sequel to one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. “I’ve heard some good things about the third Transformers,” I thought as I tried to convince myself of my decision, “And even if the movie is horrible, doesn’t mean the game will be too.”
I should have listened to my instincts.
Now, I know that I shouldn’t expect much from the Transformers’ franchise, especially as it relates to the movies, but I had hope that after War for Cybertron, developers had a feel for how to make a good Transformers’ game. What ended up being produced is a short, frustrating and poorly designed shooter. There was very little silver lining in this cloud…
The first thing you are bound to notice is the dated visuals. While not a “so bad you’ll be thinking about them the entire time” level of bad, they were noticeably poor. Driving in full vehicle mode often looked the worst, but the entire game suffers from looking painfully generic with tons of cliché, war-torn environments with little detail to bring it to life. This doesn’t improve as we move beyond environments either. Character animations, both yours and enemy AI, are clunky and cheap-looking. In fact, a lot of Transformers: Dark of the Moon feels like a victim to budget cuts.
Combat isn’t much better. The entire game can be summed up as basically holding down RT continuously, while running in circles, taking a break behind some cover to recharge your health, and firing in circles again. Don’t go looking for depth hidden in the combat system with this one. Melee is also a total mess, used by pressing the right stick. It barely works and you will only use this when absolutely forced to do so. Each character does have multiple weapons that can be used, but with each one I found myself using the same weapon exclusively throughout the level, since the alternative was usually worthless.
Since the game is called Transformers it should be of little shock that the characters can, in fact, transform. Each character has three modes, although not always available: robot, stealth and vehicle. Robot is pretty straightforward; it’s when your robot looks more like a person than a car. Stealth, which has absolutely nothing “stealth” about it, is your car with guns, lots of guns. You can also move sideways in the stealth mode since you apparently have these magic wheels that go any direction (the game did explain this briefly, but I missed it). Oddly enough, Stealth Mode is one of the more powerful, due to an increase in defense and weapons that don’t require reloading. Since it was neither very efficient for getting through the levels and not very “cool” from an aesthetic point of view, I was left wondering if the car companies had paid the developers to find a way to keep you in the car modes more. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me. Finally, vehicle mode is when you put all the guns away and just go for a nice drive. This mode was only used a few random times when the game suddenly wanted to be a bad driving game, rather than just a bad shooter.
The game’s narrative is all over the place and offers little… anything really. The Decepticons are up to something and the Autobots are trying to hunt them down before it is too late… which basically sounds like the opening of the second movie. Hell, the story doesn’t even have an ending. It just sort of stops at what I imagine is right around the time the movie begins (case and point, in a game with the word “Moon” in the title, it only becomes somewhat relevant at the very end).
You do take turns playing as both Autobots and Decepticons, but the latter levels always had a weird feel to them. Part of the appeal to the Autobots as heroes has always been that they were outnumbered and that each Autobot was important. The Decepticon missions are full of nameless hordes of Autobots that you dismember without issue. As a result, it made the Autobots seem less like the heroes in the story and more like just the robots that only accidentally killed the humans. On that topic, humans are basically missing from the entire game. There are no civilians, no military (that aren’t in tanks or humvees), just a whole lot of angry, gun toting robots.
The game’s length is also bound to be a point of contention for many. Playing on medium, the game shouldn’t take more than five or six hours, and that’s only if you are really taking your time. I beat it sometime around four, and that was with the first two levels on hard. Speaking of, the only reason to play the game on a difficulty other than medium is to simply extend the length of the game with more respawns at checkpoints. Beyond that, hard difficulty simply became frustrating when dealing with boss enemies that are uninterrupted by your attacks and often had devastating, unblockbable, unavoidable, unable to shoot through obstacles attacks.
Finding some rays of sunshine in this heaping pile is difficult. The game does manage to end just before you get really annoyed and quit early. That’s something, right? Dark of the Moon does deserve some credit for not being a broken game; for the most part everything works like it should. Beyond that, the only real upside is that you are a giant robot with a gun, which is always a cool thing… As you can probably see, I’m struggling to come up with much, especially when thinking of it in terms of a full price title.
For all my effort, I have yet to think of an instance where playing as a bad-ass robot that beats up other bad-ass robots has been so disappointing (and have only come up with the day that I realized that Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots was actually pretty boring). Dark of the Moon manages to fail on most every count, offering only a bland movie-tie-in relationship to keep it going. There is no story, the visuals are sub-par and the action is boring, repetitive and uninspired. I recommend doing what Michael Bay did to Megan Fox and replacing Dark of the Moon with something that is easier to work with.
Final Rating: 4/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360
Approximate Time to Completion: ~4 Hours
Gamer Score Earned: 375/1000
Price Bought at: N/A – Rental – RedBox
Current Price: $49.50 (Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: I would recommend rent for now, purchase only under $10.